The Kuyperian Commentary

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

Archive for the tag “conservatism”

A New Conservative Manifesto?

DonQuixoteunhorsed

“How to revive the flagging fortunes of the Republican Party might matter to some people, but it’s not a question that should concern principled conservatives. Crypto-conservatives aplenty stand ready to shoulder that demeaning task.”

Several weeks ago a piece appeared over at The American Conservative touting itself as a manifesto-of-sorts for a re-envisioned and reinvigorated conservatism: “Counterculture Conservatism: the right needs less Ayn Rand, more Flannery O’Connor.” Before the literary among you get excited, I should warn you that author Andrew J. Bacevich interacts with O’Connor nowhere in the article; in fact, by the end, I felt a little like Inigo Montoya (“you keep using that name; I do not think it means who you think it means”). Anyway, Bacevich’s opening lines (quoted above) are one measure consolation, one measure exhortation, and just a splash of knowing self-congratulation

True enough, a lot of people predicted that if and when Republicans lost the 2012 election, the party would attempt to reinvent itself, distancing itself from “loser issues” like the sanctity of biblical marriage, or the fight against abortion (of course, the party had already begun to do this when they put Mitt Romney in the race, but what’s a few months one way or the other to the long memory of history?). ‘Republican’ and ‘Conservative’ might be related terms, but fortunately they are not perfect synonyms, and many of the latter woke up and found themselves too “principled” to remain attached to the former. I followed the author this far because, truthfully, I was in that number and could say, without irony, “thank God for conservatism,” but he (in this case, the article’s author) wasn’t finished yet.

What, then, is Bacevich’s vision of conservatism in the coming epoch?

“The conservative tradition I have in mind may not satisfy purists. It doesn’t rise to the level of qualifying as anything so grandiose as a coherent philosophy. It’s more of a stew produced by combining sundry ingredients. The result, to use a word that ought warm the cockles of any conservative’s heart, is a sort of an intellectual slumgullion.”

His recipe for this mess of pottage includes, among other thinkers, heavy doses of Flannery O’Connor (he drops her name a second time, but by now I’m even more skeptical that he could explain satisfactorily why she belongs in the discussion) and Wendell Berry (who recently came out in support of gay marriage, which will seem more relevant in a minute)—“don’t skimp” he writes.

Next, there are the sweeping, inspirational value statements about the human responsibility of stewardship—“preserving our common inheritance and protecting that which possesses lasting value”—the importance of community—“ Conservatives understand that the most basic community, the little platoon of family, is under unrelenting assault”—awareness of pain and suffering—“conservatives also believe in Original Sin, by whatever name”—and patriotism—“America is amber waves of grain, not SEAL Team Six.”

Bacevich finally descends to the level of clear details in outlining the task that is before the next generation conservative.

“The key to success will be to pick the right fights against the right enemies, while forging smart tactical alliances. (By tactical, I do not mean cynical.) Conservatives need to discriminate between the issues that matter and those that don’t, the contests that can be won and those that can’t….So forget about dismantling the welfare state. Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and, yes, Obamacare are here to stay. Forget about outlawing abortion or prohibiting gay marriage. Conservatives may judge the fruits produced by the sexual revolution poisonous, but the revolution itself is irreversible.”

He warns against a Quixotic tilting at windmills, while adopting for himself the conciliatory tone of the Don on his deathbed, claiming that there are no birds in last year’s nests. I mention Don Quixote, but the reader may also be reminded of the first-century Sadducees with their “smart tactical alliances.” This conservatism begins to sound less countercultural and more concultural or syncultural. One could hope that the author simply intends the Church to play a larger role than the State in transforming culture, but churches are mentioned as a kind of afterthought in the close of his manifesto and largely as a sheepish concession that they all “may be flawed.” The piece reads instead, as if conservatives simply have bigger (largely financial) fish to fry.

More recently, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman wrote an article (also for The American Conservative) entitled “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause,” arguing,

“There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship [a happy marriage] with the person they love.”

But his essay’s final remarks strike a now familiar chord that complicates the simplicity of that emotional appeal:

“We are at a crossroads. I believe the American people will vote for free markets under equal rules of the game—because there is no opportunity or job growth any other way. But the American people will not hear us out if we stand against their friends, family, and individual liberty.”

