Today I was tweeting a series of small comments on the general concepts of "liberal" and "conservative." An old quizzing pal - @aidje Trevor Stinson - helped refine the thoughts.
If you were to meet a new person, would you find it awkward if throughout the entirety of the conversation you only spoke to the side of the person's face? If the person never turned his or her head to look at you and you did not (or were not able to) readjust to have a real, face-to-face conversation with the individual? You would probably leave the conversation feeling somewhat disconnected from the individual. One doesn't have to look very far to learn how important eye contact is to making connections with a person.
What if approaching an issue is like making connections with a stranger? If you only approach the issue from one side, you get an incomplete view of the issue. If you start a conversation with the profile of the topic, the rest of your conversations are going to be skewed by this first impression. To say "I am theologically conservative" or "I am liberal politically" is much like saying "I always approach issues from a particular side - right or left."
If you were to meet a new person and have an in-depth, face-to-face conversation with good eye-contact, you would leave the conversation feeling like you know the person quite well. You would feel connected with the person and would be able to recognize him or her even if you just his/her profile in the future. If the conversation is long enough and you pay good enough attention, you may even be able to recognize and remember certain birth marks, dimples, wrinkles, or other features that distinguish the left side of the person's face from the right. You may find some of these features particularly attractive and others not particularly so. Perhaps even one side of the face is better looking than the other, but you would not have known that had you not seen the whole face.
What if we approached issues from the front. What if we looked at each issue face-to-face and gained a whole picture before deciding if one side is better than the other. Perhaps we would stop saying "I am conservative" or "I am liberal" (which really means we tend start every conversation from a particular side) and start saying "I looked long and hard into the eyes of this particular issue and decided that the left side [or the right side] is better."
If everyone keeps starting from one side or the other, the people on either side can never truly have conversations with one another. However, if each issue is approached from a holistic, face-on perspective to start with then both sides will have a common starting point for conversations. I think this is why we often see conservative and liberal groups arguing with one another; they started looking at the profile before they saw the whole beautiful face.
What do you think?