The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

The Conservative Agenda

G.K. Chesterton once observed that the business of conservatives is to prevent mistakes from ever being corrected. The renown writer of Orthodoxy speaks from the grave. Conservatism as a philosophical system is rather schizophrenic in our day. It lacks a unified agenda, and therefore cannot accurately pinpoint its errors.

Pundits opine eloquently—at least they think they do– about how conservative ideas need to win the day, but ultimately, most of them are only doing what Lionel Trilling described as, “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”

Chuck Hagel endured the systematic chastisement from the left and from the right. The right believed he was too casual about the terrorist threats and not Zionistic enough in his allegiance. The left bombarded him about his past statements opposing homosexuality and abortion. Hagel won the day, but is still recovering from the Neo-Conservative war drums musicalizing against his nomination.

Hagel is the type of conservative Conservatives should seek to emulate: cautious in his foreign policy and strong in his moral convictions. His moral convictions would also entail respect for the much debated second amendment, because defending my wife and children is a moral issue. So Obama was right: there is still something sacred about sticking to our guns and religion.

Andrew Bacevich in his fascinating piece in the Jan/Feb edition of The American Conservative echoes some of these thoughts. Andrew alerted me some years ago to the dangers of Imperialism. In his piece, he says we need a little more of Flannery O’Connor and less of Ayn Rand.[1] He offers an appetizing reason to sprinkle O’Connor into the formation of an authentic Conservative Party. The Flannery O’Connor flavor includes a healthy dose of community living, which is “our best hope of enjoying a meaningful earthly existence.” Lots of cheers there! Also, the agenda may need to be salted with something more than fancy-dressed charlatans “peddling the latest Big Idea That Explains Everything.” Karl Rove, say good-bye. Neo-Conservatives proposing a world police State, say good-bye. You are just not conservative enough for us. We can’t put our house in order if we are spending our time and money in fixing other people’s houses. On the moral side of things, Bacevich says that our big problem is the “collapse of heterosexual marriage as an enduring partnership…”[2] Let’s not overlook our mistakes and blame it on their moral failure. Jesus had a few things to say to that line of reasoning.

Chesterton argued that conservatives need to conserve something. But the problem is conservatives are having a hard time defining what they ought to conserve.

In short, a robust conservative agenda entails the recovery of a moral and transcendent view of life and a profound commitment to a community where Chesterton and  O’Connor would be welcomed guests of honor.


[1] Cover Story, American Conservative.

[2] Rich Lusk deals with this in The Church-Friendly Family. You should get yourself a copy…go ahead, I’ll wait.

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