Nov 19, 2019

@issue: Is there such thing as a Christian conservative?

Read Mike’s response to this article here.

I am a Christian conservative. I am a Christian because I believe Jesus Christ died on a cross and rose from the dead on the third day, saving me from eternal damnation from my sins. I celebrated this very act on Easter Sunday, the greatest day in all of history.

I am a conservative because I believe with Russell Kirk, that 20th-century man of letters who gave the movement its name with his magnum opus “The Conservative Mind,” when he said that the “essence of social conservatism is preservation of the ancient moral traditions of humanity.” I believe with Abraham Lincoln, who once gave this rhetorical inquiry: “What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?”

In the name Christian conservative, there is no contradiction. It is no oxymoron. For the tradition I aim to uphold is one that is Christian in character.

America is a fundamentally Christian nation. Tocqueville, writing on the American character in the 1830s, wrote, “The sects that exist in the United States are innumerable. They all differ in respect to the worship which is due to the Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man. Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner, but all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God.”

Says the great French thinker, even our government took heed from our belief. “Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society,” continues Tocqueville, “but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions.”

So preserving tradition in America means preserving a Christian way of living, which is exactly what conservatism aspires to do.

But what of specific policy prescriptions? Do positions usually ascribed to conservatives match up with the teachings of Jesus?

My colleague argues that a belief that free-markets provide for a better economic system is at odds with Jesus’ teachings, that a true Christian would be a socialist. This is not so. Jesus’ instructions are for individuals, not for governments. Of course it is a good thing for Christians to give to the poor and various charitable institutions—I don’t know of any Christian conservative who is against that. Jesus’ teachings involving government, though, are pretty much limited to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.”

But what of something like marriage, or, more specifically, gay marriage? The conservative believes in traditional marriage precisely for that reason, because it comes from our tradition. The Christian believes in traditional marriage because that’s what the Bible teaches. The Christian believes that all Scripture is God-breathed, so they take Leviticus 18:22 or Romans 1:26-27 at face value.

It would be tedious and uninteresting to take each political issue point by point and show how the conservative position and the Christian position coincide. Besides, not all conservatives agree on every issue. Conservatism is unique in that it is, at its core, not an ideology.

There is no “Conservative Manifesto” which lists views to combat its communist counterpart. Conservatives cannot be rigidly defined. There are anti-war conservatives and pro-war conservatives. There are conservatives that believe in free trade and those that are protectionist. There are neocons, paleocons, crunchy cons, Burkeans, libertarians, classical liberals, the list goes on and on. All coalesce under the big tent of “conservatism.” All are often at odds with one another. But all believe in preserving our moral traditions, of which Christianity is one.

Calling oneself a Christian conservative requires no suspension of rational thought. Saying it does is itself irrational.

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