I’ve been hard on my liberal friends lately -- not personally, mind you, but more and more the term “liberal thinking” has become an oxymoron. This week I’d like to look at the positive side of things and explore all the many ways that the conservative agenda is -- pardon the pun -- right.
Let’s start with the obvious assumption that most conservatives make: God Is. We differ – sometimes mightily – in our understanding of God, but the vast majority of us are sure He is our creator, and we’re sure because He is manifest in the careful, artistic patterning and intricate engineering of nature. We see evidence of His perfections as they came together on the cross to provide humanity with both purpose and possibility. We recognize the divine worth of every human being and, at the same time, the flawed essence of human nature and its need for divine guidance. A handful of conservative atheists can be found – S.E. Cupp at Glenn Beck’s station, novelist Ayn Rand, for instance, but most of us stand on the solid, defensible ground of Christianity, as did the majority of our founding fathers.
Standing on that foundation gives us a natural advantage – we see human nature for what it is – flawed and unlikely to improve on its own. History backs us up on that, but the evolutionary approach leaves one with the unsupportable assertion that man keeps getting better and better. However, the 20th century, instead of demonstrating how far man and society had evolved, turned out to be the bloodiest in human history. The conservative was not surprised – check out G.K. Chesterton’s writings from the beginning of last century and it all sounds like he’s talking about today.
In fact, almost 2,000 years ago Paul had it right when he wrote in his second letter to Timothy, “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,”(2nd Timothy 3:2-7 NAS).
Sound familiar? Yes, it does. This is what we have to deal with in building and maintaining a civilization and if we don’t look long and hard at that reality as we make policy decisions, we will always make the wrong decisions – as we have been doing intensely for the last four years.
If, however, we start with Paul’s assessment, we can arrive at workable strategies.
You see, the conservative – I’ll call him Henry -- is nervous about government and is so, even though he knows we need reining in, because those fellow men we elect to government have the same tendencies the rest of us do. Reread the passage above and insert “government officials” for “men.” Is the statement still true? Hmmmmmm. Even more so.
Henry sees that and doesn’t trust those in authority over him with any more than the minimum of power. And Henry understands that every “improvement” provided by the federal government will require another agency filled with those men Paul described. Are all government people like that? No, of course not – but, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and the men Paul referred to come along “in the last days” which means they aren’t likely to be getting better.
Not only does Henry distrust government, (and, knowing God, does not confuse it with God,) but he’s practical. He’s only willing to back something that actually works. Why have a minimum wage if it’s just going to result in fewer jobs, higher prices, and an expensive, supporting bureaucracy? Where’s the net gain? Are the poor better off? Why give out financial aide to college students if that just frees up the colleges to raise tuition, forcing the students into massive debt before they even have a job? Why force banks to give out loans to people who can’t afford them, if it’s just going to first balloon and then collapse the housing market leaving even more people without their own homes? How is that an improvement?
You see, Henry isn’t a tightwad, in fact, he gives to charity far more every year than do his liberal counterparts, but Henry wants results. He’s not satisfied with merely having tried and he’s observant enough to notice that we still have poor people in spite of all the welfare and assistance the government provides. And Henry knows that poor people are just like everyone else – see Paul’s list above.
Henry can see that in spite of the expensive existence of the Department of Energy, we don’t have enough, that despite the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, our kids can’t read, that regardless of the Department of Homeland Security our borders stand undefended in noonday sun.
Henry also believes in tomorrow. He knows God has a plan for this Earth and that God, being omniscient, knew how to build it to withstand the species He invented, so Henry doesn’t get panicked about the future of the globe. He does, however, worry about the future of his children because Henry knows that debts have to be paid off. He knows, from his own experience that the bigger the debt, the more painful will be the paying.
This makes him even more reluctant to back those costly programs that go nowhere; we don’t have the money. It’s no small matter. He knows we’re borrowing most of that money from foreign countries that do not have our best interests at heart. You see, Henry knows that the people in those countries are not any nicer than the people Paul was describing. He knows we have to be careful.
So, what do we do? Well, Henry knows something else – he knows that once we acknowledge that human beings have their own self-interest at heart and we set up society to allow that self-interest its most productive and personal outlet, we all end up better off.
How does Henry know that? History. Allowing for enlightened (we’re back to God now) self-interest to flourish in an atmosphere of opportunity and freedom produced the most prosperous society mankind has ever produced and Henry sees no point in “fixing” what is not broken. In fact, the economic problems turning up today are easily traced back to efforts to “fix” the original formula or to determined dis-enlightenment. Where there is no recognition of divine standards within each individual the algorithm does get wonky.
Henry does not, however, want to force people to agree with him. He does not believe in silencing those who see things less clearly. Henry believes in God, in His ability to make Himself and His standards known. Henry knows that this nation’s forefathers had it right, and he knows that if God still has a purpose for this nation, we will return to the original recipe because it works. He also knows, and it makes him sad, that this may be those “last days” and that the beginning of those times may not include a fully functioning America. He knows that we may have gone so far afield that we’ll be nationally stuck “ always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.”