June 28, 2007
To understand the basic problem of the conservative movement you have only to read the Washington Times piece by Ralph Z. Hollow on the recent "third force" conservative summit summoned by conservative activist Paul M .Weyrich.
"'We want to rebuild a conservative movement independent of the Republican Party and of George W. Bush - and to emphasize that it is a third force, not a third party,' said Phyllis Schlafly, 82."
"'The Democrats own the liberals, and the Republicans own the conservatives,' said Paul M. Weyrich, 64."
"'The modern conservative movement has always been a fusion of economic, national defense and religious conservatives...' said David A. Keene, 62."
Could there be a problem here? Might it have something to do with the age of the activists?
Since conservatism seems to be in a rebuilding year, as they diplomatically call it in baseball, maybe it's time to fire the coach.
Maybe it's even time to skip a generation and go with a bunch of untried rookies.
But what do rookies know? According to Robert Stacy McCain, Luke Sheahan of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education was counseling conservative students recently on forming a conservative campus club. Why not call it a Hayek or a Friedman Society, Sheahan suggested. "The reaction? Blank stares. 'They had no idea who they were,' Mr. Sheahan said."
Friedman published Capitalism and Freedom in 1962 when he was 50; Hayek published The Road to Serfdom in 1944 when he was 45.
Maybe Friedman and Hayek are unknown to today's conservative rookies because they don't need to know them. The climactic battle over their ideas took place in the 1980s. Our liberal friends submitted to the new ideas in the 1990s under the understanding that they didn't have to admit anything.
The Conservatism of the Future faces different challenges. It will probably be a lot less about economics and a lot more about religion and social breakdown.
I recently attended a conference featuring pastors in the "emerging" church in the United States. These religious leaders, featured in Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, edited by Robert Webber, span the spectrum from the wacky left to conservative Biblical literalism.
One of the emerging church leaders featured in Emerging Churches is Mark Driscoll, pastor of the three-campus Mars Hill Church. Mars Hill is a 6,000 member conservative mega-church in--get this--the city of Seattle.
To grow from a house church to a 6,000 member mega-church in ten years is an entrepreneurial achievement. To plant and grow such a church in the heart of the Soviet of Washington seems like a miracle. You can see the problem Driscoll's church poses for Seattle liberals in this Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine feature by Janet I. Tu.
Or is it a miracle? After all, where else would you expect to find victims of the liberal plague, young people helplessly infected by the bacillus of self-centered irresponsibility and incapacitated by its festering buboes?
The leaders of the emerging churches often speak of the broken people coming through their doors. Many of the members of Mars Hill Church in liberal Seattle are victims of sexual and domestic abuse, like the young woman aching to cleanse herself after surviving a two year abusive relationship of rape and violence.
Driscoll is a thirty-something leading a church of conservative twenty-somethings. What is his secret?
He understands that to attract young people you can't just bring them in and sit them down. You have to put them to work and you have to give them power. The pot-smoking hippie Bon Jovi fan who walked into his church a few years ago is now the executive pastor keeping the church buses running on time.
But when you give young people power, they are going to change things.
That is the reason for young people. Not knowing any better they rashly enter upon careers and marriages, start churches, magazines, think tanks, and foment revolution.
We Americans have experience of this. In 1775 George Washington was an old man of 43 and John Adams was 40. But Thomas Jefferson was 32, James Madison was 24, and Alexander Hamilton was 20.
Fifty years ago, twenty-something Bill Buckley rashly started National Review. In 1973 Paul Weyrich became founding president the Heritage Foundation at the tender age of 30. Phyllis Schlafly was once a young activist and conservative ghost writer. That's how today's conservative movement first got traction: from reckless youngsters that didn't know their place.
The emerging conservative movement of the twenty-first century is probably forming around us right now. Reckless twenty-somethings are thinking reckless thoughts and planning reckless deeds. Soon enough we'll know all about them.