Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why there are few, if any, true Christian conservatives

For the last 25+ years we've constantly heard about the religious right.

However, to end up with such a term, we've had to modify the meaning of the term "right."

And at this point I'm not talking about legislating Christianity into our society or what have you. I'm talking about what it means to be a political conservative. (And, as I've noted previously, this ongoing redefinition of "conservative" is not limited to the religious realm.)

Let's start with the definition of a conservative. The Claremont Institute, in the course of arguing that Barry Goldwater's conservatism was (contrary to the popular view) different from the later neo-conservativism of George W. Bush, proceeds to contradict its own point by offering this quote from Goldwater's 1964 presidential nomination acceptance speech.

"...those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for Divine Will, and this Nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom."

And what were Goldwater's solutions to the social ills of 1964 society? Well, he didn't exactly want to elevate the state.

Goldwater paraphrased Dorothy Sayers when he wrote that Americans must "recapture the lost art of learning." He argued that

"in our attempt to make education 'fun,' we have neglected the academic disciplines that develop sound minds and are conducive to sound characters.... We have forgotten that the proper function of the school is to transmit the cultural heritage of one generation to the next generation."

As a solution, he advocated a renewed emphasis on basic subjects, within the context of local control of schools.

Not Goldwater wasn't talking about national control, such as a Federally-mandated "no child left behind" law. He was talking about local control.

So do today's so-called Christian conservatives preach opposition to "elevation of the state"? Not exactly; they want to elevate the state wherever they can.

Take the Christian Coalition's legislative agenda, which includes proposals for specific Federal government policies on Federal court justice appointments, Federal control of business via "net neutrality" legislation, Federal mandates to force broadcasters to allow equal access for religious programming, Federal prohibitions on human embryonic stem cell research, a permanent policy of Federal tax cuts, Federal control over the definition of marriage, and Federal control over what military chaplains can say.

Sounds like elevation of the state to me.

Of course the question arises regarding whether we (I am speaking to Christians here) are specifically CALLED to be anti-libertarian big government promoters. This is a valid question, but to reach such a conclusion and then call yourself a "conservative" is a lie. And if we are called to elevate the government to serve Christ, then perhaps we also ought to look at feeding the hungry at the same time that we are saving the lives of the unborn.

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