There’s no obvious virtue in “conserving” something, nor is there any in being “liberal” with something. It all depends on what that something is.
Christianity has had an interesting relationship with politics over the years. Jesus was clear that he was not a political revolutionary. Paul said that the evil Nero was a deacon of righteousness. The 2nd and 3rd century-Christians blissfully embraced martyrdom, making principled stands against certain political avenues (they wouldn’t join the military), yet never taking up arms against the system. The emperor was in an odd spot. And then there was Constantine.
He converts, truly I believe, and gives Christianity a public endorsement. He wields a tremendous amount of power, even calling an ecumenical council, perhaps THE ecumenical council. And he was dressed up like an angel when he made his appearance there. Suddenly the emperor is the man.
For most of the middle ages, Christians endorsed various monarchies and empires. Heretics were put to death, and our modern notions of “freedom” were largely eschewed.
The Protestant Reformation was progressive in many key respects. It did appeal to an earlier order, as do all good Revolutions (with the possible exception of the French, though even there the noble savage/noble peasant view of the state of nature was endorsed; for American and English historical appeals see Rosenstock-Huessy), but it also acknowledged the long tenure of error. Making use of text-criticism and new perspectives, the Reformers changed the world. They were mostly authoritarians in their political views, of course. Geneva wouldn’t let you in or out of the city without permission, and you could be jailed for skipping church. Errant political views were dealt with, even if it wasn’t as unexpected as the Spanish way.
As the years went by, political philosophers made new proposals, and I am not opposed to the progress. Althusius is worth checking out still. I do tend to think that the friendship view of the state is better than the necessary-evil view of the state, but many of our modern liberties are indeed quite good.
So where am I going with all of this? I suppose the basic point is that we have, all of us, moved with the times. Capitalists and Communists are both species of Liberalism. The Bible shows legitimate tribal oligarchy, monarchy, and even empire. None of those forms can be said to be evil by nature, nor can any of them claim special endorsement.
In our own country’s history, we have seen a good deal of progression as well. The whole business was started through revolt. Reading some of the American founders’ arguments for why Romans 13 doesn’t restrict them from rebelling, and how King George is obviously violating the natural law, are not immediately convincing. We hardly need to mention the “Tea Party.” Not exactly legal…
The Articles of Confederation came up first, and despite the folklore about them, they did say “perpetual union” in their title. The final line even said, “the Articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual.” For various reasons, of course, they were no such thing.
After the Constitution was received, there were several regime changes. Jefferson and Jackson both made serious modifications to US government, and Marbury v. Madison advanced things beyond “express powers” as well.
Basically things have always been up in the air. Presbyterians in England fell out of favor with Cromwell for supporting the king, and the Covenanters refused to approve the American Constitution for almost two-hundred years. In many ways the Puritans were crazy liberals in the political sphere, and the Roman Catholics were complete rebels, finding themselves excluded from Locke’s criteria for citizenship. Everyone’s ancestors have been in odd spots. Nobody is simply towing the old standard line.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t care about politics. It simply means that I demythologize them. We have to ask our questions and take the time to get to the answers. I think things are increasingly complicated, and I’m not sure that there is any one group that is obviously on the right track (maybe you can give me some suggestions). In keeping with our long-standing tradition, I expect that the solution will be something new.