Sunday, July 1, 2007
What is a Conservative?
I grew up thinking I was a conservative. I still do, and yet I can find almost no common ground with those who pass as today’s political or religious conservatives. For instance, I hear today’s political conservatives proclaim their belief in freedom and then engage in every way possible to restrict freedom for all and deny it to some. I hear them proclaim democracy and then concentrate as much power as possible in the hands of their few elite. I hear them rail against “activist judges” and then engineer the appointment of judges who set back the clock of civil rights by decades. I hear them condemn with contempt everyone who even appears to perhaps disagree with them in any way as effete left wing liberals at the same time that they espouse their commitment to the very Constitution that embraces a vigorous public debate in the context of an active government that provides for the welfare of the people. If that is what it is to be a political conservative, then I will have nothing to do with it. So let us turn our attention to religious conservatives, or at least to so-called Christian conservatives. If I understand correctly what I often hear on radio, see on television and occasionally encounter among folks around town, there are three tenets to their faith: acceptance of the sixty-six books of the standard Protestant bible as the literal and historically true Word of God; condemnation of homosexuality; and opposition to abortion in any form for any reason. It is a faith that seems to have precious little to do with understanding and living into the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is disinterested in the dynamic and progressive revelation of God’s self in the drama of the Hebrew Scriptures. And it dismisses the centuries of men and women who have given themselves to lives that shed yet a bit more light on what it is to be a Christian. It is unable to recognize the possibility that God’s grace might flood over those who do not confess Christ as Lord. Therefore, it cannot accommodate the moral ambiguity of our human condition, nor is it able to shine the light of Christ into the darkness. It seems to me to be an impoverished sort of religion at best. I believe that these two forces, if they continue to act in tandem, are the greatest threat to our nation, our democracy, our security and our freedom. Oddly enough I don’t see them as a threat to the Church or to God’s work among us. They are in irritant to be sure. They mislead and do much damage to the lives of many, but in the end God wins. That’s the way it is with God.