Neither Bacevich nor Huntsman is the force behind this shift, but they are both good indications of where the winds are blowing. Both outline a strategy that feigns compassion (or possibly misunderstands real compassion as a secondary end) in order to gain influence, especially in financial/economic arenas. These Conservatives are simply maneuvering to become the new Republicans and making moderate the new conservative.

Fortunately, the Christian remains more conservative than the Conservative. Kuyper would remind us that the state is meant to restrain sin out of love for the nation and concern for its culture; love and concern based in and upon the truly charitable, Gospel-oriented mission of the Church, where liberty and equality truly abide.

So, how to revive the flagging fortunes of the conservative movement might matter to some people, but it’s not a question that should concern principled Christians. Crypto-conservatives aplenty stand ready to shoulder that demeaning task.

 

Sean Johnson is a graduate student of Literature at the University of Dallas (TX) and husband to a beautiful pregnant woman.

US: A Promise

“US: A promise”

A Poem of American Love For Vision and Revision

by V. O. Waver

Know I would never have you doubt our love; it will endure
For we, the people, spoke our words: of them we may be sure
That they were never writ in stone – now we are more mature
of this united state, my love, be ever so secure

Don’t tell of ancient meaning laid within our founding caper
Don’t say your freedom was elusive, fleeting as a vapor
Don’t say your liberty was strong, but now you see it taper
There’s been a revolution, love; it’s just a piece of paper

Once all you wanted was the freedom to procure a tea
For me to harbor your decisions in obscurity
But I’ve decided what you need is not my purity
And I’ll be watching you my dear to give security

For I will never let you go, as sands of time do run
And I’ll be firm with promises as rising of the sun
Here to enact some sequences next decade to be done
Your mind can know my faithfulness, while I’m out having fun

I may not have the means to fund, but there’s a strange solution
I bless your scooting over, dear, to make room for intrusion
I bless your silence, as I force your frequent absolution
I bless your will to love a man of weakest constitution

——-

Luke Welch is a conservative in politics. He has a master’s degree from Covenant Seminary and preaches regularly in a conservative Anglican church in Maryland. He blogs about Bible structure at SUBTEXT.

Sequestration, Punditry and the Formation of our Public Judgment

In broad daylight we see this. In broadcasted radio, we hear a serious situation described in terms that completely distort the nature of what is happening. And this is so common that we don’t have the ability to stop it. God has not yet seen fit for our groanings to be heard as anything other than the claims of Chicken Little. “Chicken Little” starts with a “C.” So does “Cassandra.” So does “Cliff.”

We are currently in talks to avoid government shutdown. More fiscal cliff negotiations. Topping the bill this week is a new musical called, “Sequestration,” coming to theaters on Broadway, Pennsylvania Avenue, and only later to Main Street, they say. But it is quite a show. And broad is the way that leads to destruction. That’s what they’re going to be selling you all week. Destruction is coming if the conservatives get their way. The conservatives are going to lead us into the pit with those scruples! They bicker, they whine, and they won’t compromise! The president will call on us to get something done. Experts will say that Boehner’s minions are obstructionists. 435 players are all sequined up for the big curtain call.

But, please, don’t be dazzled. They are selling lies. You are going to hear over and over this week that congress is “dysfunctional.” And we may even hear the blame spread around – that both parties are guilty of “brinkmanship.” They will try to show you that conservatism is nice, but holding too strongly to anything is petty in a time like this.

You can’t miss any of this if you are listening. Two lies that they want you to believe:

1) The chief good for congress is getting something done.
2) Republicans are conservatives.

Before I explain, let me fast forward to the truths which replace these lies:

1) The chief good for congress is to restrain extraconstitutional spending, now and in the future as a standard and a controlling policy.
2) Constitutionalists are conservatives. Fiscally self-controlled people are conservatives. Republicans are by and large neo-conservatives, which means “fakers.”

The goal of radio time this week is to set the public of the US up with ways of expressing what we’re feeling, as it happens. They would like us to think they are grief counselors after a mass, public tragedy, helping us find words for all the chaos. But really, they are more like the mysterious men taking Mary Mormon’s camera and re-educating her on the spot about how many shots she heard. But we’re so used to that now. We’re ready to give up our knowledge and let it be replaced with publicly approved emotional language we can repeat around the water cooler. While all of this sounds sinister, what is happening consistently is definition of terms and the building of a framework that will allow us to interpret the sequester events in ways favorable to the administration.

