Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series.
Unlike Conservatism, which tenaciously clings to self-serving policies, Liberalism recognizes the imperfections in the social order and, though “liberals” also benefit from these imperfections, their collective sense of moral responsibility leads them to seek change.
It is no surprise that most efforts to guide this country along the path of morality originated in the Church. The abolition of slavery in America resulted from the courage and actions of religious people. Quakers were so serious about the Christian mandate to “love your brothers as I have loved you” that they were willing to risk the safety of themselves and their family to help slaves escape.
It was a Baptist minister who was in the vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr., like the Quakers and John Brown, held strong beliefs in Christianity and spent his life advocating and pushing America to live up to its cherished creed that “All men are created equal.” He encountered opposition in many corners of society, including among the religious community.
Before slavery ended, Mary Kelsey Peake, a religious black woman, defied Virginia law and dared to teach enslaved blacks to read and write. She saw literacy as an essential tool for full participation in American society. Her courage and insight motivated the American Missionary Association (AMA), an amalgam of non-denominational churches, to join her in the effort.
A society stagnates and dies without Liberalism. It serves as a mirror that reflects cruelty and injustice. United States history is replete with examples of Liberals struggling against tremendous odds to advance a measure of justice: The right to vote for African Americans and women and veteran benefits enjoyed by members of our Armed Forces were the result of the work of Liberals. Franklin D. Roosevelt created “The New Deal” and led the country out of the Great Depression. Lyndon B. Johnson created “The Great Society.” There are many, many more. Yet, Conservatives have succeeded in making “liberal” a dirty word, a word shunned by politicians.
Liberals advocate for the rights of others and continue to push this nation toward a “more perfect union.” Liberals are motivated out of a keen sense of right and wrong and, like Lincoln, they believe that “those who deny freedom to others do not deserve it themselves and, under a just God, cannot hope to long retain it.”
Gilbert L. Raiford is semi-retired after a career in teaching and working for the U.S. Department of State. He lives in Miami where he volunteers at homeless facilities, the Opera House in Miami and after-care school programs as a fund-raiser. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.