The Contradiction of Progressive Morality

Progressive morality, as it plays out in public spaces and discourse, seems to be guided by two, seemingly irreconcilable, impulses.

On the one hand is a radical tolerance and inclusion rooted in a non-judgmental stance toward people. "All are welcome" is a motto of progressive morality.

The second moral impulse among progressives is social justice, standing in solidarity with the oppressed against oppressors. Among both secular and Christian progressives, this aspect of progressive morality has a prophetic, judgmental aspect.

As you can see, these two impulses sit in tension with each other, and can often clash and conflict. Progressives view themselves as icons of tolerance and inclusion, they are the flower children among us, but in their pursuit of social justice they can also be harsh, judgmental and exclusionary.

To use an example from the Sixties, the "all you need is love" hippie was also a "cops are pigs" revolutionary.

To be clear, I'm not making any judgments about this paradox and tension in progressive morality. Conservatives have their own tensions and paradoxes. This is, I believe, simply a feature any moral system, how values and goods come into conflict.

So there's no judgment in pointing to the conflict. Those always exist in moral systems. The issue is if the moral system has resources to navigate the conflict in healthy, productive ways.

It's my opinion that secular progressive morality lacks the moral resources necessary to navigate this conflict. Situation by situation, secular progressive discourse reduces to making two contradictory moral assertions--non-judgmental inclusion and social justice--in ways that seems arbitrary, confused, and incoherent.

All are included and welcome until they are not. Come as you are, there is no judgment here, until there is a call out.

I'm sure you've experienced or witnessed this moral whiplash in progressive spaces and discourse.

The moral resources needed to navigate the conflict between non-judgmental inclusion and social justice are things like community, confession, humility, truth-telling, forgiveness, reconciliation, patience, and peace-making. To name a few things. These are resources that help us pursue both non-judgmental inclusion and social justice at the same time. These are the moral resources that help hold the paradox together.

Christian progressives have access to these resources in a way secular progressives do not. For the most part, in my estimation, secular progressive morality, at least how it plays out on social media, lacks the moral imagination and resources required to navigate the contradiction at the heart of their vision of a moral world.

Secular progressives can be moral, no doubt about it. They just can't be moral in a way that makes any sense.

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