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Theme: What Do 'Liberal' and 'Conservative' Mean?
Charles Coulombe, who served as MC for the conference, took occasion of this year’s theme to examine liberalism and conservatism as the terms played out in American history. He noted the observation of a Catholic Austrian political philosopher, Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, that the term “conservative” was used only in Protestant countries. Catholic countries spoke of right and left. Mr. Coulombe’s vast knowledge of American history helped him to demonstrate how irrelevant these terms are in our American experience. He proceeded to show how in the time of the Revolutionary War those whom we call “conservatives” were the “liberals” of the day. Yet the disparity between their views would hardly allow for labelling them anything but revolutionary. Some were federalist (Washington, Hamilton, and Madison) and some were anti-federalist and more states rights-oriented (Jefferson, Hancock, and Sam Adams). The split was over the Constitution. So, with that, Mr. Coulombe went through major events and social programs that tossed the Constitution out the window: Forced displacement of Indians, the Federal Reserve, the New Deal, and Johnson’s “Great Society.” Major literary figures were weighed in the liberal vs conservative balance. A major part of this journey through American history was devoted to the Catholic contribution, pre-colonial, when converting the New World was a real goal, and post World War II, when assimilation and “success” diluted any zeal to make America Catholic.
From 2013 SBC Conference
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