May 10, 2009
Reflections on Conservatism and ChristianityBy Larrey Anderson
Are social conservatives hurting or helping the cause of conservatism? The answer to this question has not yet been decided. Christian conservatives can be the saving grace of the conservative movement -- if they can step back and carefully consider how they are perceived in the abortion debate, imagined (and actual) racial and religious bigotry, and in the temptation to claim to know that these are "the last days."
Conservative Christians love and respect the law and the Constitution. Most recognize that the Constitution was founded, at least in part, on the Judeo-Christian principle that all human beings are equal in the eyes of God, that everyone is a sinner, and that no one is above the law.
Since our country's inception, social conservatives have helped make America a more just regime. For example, the abolitionist movement to end slavery in America was a movement lead by people who were, essentially, white conservative Christians. These pioneers of freedom recognized that slavery was not only incompatible with God's truth; slavery was at odds with a basic premise of both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. To wit:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Though rarely recognized for their work by the mainstream media, conservative Christians in today's America have led the continuing fight to end the slave trade in Africa and the Middle East. Conservative American Christians have contributed millions of dollars in aid to Christians in Africa who are being persecuted and murdered by Islamic extremists.
The left and the media can persist in their efforts to rewrite and deconstruct history; they cannot change the twin facts that the Founding Fathers were deeply inspired by the essence of the Bible and that social conservatives have always played, and still play, a major role in making America the greatest -- and freest -- nation in the world.
But there are problems. America has reached a tipping point. We are in real danger of losing our constitutional republic. Now is not the time for theological nitpicking and infighting amongst social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and libertarians. Social conservatives will determine whether or not this bickering continues.
Here is why: There are three specific issues that pose a special challenge to social conservatism. Some on the social right misunderstand the relationships of these issues to the political process and the Constitution. These misunderstandings have hampered -- and may continue to impede -- the cause of the conservative movement in America.
Pro-abortion proponents have been running circles around right-to-life advocates for thirty-five years -- ever since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973. Part of the reason the pro-life position has stalled is that pro-life proponents have clung to a moral position (that, in most cases, abortion is evil and/or murder) but have tended to ignore the legal, constitutional, and cultural side of the debate. If the social right is serious about making real progress in stopping the pogrom of the unborn it needs to reconsider its approach to the issue.
From a constitutional and political perspective, abortion is, first and foremost, a state's right issue.
There is no federal right to abortion in the Constitution. As I have shown, outside of the search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment, there is no specific right to privacy in the Constitution.[i] This means that, constitutionally, the abortion issue should be left to each state to decide.
All conservatives, even fiscal conservative or libertarians who support the right to choose, need to grant, and then insist upon, this basic point: constitutionally speaking, the abortion issue should be decided at the state, not the national, level.[ii] In doing so, conservatives (no matter what an individual's stand on the morality of abortion might be) can address the constitutional aspect of the issue with a united voice.
In order to protect the unborn, social conservatives need to continue to demonstrate that their love of life extends to the mother -- as well as to the unborn child. Local community self esteem classes, alternative education classes, mentoring and role modeling, in addition to well-developed alternatives to abortion, are needed. The solution to the abortion epidemic in this country is more love, more understanding, and more compassion -- not more rhetorical vitriol and condemnation.
Social conservatives need to rebuild the power of motherhood that has been destroyed in the popular culture. One of the tragedies of the feminist movement is that motherhood is sold as a burden not a blessing. Women are idealized in the media as little more than objects whose power is based in the pedaling of their sexual favors. Social conservatives are uniquely situated to understand and to address this crisis of the devaluation of the feminine in America.
In sum, by insisting that abortion is a state's right issue, by challenging the concept that motherhood is somehow demeaning, and by showing compassion for both the unborn child and the mother, the social right can lead by example. This will allow libertarians and fiscal conservatives, who may now support abortion, to find common ground with social conservatives.
In spite of the fact that conservatives donate more to charities, adopt more children, and create more jobs and opportunities for their fellow Americans than do liberals, the left has managed to portray the religious right as crazed zealots. Bitter small town social conservatives, our sophisticated President has told us, "cling to their guns and religion." There is little doubt that conservatives, especially social conservatives, have been successfully labeled "bigots" by the left.
