At the same time, leaders on both the right and the left have, at various times, expressed their conviction that things are progressively improving, even as they lament the slippage that occurs when the opposition is in power. Ronald Reagan famously claimed that it is always morning in America. Talking heads on the right regularly equate progress with economic improvement and argue that if the federal government would simply step aside, a new era of economic prosperity would dawn. Commentators on the left argue that if conservative culture warriors would stop trying to pry into the private lives of others, peace and happiness would reign. In recent years, it is impossible not to hear politicians, on the left and the right, speak of “moving forward” or “moving ahead.” Apparently, they all assume that forward is the only viable direction and that things will get better if we continue to press onward. In other words, the doctrine of progress seems deeply embedded in American political discourse. If partisans of both left and right express themselves primarily in terms of individual rights and think of politics in terms of an underlying and open-ended progress, then we don’t really need the term “conservatism” at all. Both sides are firmly rooted in the soil of liberalism. They agree about the purpose of government (to protect individual rights) and the direction of history (progress). They may disagree about which individual rights to privilege and what, specifically, constitutes progress, but these are really in-house debates among liberals.
Besides the fact that such an outlook, when really mulled over, might irritate the in-house status quo politics of “conservative” Christians (Reformed being no exception) who think in terms of individual rights, I can’t help but notice how the ideological view here expressed at the Front Porch Republic has an uncanny resemblance to the theological argument put forth in The Lost Soul of American Protestantism. Both suggest that, for all intents and purposes, the categories of “conservative” and “liberal” are useless as they actually denote simply different shades of progressivism. To Hart’s lights, the better taxonomy is actually confessional versus evangelical. Substitute Ronald Reagan (and Obama) with Billy Graham, and the general socio-political speech of the Front Porch entry with the generally sunny outlook on the individual and the world in the garden variety evangelical (Reformed being no exception again), and one might be tempted to re-think his skepticism over the reality of a parallel universe.
Now the question may be, Why do some convinced of something like Hart’s theological argument also sign on as Facebook Fans of Glenn Beck?