Why do progressives seem so enamoured of death? Under the rubric of ‘quality of life’ they so often respond to the very real problems of human existence with the clear cut response of death. At the beginning of life they answer the problem pregnancy with a stock response; whether the child may be born severely handicapped or is inconvenient the answer is abortion. At the end of life when an individual is in pain with an incurable affliction the progressive answer is a one way ticket to Switzerland and a ‘death with dignity.’
Quality of life is the mantra of those who press for the abortion of ‘defective’ foetuses at the beginning of life and the withdrawal of food and liquids at the end of life. Yet quality of life is an amorphous, because essentially subjective, concept. Its selfish stepsister is the equally difficult to quantify ‘right to happiness.’
These ill defined values undermine traditional liberalism in the name of progressivism. Classical liberalism, the motive power behind Western development, was a robustly optimistic view of life which brought progress and democracy, and the societal freedoms which ensue. What is often ignored today is that at its core it was a view of life grounded in morality. There were moral absolutes and it was held right for society and individuals to pursue the good and reject the bad.
In Western thought freedom was traditionally held to be a value only when exercised within moral constraints. We see this everywhere from the Dean of St Paul’s John Donne’s statement that “No man is an island” to the early 20th century Spanish anarchist miners of the Asturias who allied their anarchism with a moral framework similar to that of the Puritans. The individual was not free to satisfy his or her own wants without reference to the needs or rights of others.
The difference between liberalism and progressivism is that the progressive holds that in pursuit of personal self-realisation autonomous individuals have the right to make subjective judgements about what is a suitable course of action. Thus liberty becomes confused with license and the idea of normative behaviour is rejected in favour of individualism. By removing the notion of normative morality progressives have substituted a therapeutic society.
Behaviour with harmful consequences for others such as promiscuity is treated as normal and healthy. Those who attempt to champion values such as chastity or fidelity are greeted with cries of “Intolerant”, “Bigoted “, “Repressed”, and most damning of all “Out of touch.” To uphold normative values is to commit the grievous sin of making free spirits feel bad about themselves.
Having elevated the individual’s right to happiness to a determining position the only course open when faced with hindrances to that happiness is the avenue of increasing intolerance. This happens all the way from banning speech which makes others feel bad about themselves to prescribing death for those who might have to face problems in their lives or cause us pain or inconvenience. Because they believe in the ultimate freedom of the individual progressives e3nd up restricting the freedom of other individuals.
There is one society where the balance between the individual and the community is held in a creative and life giving way, the Church. The individual through his or her personal relationship with God through Christ enters a community where the one common factor is that they are travelling the same road. In growing closer to Christ the individual grows closer to the person they were created to be whilst at the same time growing closer to those around him. Calvin rightly described the Church as the spearhead of the new creation.