I have said many times that Christianity transcends party politics and political ideology. Thus my faith is more important and vital than my political allegiances. Having said that, however, it is also true that we are called to live out our faith in the world we find ourselves in. Thus we cannot pretend politics does not exist. We cannot avoid political life.
So believers will find themselves at various places along the political spectrum. Sure, some Christians such as those in the Anabaptist tradition want absolutely nothing to do with politics, and feel that it is unredeemable and unspiritual.
But for the majority of believers, we live in a real world and are called to participate in the world as God has made it. And that includes political structures. Yes, God is the author of the state, as he is the family. Both have important roles to play, and we must discover how we best can use and be a part of them.
I of course admit to my biases. I inhabit the right end of the spectrum. However this was not always the case. I used to be strongly of the radical left. But that was as a non-Christian. When I became a Christian, my political views moved rightward.
Not all believers will agree with me – which is fine – but my understanding of the biblical worldview makes me more comfortable with the right side of politics than the left. But I of course have friends and brothers in Christ who are happier on the left. So we agree to disagree, and have friendly, sometimes heated, debates.
This is not the place for a biblical or theological discussion as to why the right may be the right option for a Christian. I have tried to make that case elsewhere:
So here I will just present some thoughts by three conservatives who have recently made a case for their conservatism. Not all three are Christians, but they make some points which I am basically happy to go along with. And in so doing, they nicely highlight some of the major differences between right and left.
Mike Adams discusses “The Nature of Conservatism”. He dismisses some non-essential differences, then proceeds this way: “If there is one thing that separates the conservative from the liberal it is his view of human nature. The conservative sees man as born in a broken state. This tragic view of human nature sees man as selfish and hedonistic by design. Given his nature, it is no wonder a man chooses crime. It is a wonder he ever chooses conformity.
“This tragic view of human nature also explains why conservatives often speak of religion and family values. Given his selfish nature, man must internalize some reason to behave in pro-social ways. That fact that he falls short of these values does not mean he is a hypocrite. The one who does not even believe what he says is the hypocrite. The one who believes what he says and falls short is merely human.”
Consider how this works out in the areas of war, peace and international relations: “These competing views of human nature produce very different views on how a nation should conduct foreign policy. The liberal, of course, sees the United Nations as a valuable tool. Since people are fundamentally good, war is often a product of misunderstanding. The UN provides a place where we can sit down and talk out these misunderstandings in order to preserve peace.
“But the conservative sees the UN as a waste of prime real estate in Manhattan. We don’t misunderstand each other at all. For example, Ronald Reagan understood that the communists sought total world domination. The communists understood that we didn’t want that. And they understood exactly what we were saying when we built up our defenses and actively sought the means to shoot their missiles out of the sky.”
Or consider the issues of wealth and poverty: “I tried to illustrate the wrongfulness of Obama’s economic policies a few weeks ago when I penned the satirical column ‘My New Spread the Wealth Grading Policy.’ First, I stated that I would take ten points from all students making ‘A’ grades and give them to students with ‘F’ grades. This would make a more equal grade distribution – one with only three grades of ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ The next part of my satirical policy was the total leveling of the grade distribution. Students with a grade of ‘B’ would be forced to give ten points to students with a grade of ‘D.’ Thus, everyone would wind up with an average grade of ‘C.’
“This was to show that a system designed to promote equality will inevitably destroy the work product. No one will put forth his best effort if his outcome (mediocrity) has been determined in advance. The point, for those who missed it, is two-fold: 1) My Spread the Wealth Grading Policy would inevitably produce a lower standard of academic achievement. 2) Obama’s Spread the Wealth Economic Policy will inevitably produce a lower standard of living.”
Burt Prelutsky (who tells us he is not a Christian) offers in a somewhat more combative manner more such differences: “I used to be what I thought was a liberal. If, at the time, anyone had asked me to explain myself, I would have said that I opposed Jim Crow laws, that I believed workers were entitled to make a decent wage and work in a safe environment, and that American citizens shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their race, religion or national origin.
“I quit being a liberal because I didn’t believe that members of particular minority groups deserved advantages denied to others, that illegal aliens weren’t entitled to anything but a swift kick to the backside, that being a devout Christian didn’t make you a bad person, and that capitalism was a system that worked, while socialism not only didn’t work but most often turned into tyranny.”
Or take the issue of sexuality: “And, finally, when did liberals decide that homosexuals get the final word when it comes to matters of morals, values or anything else, for that matter? It’s bad enough that any number of self-righteous academics kept military recruiters off college campuses, pretending that their objection stemmed from the army’s don’t ask/don’t tell policy, and not simply because left-wingers hate anything and everything that smacks of patriotism.
