The world’s great religions and moral philosophies, including Christianity, converge on three core virtues. Together, these three virtues make up the moral core of progressive politics. They are: humility, charity, and veracity.
Humility (Equality)At a religious or spiritual level, humility means that each individual cultivates a sense of being one among many, no less, no more. In their earliest forms ancient religions often applied virtue only within a small group with shared identity (a single tribe and gender, for example). Across history, the world’s religions have tended to grow toward more inclusive ideas of who is human and worthy to be treated with respect and humility. In political terms, humility is usually known as equality. One expression of humility in the political sphere is policies that safeguard self-determination, the belief that we must be cautious about imposing the will of one individual or group on another. Another policy that embodies this virtue is progressive taxation, which redistributes wealth. Progressive taxation, like the ancient year of “jubilee” recognizes that inequities accumulate unless society has mechanisms to level the playing field.
Charity (Compassion)Religions often call this virtue love. It is expressed in kindness, nurturing, tenderness, patience and mercy. It recognizes that although all may be equal in value, we are not made equal in resources or circumstances. In many religions, including Christianity, this is the highest virtue. Civic agreements that embody compassion often take the form of social programs. Through such programs, stronger members of society fulfill a moral obligation to care for the wellbeing of those who are weaker by providing a safety net and paths toward a better way of life.
Veracity (Objectivity)Veracity is truth seeking and truth telling, but goes beyond these. It religious terms, it includes honest self appraisal, discernment, and sublime objectivity. In public life, veracity is the opposite of ideology. It is open, outcome driven, and self-correcting.
Conservative Political Philosophy vs. Progressive Political PhilosophyProgressive politics differs from conservative politics because conservative politics largely ignore these virtues; conservative politics are built around suppressing vices rather than cultivating virtues. Conservative politics also have a strong basis in religious tradition. The world’s religions generally agree that certain vices are to be avoided including murder, theft, lying, and promiscuity. Conservative policies focus on punishing these vices, but otherwise allow citizens to pursue their individual self interest, trusting that if each individual member of a society pursues his or her self-interest, the good of all will result. This trust is based on ideology, not outcomes.
By contrast, progressives believe that the shared resources of our society will bring about the highest common good only if our social contracts reflect our core virtues: equality, compassion, and veracity. In Biblical terms, conservative policies embody the “do not’s” of the Ten Commandments, while progressive policies embody the “do ye’s” of the Gospels and Talmud. Conservative policies conserve an ancient and limited social contract. Progressive policies reflect the moral and spiritual progress evident in Judeo-Christian teachings and value progress in society.
Ironically, although conservative politics recently have been endorsed by the religious right, they embrace a form of social Darwinism – of elevating natural selection itself to the status of a social virtue. Progressive politics by contrast parallel the mutuality or communal mindset of the Early Christians, monastic orders in various religions, and secular kibbutzim.
A progressive political philosophy can be summarized like this: A society built on the shared virtues of humankind (equality, compassion, and veracity) invests in the commonwealth for the common good, so that individual citizens, both ourselves and our posterity, can experience the richness of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.