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Conservative, GOP, James Dobson, John McCain

>Must We All Be "Conservatives"?

>Okay, okay. I know what it means to be “Reformed.” At least, for me it means privileging God’s sovereignty above all else.

But what does it mean to be “conservative”? Nathan asked as much a few posts ago.

Because I know I’m done with James Dobson telling me what it means. Can I still be called a conservative and disagree with nearly everything coming out of the Council for National Policy?

Frank Schaeffer said it all:

But the new generation of evangelicals is sick of being labeled as backward rednecks because of their association with fossils like Dobson. There are many evangelicals like Cizik too who are not all about homophobia, nationalism, war-without-end and American exceptionalism or the Republican Party. Like Cizik they believe that the America has a responsibility to do something about global warming, poverty, AIDS, human trafficking and other issues. They see through Dobson and the other so-called pro-life leaders, who have actually done nothing to reduce abortion. In fact Dobson has increased abortions because of his “abstinence only” crusade.

I’m done with the culture wars. I’m done with the power trips. I’m done with cabals.

I, like Nathan, probably don’t fit very well either with the usual “conservative” moniker. I will defend life at all costs, but more in the epideictic sphere than the deliberative. I think war is a pretty bad solution for just about every problem. I think Affirmative-Action might be the best way to fix a history of really lousy and sinful choices white people have made. I think the death of habeas corpus is pretty much the death of freedom as we know it in the English-speaking world.

In other words, those conservatives around me here in South Carolina probably think I’m a turncoat because I can’t stomach voting for John McCain. And my liberal friends think I’m just quaint and old-fashioned because I affirm a Christian creed.

Kenneth Burke would say we’re due for a casuistic stretching of our terms. So. . . let’s have at it. Are we just crabby malcontent Gen-Xers? Paleo-Cons? Prophetic politicos in the Fourth Great Awakening? Or . . . what?

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Discussion

14 thoughts on “>Must We All Be "Conservatives"?

  1. >Incidentally, I don’t deceive myself any more by believing that I inhabit some “third way” intelligible apart from my surroundings. I think I’ve just got a Socratic temperament–I find the dominant idea in the room, and I start poking at it with my ink pen until somebody gets angry. 🙂 And oddly enough, I’ve got friends who are third wave feminists, Calvinists, New Historicists, and cultural conservatives, and at one time or another some of them have assumed that I’m one of them. 😉

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | July 2, 2008, 1:01 pm
  2. >So. . . let’s have at it. Are we just crabby malcontent Gen-Xers? Paleo-Cons? Prophetic politicos in the Fourth Great Awakening? Or . . . what?As I noted earlier, while I’m in a university English department, I tend to be a conservative-by-default. Around here, I suppose I’m the trouble-making Erasmean. 😉

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | July 2, 2008, 12:56 pm
  3. >David — I honestly don’t know if Hand apologized to McCain. My hunch is no, but I could be wrong.If that is the case, it would have been better if he had not apologized to anybody at all. But if he had personally reached out to McCain and asked for forgiveness, that would have been a different story all together.I completely agree. You are exactly correct.

    Posted by QueenKnitter | July 2, 2008, 12:37 pm
  4. >QT,I really appreciate your demonstration of grace in this matter. As to the BJU/Hand/McCain saga, you are saying that Dr. Hand apologized to the faculty and staff, but did he do the same to McCain? From what I gather from you, BJU was upset with Dr. Hand primarily because of his role in tarnishing the image of the institution.If that is the case, it would have been better if he had not apologized to anybody at all. But if he had personally reached out to McCain and asked for forgiveness, that would have been a different story all together.

    Posted by David Cho | July 2, 2008, 6:52 am
  5. >Has Hand apologized? Has BJU disciplined him in anyway? Or does Commandment #9 not apply when a victim of a smear campaign is a non-conservative?I was at Indiana University (on leave of absence from BJU) in grad school at the time of Hand’s email, so I didn’t hear/see any of this directly. But my friends told me that he apologized publicly to the faculty and staff. Many told me that they didn’t feel like that was “enough.” I’m kind of saddened by that, in hindsight.I am pretty positive that he was “dressed down” pretty handily by the BJU administration. Again, as I know all too well, in that world, it’s not the unethical behavior that’s the problem. It’s ruining the image that’s the problem. Yeah, I know . . . ironic when you think about it.I will say this — not necessarily in Hand’s defense or credit because I don’t think those terms are quite theologically correct. I’ve seen a different Dr. Hand in the last few years. I don’t know if it’s this event or becoming a grandpa or what. But I have sat next to him in worship and have listened to him preach. And he has been consistently one of the more grace-focused expositors I’ve heard in my previous life. And that’s a clear change from the Dr. Hand I knew as an undergrad.In other words, I think Luther’s idea is spot-on in this case. God can use even our worst behaviors for His best. And that’s a comfort.

    Posted by QueenKnitter | July 2, 2008, 3:20 am
  6. >I actually prefer to be identified by ideology instead of political party, so “Conservative” is the preferred nomenclature.Yet, I don’t like “the man” telling me what I mean by that.I’m a Conservative in the mold of Barry Goldwater, not in the neo-Conservative of today that is just not as liberal as the other liberals.

