Tuesday, March 30, 2010

view from the pew.

My parents recently visited us in Seattle. It was a great time of being together. While they were here, we ate at some amazing Seattle restaurants and enjoyed each other's company. They thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Phineas.

Throughout my life, arguments with my father were a regularity. We would argue about everything from basketball, school, church and theology. A few years ago (since I moved to Seattle) we came to an unspoken agreement – to not talk about church. It's a weird agreement since both of us are ordained elders in the same denomination. But it is what it is. We tend to get frustrated with one another as we discuss church practics and theology. Perhaps we are too similar while being so different.

Over the past 2 weeks since my parents returned to Southern California I have been thinking back to a church conference I attended five years ago. The conference was at my alma mater MidAmerica Nazarene University with guest speaker Brian McLaren. The conference was fine. Nothing earth shattering and to be honest, nothing I disagreed with. It all seemed pretty common sense that day.

Following the conference as I walked out of the auditorium talking with a former professor, his comment to me was somewhat startling. "Wow, a lot to think about!"

How is it that those who raise you and those who teach you can have such different world views? How is it that my thoughts and processes shine glaring in the eyes of those I've learned under?

I'm not one to put on labels. And so I've really wondered over the past few months what labels are at times placed upon me based on my affiliations. Specifically the labels I think most about are: conservative, liberal, and evangelical. I am a member of a "conservative" "evangelical" church in a liberal city working in what some consider a liberal ministry. And so, what do these labels, which some are adamant about proclaiming mean?

According to Dictionary.com the definitions of the above stated labels are:



  1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
  2. cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate.
  3. traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness: conservative suit.
  4. (often initial capital letter) of or pertaining to the Conservative party.
  5. (initial capital letter) of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Conservative Jews or Conservative Judaism.
  6. having the power or tendency to conserve; preservative.
  7. Mathematics. (of a vector or vector function) having curl equal to zero; irrotational; lamellar.


  8. a person who is conservative in principles, actions, habits, etc.
  9. a supporter of conservative political policies.
  10. (initial capital letter) a member of a conservative political party, esp. the Conservative party in Great Britain.
  11. a preservative.



  1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
  2. (often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
  3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
  4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
  5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
  6. of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.
  7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.
  8. open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.
  9. characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts: a liberal donor.
  10. given freely or abundantly; generous: a liberal donation.
  11. not strict or rigorous; free; not literal: a liberal interpretation of a rule.
  12. of, pertaining to, or based on the liberal arts.
  13. of, pertaining to, or befitting a freeman.


  14. a person of liberal principles or views, esp. in politics or religion.
  15. (often initial capital letter) a member of a liberal party in politics, esp. of the Liberal party in Great Britain.



  1. Also, e·van·gel·ic. pertaining to or in keeping with the gospel and its teachings.
  2. belonging to or designating the Christian churches that emphasize the teachings and authority of the Scriptures, esp. of the New Testament, in opposition to the institutional authority of the church itself, and that stress as paramount the tenet that salvation is achieved by personal conversion to faith in the atonement of Christ.
  3. designating Christians, esp. of the late 1970s, eschewing the designation of fundamentalist but holding to a conservative interpretation of the Bible.
  4. pertaining to certain movements in the Protestant churches in the 18th and 19th centuries that stressed the importance of personal experience of guilt for sin, and of reconciliation to God through Christ.
  5. marked by ardent or zealous enthusiasm for a cause.


  6. an adherent of evangelical doctrines or a person who belongs to an evangelical church or party.


I've wondered about these words enough over the past few weeks that I looked them up. There are aspects which I agree with and others which I don't. I don't holistically claim Conservative or Liberal. One thing I find interesting is that you can look up conservative evangelical, but there is no definition for liberal evangelical.

My father I believe would claim conservative without a blink of an eye… and be abhorred by the thought of a liberal son. However, a neighbor, in casual conversation – called me a liberal pastor.

And so, I can't help but wonder about these labels, their implication on our lives and how we can differ in our world view from those we have learned and studied under.

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