Morning news and commentary on NPR gives a healthy dose of this reeducation every time we come to it. If you turn on NPR, as I do every morning, your brain is going to pass through a police checkpoint, directing your mental travel. Monday I was right: I expected what I heard – I didn’t even have to listen to know what I would hear on the Diane Rehm show. So when I listened I was just timing it. And this is what I hear in the punditry of each iteration of this cliffhanger:

“Dysfunction,” “brinkmanship,” “bickering,” “lack of compromise,” “obstructionism.”

And I want to get across here that our annoyance ought to be directed in two places.

Democrats ramrodd spending past the constitutional limits, again and again. But they are just maintaining the status quo. Republicans, on the other hand, are pretending to care, while they say no up to the edge, and then change their mind at the last minute. They (the RINO’s in charge) only do this because somebody back home actually is a conservative. But in the end, they take off the mask (it’s suffocating under there), and move to hold the door open for the democrats. It’s like they like being doormats. Maybe their high calling in life is to vote against their conscience.

There are a few conservatives in congress, but not enough to overwhelm the face of the republican party.

If we divide the groups out by what they say, democrats would be on one side and the Republicans (including the conservatives) would be on the other. But if we divide them out by what they do, then Republicans and Democrats would be on one side, and a handful of libertarian-minded Constitution-lovers would be all by their lonesome in the empty other wing.

So it’s time to deconstruct a weak metanarrative here. Congress wants us to believe they are the source of power, source of goods, source of life in America. The halls of congress are a giant hamster wheel that feeds the power plants juice, if they run fast enough. That is, if they pass enough legislation. They actually talk like the passing of bills creates stuff. Like “getting legislation accomplished” lights up our living room on stormy nights, and keeps our hospitals from needing generators. What will happen, they tell us, if they stop the legislation wheel from spinning, is that America will grind to a halt. Financially, socially, militarily…we can’t live without Almighty Congress, maker of all things, judge of all men.

So when Neo-cons, who are temporarily playing the part of a principled conservative, obstruct passage of money-bills, they are shutting down the future. They are killing even the present. But this is just a show. In the end, after the neos have conned their constituents one more time about their credentials, they will quietly shake hands and hold the coats of the dems so the liberals can stone us while the neo-cons look on in approval.

Some people, conservatives who have not bowed the knee to Baal, will obstruct. Saying, “congress is not God,” and “congress does not supply all our needs.” But to no avail.

Maybe it’s because we have gotten so used to borrowing from China. Maybe we are taking a page out of the Three-Self Patriotic movement. Religion doesn’t come from God, it comes from the government. Financial prosperity doesn’t come from God, it comes from the government.

Well…since we believe that without the ever-giving hand of congress, we would have nothing, then any attempt to slow down the train, is “obstruction” done with “bickering.” But obstruction is good. It is the job of any God-fearing congressman to obstruct when the law is broken, and to obstruct when grubby hands are grasping and grabbing.

Imagine five bullies are confronted at the doorway of the classroom by two children with strong consciences. From a distance the teacher remarks the seven children in the room and says, “Look at those kids holding things up in the doorway. They are such obstructionists; why are they always bickering with all the other kids? Those few kids are holding up the majority of the people in the room!”

Is the main goal of the classroom to let the bullies out on to the playground? Is th main goal of congress to make up rules about our neighbors’ stuff? Is it to get more value out of the public pocket, and into the money pit of this wretched house we’re constructing? Is that progress? Is that good? Can you hear me? Is passing legislation the definition of good? Not often.

No, we are actually glad there are a few principled children in the class. But what is actually about to happen at the end of this week is that most of the way through recess, the supposedly principled children are actually going to shake hands with the bullies walk to the playground and beat up the younger kids with them, telling the younger kids who are being beat up, “I tried to stop them, but I realized the only think I was accomplishing was restraining those bullies. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything measurable… Hey, shut up Loser! You’re just a little kid. You want to fit in, don’t you?”

And if the Republicans DO allow the sequester, it is just a one-off show. They have already cried wolf too many time to be heard as truly standing up for what is right.

But true Conservatives still stand up to bullies. Republicans make a show and then back down. Democrats are still bullies. Republicans are just accomplices.

And Conservatives are still defined by conservatism and not by punditry on morning talk shows.

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