    Posted by GUNNY | July 1, 2008, 6:44 pm
  7. >They were talking about a similar issue at JesusCreed the other day, and one of the commenters, who used to work for a senator in Washington DC, said that they did a poll on the Hill about which consituencies the Republicans and Democrats would like to drop if it meant no negative political consequences. He said that their top two answers were surprising.The Democrats said:1. Pro-Choice lobbyists2. Labor UnionsThe Republicans said:1. Religious Right2. NRAThe commenters’ point was that the Republicans are using evangelicals to gain political power. Here’s the thread: http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=4025

    Posted by Matt | July 1, 2008, 5:14 pm
  8. >I’ve grown up in a town of 2000 in Northern Illinois, then another town of 2000 in central Illinois. My nieghbors tended to be blue collar Christians. They liked it when people talked about taxing the rich, but were socially conservative and so voted Republican. I suppose I base my opinion on Northern rural folk. It does seem different in the South though…

    Posted by Jared Nelson | July 1, 2008, 5:06 pm
  9. >Mark, if those are two of the best decisions I have made, what does that say about the rest? I sure hope to make more positive decisions than those :).Jared: Except in a few Urban areas, these two groups don’t really like the other group being in their partyI am not sure about that. Most social conservatives I know also think capitalism and free-enterprise are perfectly in line with the Bible (many go so far to say that it is the only biblical model of economic governance), but it is the Rockefeller wing of the GOP that is not thrilled with co-existing with the social conservatives.

    Posted by David Cho | July 1, 2008, 4:36 pm
  10. >I must admit, that until the abortion issue is off the table, I can’t bring myself to vote for the pro-choice candidate. Especially when the Court is 5-4 right now. One more Justice and the issue can go back to the States that had the right to decide the issue in the first place. When that is accomplished, I too may be open to relooking at the political scene to see who would get my vote. But as a Burkean and pro-life, McCain is the best fit for me right now.

    Posted by Jared Nelson | July 1, 2008, 4:10 pm
  11. >I remember reading a PEW research poll in undergrad that really solidified what I had preveiously thought: The Republican party is made up of two view different contingencies – 1) Businessmen/Free market types and 2) Social conservatives. Except in a few Urban areas, these two groups don’t really like the other group being in their party. Christians do tend to be more left leaning on the environment or poverty issues.The polarization of these two groups within the Republican party started even earlier with the 30 and 40-year old generation. In “Gang of Five,” the author detailed Ralph Reed’s time at the Christian Coalition and how his generation wanted to work for a few major issues but was constantly frustrated at Pat Robertson and others wanting to go after issues like tax cuts. Does the Bible really have a possition on tax cuts? I may affirm classical economic theory and believe in supply-side focus on tax cuts, but that does not define a Christian agenda.Basically, if the abortion issue was off the table, you would see some soul-searching going on among Christian America about whether they really like being aligned with the greater rather than the lower in society.

    Posted by Jared Nelson | July 1, 2008, 4:07 pm
  12. >”I have tuned out James Dobson politically, and John MacArthur theologically.”Wow, these might be two of the best decisions you’ve ever made (though now I might be exempt from the sacrifices in the rebuilt Temple during the millennium)!Anyway, I think what we all might be getting sick of is the heightened rhetoric during an election year in a severely polarized culture. Like Matt says, the politicians and talking heads make it an either/or system and that just won’t work.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | July 1, 2008, 3:48 pm
  13. >Good post.I am done with conservatism as well.Or trying to prove that I have not deviated from the basic principles of political conservatism and “biblical” Christianity even though I have tuned out James Dobson politically, and John MacArthur theologically.It’s not worth arguing with people with the you-are-either-with-us-or-against-us mindset. (Yes, the Left has plenty of those as well for those quick and ready to whip out the pot-kettle card).In other words, those conservatives around me here in South Carolina probably think I’m a turncoat because I can’t stomach voting for John McCain.Speaking of South Carolina and John McCain, what came out of Professor Dr. Richard Hand’s email rumor about McCain fathering a black illegitimate (and probably homosexual) child? Has Hand apologized? Has BJU disciplined him in anyway? Or does Commandment #9 not apply when a victim of a smear campaign is a non-conservative? That was beyond despicable, and it planted a seed of doubt in me about this whole culture war thing, so Dr. Hand probably did a monumental favor to those libruls.

    Posted by David Cho | July 1, 2008, 3:31 pm
  14. >I think part of the problem is that there are too many issues lumped together in what it means to be a political conservative or liberal. I think a lot of people are conservative in some issues and liberal in others. The politicians and talking heads have made our political system either/or, making it tough to decide where you land.I don’t know about a conservative, but the best definition of a liberal that I have heard is “Someone whose interests aren’t threatened at the time.” I can’t remember who said it, but someone here probably will.

    Posted by Matt | July 1, 2008, 1:38 pm

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