I’m in frankfurt germany en route to iran to give a paper on media and technology at a conference on media and society. i’ve been thinking about restrictions on media, and restrictions on freedom, and our notions of conservative and liberal. I suppose some would say germany is a liberal country, especially when it comes to social issues– and iran would be considered more conservative, especially with regard to social issues, because women must cover their heads, etc.
When I was in Iran in 2004 I happened to get invited to the welcome center of the mayor, where he gave us a nice feast around a big pool with traditional iranian musicians playing. We had a great time– most of us invited up there were foreigners from the conference (about 25 of us). At one point my translator asked if I wanted to go over and meet the mayor. I told her sure, and we went. I only had brought one book that night, and I decided to give it to him as a gift. It happened to be John Stuart Mill’s ON LIBERTY, the classic treatise on allowing freedom of thought etc from 1800 Brittain. The mayor at the time happened to be the future president of Iran– akmadinijad. Looking back, I wish I’d got a picture.
But mill is liberal in that he wants to allow freedom of thought, but conservative in that he doesn’t want to interfere in peoples lives. A hands-off approach. People can do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t impede other people’s liberty (play whatever music you want, just don’t play it so the whole neighborhood has to hear it, etc)
I know I’ve said things like this before, but I think the reason I am not willing to be a Calvinist, or a full-bore armenian is because I am too conservative, or rather, because those views are too liberal. And the reason I think the conservative position is to not read more than we have before us– constitutionalist judges are like that– they don’t want to add to the constitution…and I tend to be like that with scripture. so if Scripture is not absolutely clear on something, then I think its a great hermeneutic to also not have too clear a position on that topic– or rather– to have an awareness of the arguments on both sides and their relative merits, and not require one over the other. You cold see this as a hermeneutic of charity, or a hermeneutic of humility, or a hermeneutic which is radically biblio-centric.
Anyway, I only have 4 minutes left on my t-mobile account here in frankfurt, so I’d better go!! I hope to post some sweet pictures of Iran soon, although will spend most of my time at a conference this time around 🙂