Nothing makes me angrier than being called a racist or a bigot. I have found that there is little I can do about it -- except tell the truth. The social right needs to understand that accusations of racism and bigotry are going to get worse as the grass roots movement of conservatism takes it protests to the streets. For example, the mainstream media no longer even pretends to report objectively on the conservative movement. Reporters now openly harass and badger people on the right who oppose the policies of the Obama administration.
This point needs to be emphasized: the Alice in Wonderland world of intimidation and misinformation is not going to get better. The left is looking for any reason or excuse to misrepresent the social right.
Social conservatives are branded as bigots for a reason: it allows the left to dismiss the political arguments of the religious right as irrational -- without entering a debate on the merits of the arguments. Christian conservatives need to be fully aware of this strategy.
Conservative Christians must not give the left its excuse. This will be a simple chore for most social conservatives. Tell the truth and do not give in to anger.[iii]
I can still picture the book. It was in the library in the basement of the Harvard Divinity School. I don't recall the exact title, The End of Days, perhaps. I do remember that the book was written in the early 1950s. It described in vivid detail, and with numerous passages from the Bible, the coming apocalypse. The anti-Christ was either Kruschev or Mao Tse-Tung. (The writer gave scriptural evidence for both.)
I noticed that it was the 23rd edition of the tome. I dug deeper into the stacks. The same theologian, then a young man, had written the first edition during WW I. Kaiser Wilhelm II was the anti-Christ. The scriptures were the same. I found the 17th edition. It was written during WW II using exactly the same scriptures and ... I will leave it to the reader to guess who the anti-Christ was. In short, the theologian had a long and successful career of selling his readers impending doom.
Although they are few in numbers, those conservative Christians who are peddling the notion that Obama is the anti-Christ, and/or that the end of the world is upon us, are making conservatism look ridiculous.
Obama isn't the anti-Christ and no one knows when Christ will return. Claims to the contrary are absurd. The left delights in pointing out the absurdity every time anyone of any standing on the right makes, or even implies, such claims.
Social conservatives need to point out the left is preaching an apocalyptic end to the world with the myth of global warming from within a pagan religion of environmentalism.[iv] Christian conservatives must leave the eschatological escapades to the left.
Politics is the arena of the gladiator. But it is also the arena for the executioner ... and for those who would wash their hands. Social conservatives must keep these simple truths in mind as they enter the arena.
How can Christian conservatives advance the cause of conservatism? The answer is obvious: we must protect the Constitution. We must defend the truth with steadfast honor. We must think and act like true Christians.
Larrey Anderson is a writer, a philosopher, and submissions editor for American Thinker. His award-winning novel is The Order of the Beloved. His latest book is the memoir, Underground : Life and Survival in the Russian Black Market.
[i] The "right to privacy" was invented by the Supreme Court in the 1965 decision Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479. Griswold dealt with access to contraception. The Court used the holding in Griswold (which established a concocted "right to privacy") as precedent for Roe v. Wade.
[ii] I am assuming that a constitutional amendment, either for or against legalizing abortion, will not be ratified in the foreseeable future. There is no supermajority of support for either position. It should also be noted: if the Supreme Court someday does overturn the poorly decided Roe v. Wade, the status of the legality of abortion would return to the states. The fight, if it is to be real and successful, must be fought at the state level.
[iii] The most tangible form of bigotry that I have seen from social conservatives has been religious bigotry. For some reason, some conservative Christians are unwilling to extend a hand of fellowship to Mormons. Whatever the theological differences may be, the cold hard political fact is that social conservatives cannot afford even the appearance of bigotry. Nor can conservatism risk losing roughly six million (mostly conservative) Mormon votes. Our numbers are too few and the risks are too high. Religious conservatives, of all denominations, need to put aside theological differences and focus on saving our republic.
[iv] Some very confused Christians are promoting a double apocalyptic whammy: global warming as a portent of the Second Coming. Not surprisingly, John McCain has met with Christian leaders who have taken this position to discuss, you guessed it, carbon cap and trade legislation.