“In much the same way, those on the Left have led a crusade against the Boy Scouts of America because, so they say, they oppose the policy of not allowing homosexuals to be Scout leaders and take young boys into the woods on camping trips. Sensible people regard that as a sensible policy. It’s not to suggest that every gay man is a pedophile, but simply recognizing that most pedophiles are gay men. Just as every Muslim is not a terrorist, just about every terrorist these days is a Muslim. So, why should parents take any unnecessary chances with their most precious possessions just so homosexuals won’t have their feelings hurt?
“Liberals don’t really care about homosexuals, by the way, unless they themselves happen to be gay. The truth is liberals rarely serve in the military now that service is voluntary and they don’t usually let their kids join the Boy Scouts, not because they’re offended by the aforementioned policy, but because the group fosters faith-based and patriotic ideals.
“If you want a perfect example of liberal hypocrisy, consider the recent beauty pageant when a repulsive little freak who calls himself Perez Hilton (born Mario Lavenderia), who had no business even being on stage at a competition involving beautiful women, got to ask Miss California, Carrie Prejean, how she felt about same-sex marriages. Her honest answer probably cost her the victory, while earning her the respect of most fair and decent Americans.
“What I find so telling about the incident was that in California, the reason that the same-sex marriage measure was defeated on the November ballot was because 70% of blacks voted that way. But the gays only demonstrated outside Catholic and Mormon churches and businesses. Furthermore, I guarantee that if Miss Prejean had been black, instead of a blue-eyed blonde, Mr. Hilton wouldn’t have dared open his ugly little yap.”
Finally, Robin of Berkeley, who describes herself as a “Recovering Liberal”. She starts off by describing her liberal beginnings: “I wasn’t just your garden variety liberal who voted Democrat and that was about it. I was a true believer. A zealot. Like many leftists who had abandoned Judeo-Christian religion, I worshipped at the altar of liberalism. For instance, I never missed watching the Democratic National Convention. I watched every speech, with tissue box handy. (What kind of a freak was I anyway?) The Democratic Party symbolized hope, love, compassion, promise, everything that was good and holy in the world. I gave money, my time, my heart, my soul. I cried with joy when Democrats won; I was distraught when they lost.”
She tells how she became disillusioned with the left less than two years ago: “To my disbelief, the more I listened and read [conservatives], the more these folks made sense. For instance, at first I couldn’t understand why so many conservatives expressed concern about morality issues, like gay marriage. Berkeley is Lesbian Central, and I know many good hearted gay people. But the more I learned, the more I started getting the larger picture; that conservatives were not necessarily impugning the character of gay people, but they were alarmed at the breakdown of traditional values. If the basic structure of society goes, e.g., traditional marriage, religion, patriotism, common language, what remains? If everything becomes fluid, what is there to hold onto? Without any moral structure and traditions, a society descends into anarchy and mob rule, as it is clearly doing today.
“As I educated myself, I started thinking and rethinking. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with the sudden realization that deeply held beliefs made no sense. Take the anti war stance of the left. Noble and sanctimonious and all that. But how easy it is to sit back and preach peace when you have an army defending you; to rail against the U.S. when you are protected by free speech laws; to demonize Israel, when you’ve never lived through the murderous pogroms of Tsarist Russia or the Holocaust. How hypocritical to lambast Big Business while you are making money from their stocks in your mutual fund portfolio (that is, until Obama took over). And how ludicrous to admire Chavez, Castro and all things socialist, when the closest experience you’ve had to standing on a bread line is queuing up for goat cheese/arugula pizza at Whole Foods.
“And this love affair with Radical Islam – what’s up with that? I had previously thought of Islam as a quaint, folksy religion. But when I started actually reading about it, especially Dr. Phyllis Chesler’s illuminating books and web site, I realized extremist Muslims were advocating some seriously scary stuff, like destroying Israel and the West. I had been oblivious of the horrendous treatment of women: the honor killings, beheadings, genital mutilation. It now seemed like the height of naivety, if not masochism, to embrace with open arms people who want to kill you. While as a liberal I was socialized to believe everyone was good, all cultures were the same, and We Are The World, We Are The Children, I began to understand that evil exists. The emergence of evil always offers warnings signs, and we ignore them at our peril.”
Now of course I don’t necessarily agree with everything that has been said above. And many conservative commentators in the US thrive on coming across as pugnacious shock jocks. But the general themes they have presented are those I find myself in agreement with. Not in every detail, and not always, but for the most part.
As I said, ultimately Christianity must sit in judgment on all political and ideological viewpoints. None can be baptised into the one correct position. But a case can be made that the basic themes of conservatism – the fallen nature of man, the tendency for power to corrupt, the general failings of statism and welfarism, the importance of maintaining justice in a fallen world, and so on – tend to more nicely fit with biblical teaching than does the leftist version of events.
But as noted, Christians can and will agree to disagree on these matters. Christ must be more important to us than our political commitments, but they are nonetheless important. And they can result in some genuine differences of opinion – which is why a lot of debate takes place on this website. But some things are important, and perhaps worth arguing about. So the lively discussions will undoubtedly continue here.