What of the saying that Jesus was neither
liberal nor conservative but radical? I understand what this means when I hear it from a traditional Christian, and he is perfectly right. Surely, the Lord's best known rebukes were for what we would categorize today as varieties of conservative: the scribes, the Pharisees, the "lawyers," and others who took the ancient religion of Israel with deadly seriousness. What we would identify as "liberals" were among the pagans and their fellow travelers among the Jews, and he had very little to do with them. In this context, "radical" means that his words go directly to the root of every matter that he addressed, and so are valid for all men in all times and places.
The maxim, however, conceals the apparently embarrassing fact that in
order to maintain the "faith once and for all delivered to the saints" and pass it on (traditio) one must conserve it against modern pagans and apostate Christians who wrongly have been given a voice in the church, and who by "progressive" means wish to
alter what has been received. The sanctification of Change, the Heraclitan Πάντα ῥεῖ apotheosized, is the unmistakable mark of the liberal, the radical being the most impatient and violently destructive of the tribe.
If one is going to use these words to describe the Lord, conservative, liberal, and radical may all be applied, but in different senses, and to avoid confusion when one uses them he must take care to explain what he means. Like other conservatives who like this Jesus-maxim, I don't
like to be called a conservative either, since this carries overtones of
reactionary inattentiveness to the happily transformative qualities of certain present realities (particularly, as E. Michael Jones has noted, the approbation of sexual transgression).
But the fact remains
that in the hostile face of these realities people like us are trying to conserve
something we have been told by the highest authority to keep unaltered, something the liberals and radicals are laboring tirelessly to annul. And with this responsibility goes the added burden of placing ourselves among the scribes and Pharisees and asking, with regard to the natural sins of conservatives, "Is it I, Lord?"