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The word liberal is a nasty word for many people, especially in the South. That's unfortunate because no other word expresses the soul of America as well as the word liberal, which basically means free and generous.
When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he was driven by liberal ideas such as liberty, freedom and equality, elevating basic human rights above the rights of kings, dictators and wealth.
Our U.S. Constitution established structures to guarantee these rights, along with a mechanism to make progressive amendments another liberal ideal. Without these life-giving amendments, our Constitution would become a dead document to be exploited by the rich and powerful threatening America's liberal soul.
Moving forward almost 100 years, Abraham Lincoln dared to challenge wealthy, conservative plantation owners by ending slavery. He was followed by other liberals who challenged unjust systems that oppressed women, the working poor and minorities.
As you walk through history, it becomes clear that most human progress depends on liberal ideas and people.
As a classic liberal, Jesus challenged systems that allowed the powerful and wealthy to oppress and exploit the poor, foreigners and others who were not part of the conservative system. And as is often the case, the system labeled him an enemy and killed him.
Other famous liberals like Gandhi, Kennedy and King would meet similar fates.
Monopolies, plutonomies and oligarchies always demand liberal challenges. The Old Testament prophets were extremely liberal in their speaking out against the powers that be. And as expected, conservative powers always accuse liberal prophets of being dangerous and unpatriotic.
Liberal governments promote peace, justice and diplomacy while conservative governments promote fear, distrust and aggressive first strikes.
Liberals give hope to the poor and weak, while conservatives tend to protect their more affluent peers with large police forces and strong militaries.
Liberal eyes tend to see the bigger picture and think globally, while conservative eyes tend to focus on a smaller world comprising people like them.
Liberals value diversity and are open to learning new things. Conservatives prefer uniformity and traditional thinking.
Liberal ideology stands up for human rights, builds hospitals, supports labor laws, establishes social safety nets like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Conservative ideology often wants to dismantle these hard-earned liberal victories and return to a more primitive and painful past.
Liberals support free-market capitalism; it was originally a liberal concept. But liberals would never promote capitalism as the answer to everything. Conservatives might.
Finally, God is the greatest liberal of all. God is creative, generous, liberating and forgiving. God always stands up for the poor and the weak, against the wealthy and powerful. As Mary proclaimed, He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
God welcomes diversity and is full of grace, causing his sun to rise and his rain to fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous. God has a bleeding heart.
I pray America remains true to her heart in 2012.