Word Nerd Wednesday: Progressivism

This post is slightly different from my regular Word Nerd Wednesday installments. Rather than offer up a dictionary definition of the world progressivism, I’m going to tell you a story.

Yesterday, one of my history students asked me to explain the meaning of progressivism. Because we had a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time to cover it, I decided to tell her the hypothetical story that I am about to tell you.

Imagine, Katie”, I told her, “that your great grandmother bequeathes you a two-story 1920s era home with French country decor. Inside the home you found a wide variety of beautiful things. There is gorgeous wood molding, elegant poster beds, and Tiffany lamps. The house is lovely. However in the den is a strange nod to a 1970s style decor that you hate. Overall, you’re really not a fan of the house. Even with all of its acknowledged charm, you have a strong preference for modern architecture and decor. You’ve decided that you’ll probably nevrer live in the house.”

“Having mostly found it useless to you at this stage of your life, you decide to get rid of it. To accomplish this as soon as possible, you go and grab a can of gas, and pour gas on as much of the walls and furniture as you can manage, and toss a match on the whole shabang as you walk out the front door. In your haste to unload the old house and find a new one, you fail to consider the valuable treasures from your grandmother you are leaving behind. Gone is the ugly 70s den and the drafty attic, but also gone are the beautiful Tiffany lamps, highly artistic wood moldings, and pretty poster beds. It’s all reduced to ash, despite the fact that you’re not quite sure exactly what it is you’re looking forward to in your next house. Your entire focus is directed towards leaving the known behind coupled with the unquestioned belief that the next house you find will necessarily be better, simply because it is newer.

That, Katie, is progressivism in a nutshell.

I really wish you could have seen the look on the faces of these teenagers. Some were shocked, and others were clearly processing what I said.

Here;s to hoping they never forget it.

10 thoughts on “Word Nerd Wednesday: Progressivism

  1. Bike Bubba says:

    And since half a cup of gasoline has the same explosive power as a stick of dynamite, you’re blown out the front door and end up in the ER or morgue with shards of glass from those Tiffany lamps in your backside to be pulled out, painfully, by the poor nurses.

    Agreed fully that “progressivism” all too often means “we’re not willing to consider the fact that our ancestors had reasons for doing things the way they did, but rather we’ll risk the consequences without knowing what they might be.”

    It’s like Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”


  2. Crystal Keller says:

    Wow! I’m so glad these kids have you as their history teacher this year. Your words painted a picture that is going to stick with me and yes hopefully them too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. nellperkins says:

    Is the house the original Progressive movement? Trying to clean up slaughterhouses and organizing to enact antitrust laws? Getting together with all the other farmers to push back against crummy deals from the monopoly railroads? Because to me that’s part of the horror of it all — those were all quite reasonable things and today progressives would really pretty much sooner die than utter a mumbling word against the equivalent of those things today — much, much more important to talk about feelings and protect sexual kink…. A huge part of the reason I now hang out — at least online and at church — with crunchy cons is that they still think about and try to address real world problems instead of neurotic fantasies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elspeth says:

    Progressivism has always had a few questionable elements, but you’re right. The original true blue progressives would never count Jeff Bezos as an ally.

    But here’s the thing. Progressivism has evolved. It just has. It is perverse, totalitarian, anti- tradition of any kind, and most importantly, explicitly anti-Christian.

    A big reason why those of us who value anything good, true, and beautiful are being clobbered by the left is that many keep holding on to what this or that movement USED to be. Well, it ain’t that anymore.


  5. hearthie says:

    Having studied the OG progressives… do you want to discuss what they achieved or their mindsets? (I speak specifically of the leaders of the movements, not those they recruited or those who came onboard for only one of the items-for-change).

    Because their aims were honorable – many things needed to change. As Nell says – there were BIG problems. One only wanted to be a Victorian if one was living on the top of the pile.

    But having finished one problem, they immediately turned their minds to the next. The same OG feminists who started as abolitionists and getting the vote turned to prohibition. The “stop and think about the consequences” is not strong. Only progress is the ideal.

    I would like to change the world myself… it’s not like they don’t have my sympathy. But I understand that there is no perfection this side of eternity.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Elspeth says:

    OK. I have a few minutes to dig a little deeper into this now.

    This is a combo response to both Hearthie and Nell.

    The original progressive movement is not the match tossed onto the gas soaked house. I would say that the progressive movement contained some elements that included the gasoline.

    There were a lot of worthy aims in the original progressive movement. I would never deny that. But I also can’t consider that period without seeing in that movement a shade of things to come. Woodrow Wilson (the father of modern progressivism) and his League of Nations, his resegregation of the U.S. military, etc.

    The real issue I have with progressivism can be wrapped up in two things. The first is the analogy of the house I offered to my student. It’s like Hearth says; it has always lacked any real imagination of what could go wrong with blanket declarations of progress at any cost.

    The second is demonstrated through the analogy of Chesterton’s fence. The postmodern progressive movement (which really is the only that matters now), is very much about tossing the match on a gas soaked house.

    I have a really hard time reaching back and saying, “But see! They used to be good!” Yeah, I know that had some good ideas, and even today, I can acknowledge that some sectors of the left are identifying actual problems. But if their prescription for the ailments are toxic, or so much worse than the disease as to be fatal, well then…?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Eternity Matters says:

    That’s a clever illustration!

    The (faux) conservatives would be the ones to keep the 70’s things and then torch the rest. They don’t conserve eternal, biblical truths, they conserve a rolling 20 yr. old view of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Elspeth says:

    @ Eternity Matters:

    Yes. I have tired of the so-called “Reagan conservatives.” We have moved so far away from those issues as to be almost in another universe. But they keep on talking as if it’s 1980.

    If only…


  9. nellperkins says:

    I agree that the problem with progressivism is that the “progress” never ends and the root reason for that is that the movement isn’t rooted in the Truth of Christianity. Progress is a false god, an idol.

    Liked by 1 person

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