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Square Deal: Discerning Why and When to Be Conservative

November 18, 2013

The vast majority (“Moral Majority“?) of Christians today believe it is our duty always to side on political questions against “Liberalism” and for Conservatism. While I myself end up on the conservative side on the vast majority of active controversies (see list below), I am troubled by the thought process I hear from some who urge this as a “duty”. The way we think is as important as the conclusions we come to.

(As just one example, do we really want to side with conservatives in backing the ranching industry’s injection of antibiotics into a huge portion of our cattle just for a few more pounds of bulk and a few more dollars? – in full awareness that overconsumption of antibiotics weakens their effectiveness against human infections?)

Conservatism is not Truth, but only social/political inertia – a skepticism that man’s improvements in society can truly make things “better”

Wikipedia defines Conservatism in its cultural/social manifestations:

Cultural conservatives hold fast to traditional ways of thinking even in the face of monumental change. They believe strongly in traditional values and traditional politics, and often have an urgent sense of nationalism. Social conservatism is distinct from cultural conservatism, although there are some overlaps. Social conservatives believe that the government has a role in encouraging or enforcing what they consider traditional values or behaviors. A social conservative wants to preserve traditional morality and social mores, often through civil law or regulation. Social change is generally regarded as suspect.

Most Christians in America read these words and applaud. Yes! Of course our traditional views should be maintained and restored – they are far better than the “liberal” views threatening the foundations of our culture! – etc. etc.

But friends, it is not the Conservatism that should energize our activism, but our search for wisdom and Truth. It is not skepticism of the effectiveness of change that should upset us at the direction of our country, nor the fact that we are “leaving behind our blessed and glorious traditions”, but the fact that our society is moving into direct conflict with the Word of God!

Consider that we are witnessing a generation growing up in an education system where the secular atheistic gender-flexed Statist evolutionary/animalistic worldview is treated as “our nation’s heritage”! In another decade or two that perspective’s adherents will adopt “conservative” views that these values should not be changed.

We are not far from a society wherein the revolutionary Biblical worldview may be seen as “liberal” change

As the flip-side of Conservatism, Liberalism does not hinge as much on the actual values and beliefs espoused, but on the strong belief that the status quo can/should be improved: It is the view that people can improve our society.

This is neutral and not contrary to Christianity on its face, but there are close cousins to Liberalism that demonstrate how it can easily step into being anti-Christian:

  • Secular Humanism – when the improvements are designed to please man and without regard for ultimate Truth
  • Progressivism – when the need for change becomes constant and “new” becomes synonymous with “better”
  • Pragmatism – when the ends are allowed to justify the means
  • Postmodern liberalism – when people encouraged to define individually what constitutes “improvement”

All of these extremes are bad, and stepping over from a desire to change/improve society into any of these fallacies is just as dangerous as the espousal of Conservatism for its own sake.

Our perspective should “hinge” on society’s standing vs. the Biblical standard: if we’re in sync, change should be resisted. If we’re out of sync, change is called for!

Although our nation’s past has been shined up to appear consistently honorable and Godly, the truth is that our nation has found itself out of sync with Biblical principles many times in our history, just as we increasingly are today. Our true strength as a nation has been that when this is realized, the American people have supported change to help redirect our course – they have BOTH known what our true direction should be… AND been willing to support change to bring it about. The question remains for us today whether either of these are still the case.

Theodore Roosevelt may be the most effective of America’s liberal presidents (and not just because he was homeschooled). With his Square Deal agenda, Roosevelt fought the establishment for fair treatment of consumers against product & service fraud – BUT without demonizing business in general. He fought against monopolistic abuses of power – BUT without turning to socialism. He fought to protect national lands from political exploitation and to conserve the natural beauty of certain special places by protecting them – BUT without ignoring the benefits of industry and its needs for land development. (Roosevelt both inaugurated the national park system and pushed through the Panama Canal project).

Consider that in 1901 Teddy Roosevelt took leadership of a society in which railroad tycoons jacked up prices once they controlled all the routes in and out of particular cities, in which sugar monopolies raised prices after gaining control of 98% of the nation’s supply, in which meat packers and kerosene magnates had no accountability that their packages contained unadulterated product, in which farmers had no requirement not to sell tainted produce, in which medicine purveyors made any promise their own consciences permitted them in selling fake remedies, in which industrialists spoiled entire rivers for generations with pollution just to gain a few percentage points on one year’s profit…

Consider, in short, the sad Truth that men are sinners, and that lost men in particular will maximize their own interests no matter the damage to others, up to the point (and often past) where they risk jail time. In his time and context, when the nation still possessed a Christian worldview, many of the Rough Rider’s “liberal” actions were driven by Christian principles (and supported by the Christians across the nation), just as much as today’s social situation and government overreach and waste (not just a minor coincidence with our loss of a collective Christian society) call loudly for conservatism.

