Philosophy, theology, and government all have their poles of opposi-tion, and common jargon is utilized to label movements or individuals who deviate from the middle ground. The most frequently used terms are “left” and “right.” The left wing element consists of liberals, high brows, revolu-tionaries, libertines, and radicals. The right wing is made up of conserva-tives, philistines, traditionalists, red necks, fanatics, and defenders of the status quo. These generally derogatory labels apply as aptly to religionists as to politicians.
The terms “left” and “right” originated in a time when the king and his nobles were at odds with the middle classes. The kingdom was aligned with the nobility on the right hand, the favored side, of the monarch, while the working classes were to his left. Such differentiation reflected ancient court custom and the Bible’s picture of the division of mankind into the sheep (the good) on the right and the goats (the wicked) on the left side of Christ the Judge.
In politics those loyal to the king or the government were designated “right-wing” (such as Tories) as opposed to “leftist” Whig, Liberal, or Labor parties. Those for strong centralized government and “law-abiding” con-formity were “rightists.” Liberals were known as iconoclasts: those who broke the rules. Hence, they were adjudged to be of the same leaning as rev-olutionaries and libertines.
The Jewish prophets,* with Jesus as the supreme example, were rule-breakers; they were always in trouble with established governments and religious institutions. The Jewish right-wing element included priests,* scribes, Levites, Pharisees, Herodians, Zealots, and super-patriot Sicarii (assassins).
*Prophets, being of the the left wing, were historically opposed to priests on the right.