Without Christianity as a compass, Liberalism has gotten us lost today

When man attempts to come up with the right answers beginning on a Christian worldview, success like America’s and like Theodore Roosevelt’s is possible. When the attempt is made by those who wrongly see society’s departure from Christianity as progress, it can only fail in exactly the ways we see it failing all around us today. Most of today’s Liberals probably mean well and these “improvements” often begin not as an evil conspiracy but as a gleam in their eye, believing they are truly doing society a service. Their motivation is not so different from ours, although with a different compass they end up concluding the exact wrong things should be changed. And so we are subjected to direct experimentation by social scientists…

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. — Proverbs 14:14

  • Environmentalism Gone Insane: anyone who has travelled the west coast or in New England gains a bit of insight into why these states are the nexus of environmentalism. Their scenic beauty does deserve to be preserved and protected, and we do feel the desire that our great-grandchildren might one day see these and other beautiful sights. God created places of amazing splendor in America – but He also gave the commandment that we subdue the earth and use its resources as best we can; the earth is here for us! – and not the other way around. Protecting places of true rare natural beauty is a far cry from stopping a highway construction project to study impact on a variety of grass, and a very far cry from vigilante destruction of fishing vessels, oil wells and utility lines.
  • The Entitlement State: while Social Security began under the liberal Franklin D. Roosevelt as a safety net, it has become a Ponzi scheme; life expectancy has increased by 20+ years since its inception, but the retirement age has increased only two years. Younger workers know the program will be overhauled when it collapses under the weight of the baby boomers, and will never pay them anything close to what they’ve put in. Our politicians prefer to help their re-election chances rather than address the problem now when a solution might be possible.
  • The Great (Welfare) Society: welfare began as (and more recently TANF was reformed back to) a temporary assistance program for families whose income has been cutoff – which included a clear incentive for workers to return to the workforce as soon as possible. Sadly, liberal President Obama has now gutted Welfare’s reforms and removed any such incentive. With executive fiat he unilaterally rewrote the reform law passed by Congress 13 years earlier, by exempting states from complying with its work requirement provisions – just with the stroke of the pen. In 40 states now, TANF recipients receive for doing nothing more than they could earn at a full-time minimum wage job. In 12 states they can earn more than 50% over minimum wage! Is it any wonder that this social millstone around our collective neck is growing by double-digit annual rates?
  • Deflection of personal responsibility: ask criminal defendants, drug addicts and welfare recipients Why they are in their predicament and today you are far more likely than ever before to hear excuses about their childhood, their neighborhood, their family, friends, etc. It has always been a temptation to blame others, no doubt, but never before in our nation’s history have the courts and social institutions allowed this deflection of personal responsibility. Our “bleeding heart liberal” society today weeps more over circumstances 20 years in a defendant’s past than for the victims of their crimes today.
  • Socialism and Statism: these extremes of the Liberal mindset are gaining increasing traction in the carnage of the Great Recession we have been living in since 2008 (or maybe far longer). The New Deal, The Great Society and myriad other government power grab “rescues” set the stage for Obamacare. The cycle is vicious: the federal government is the only institution powerful enough to provide large-scale services they have convinced us to want, so it steps in and takes over (despite having no authority to do so under the Constitution). Soon after it funds the expansion of its powers via new taxes, debt, and/or inflation. These actions further weaken the economy, making it more likely that any future challenge will again only be solvable by the government. Equally important to this self-supporting economic cycle is the psychological cycle of the American people seeing “problems” identified, bemoaned, and then solved by the feds; little attention is paid to whether their policies created the problem in the first place, or whether their solution might be worse than the original problem – this collective psyche will push us eventually to Statism and Socialism if it can’t be turned. If the increasing cost of government provision was sufficient to collapse both the Roman and Soviet societies, it can collapse ours as well.
  • Extreme Gender/Sexual Liberalism: rather than maintain the social norms which have stood since the beginning of history, and which are plainly clear in the way our bodies are made, the social liberalism of our age prefers to give people (even children) unlimited freedom to choose (or even mix) genders for themselves and for their preferred sexual partners. Rather than to continue the social stability from which we benefitted for centuries, we knock the supports out from under ourselves. Our national preference now is to wrap all of this in the veneer of bedroom “privacy” and to militantly fight any judgment for or against any specific “lifestyles”. Ironically the same pundits who claim there are no victims of aberrant gender/sexual choices also lament the collapse of stable families, more children being born out of wedlock, and fewer children being born overall. They seem not to realize that their appeals for bedroom privacy and unlimited tolerance are helping to bring on their dreaded family/birthrate damage; they are rationalizing the devolution of society to the point that sex’s wrongly-perceived purpose is solely this: whatever kind of pleasure you want.
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