I’ve been thinking about conservatism a lot lately and I’ve been trying to define the ideology. Is conservatism simply the Christian worldview repackaged for the secular world? Is conservatism an ideology that flows from Christian values? And what the heck do conservatives believe anyway? Well, here is my shortlist of conservative principles:
I’m Not the Most Important Thing in the World
I understand my place in the world and I understand that I am not personally the most important character in the universe. There are causes, institutions and truths that are worth dying for. Sacrifice is a virtue. Humility is a necessity. It’s not all about me.
I Can’t Have Whatever I Want
There are lots of things I might like to have, but there’s a difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’, and I’d be wise to understand the difference. Like the Rolling Stones’ song, I don’t always get what I want. And that’s OK. There are lot’s of things that are more important than the stuff I thought I wanted, and a life without struggle has little or no meaning.
Sometimes I Have to Wait
The concept of delayed gratification is completely foreign to our world today, but it shouldn’t be. People who don’t understand how to wait are a pain in the butt, and last time I looked ‘patience’ was supposed to be a virtue. Well, patience requires waiting, doesn’t it? And I’m tired of being a pain in the butt.
I am Personally Responsible
I need to stop asking others to take care of the things that I am supposed to take care of. It’s my job to take care of myself; I shouldn’t expect others to do what I’m supposed to do. Above all, I simply cannot assign to the government those things that I should be doing (like caring for those in need)
Work Hard, Then Play Hard
It’s OK to goof off, but not until I’ve taken care of my responsibilities. Work comes before play or I’ll have so much fun playing that I’ll never work! There is joy in work, and I have to make the conscious decision to find joy in the work that has been given me.
Spend No More Than I Earn
I can’t get caught up in the culture; I have to live within my means. Yes, I often wish I had more, but ‘credit’ needs to be reserved for the most expensive essentials of life (like housing). It would be great to live in such a way that the only cards I would find in my wallet are debit cards.
If I Earn It, I Should Control It
I’ll be happy to shoulder my own responsibilities and carry my own load, just so long as you allow me to enjoy the fruit of my own labor after I’ve worked hard to earn it. I am a charitable person and I see the value in giving to those in need, but let me decide to be charitable on my own. After all, I earned what I have and I’ve also earned the right to decide how to give it to others.
Character is More Important Than Comfort
I expect to have to endure some tough times; I’m not afraid of hardship. In the midst of the hardship I know something wonderful will emerge. I understand that character is developed during hard times, so bring it on.
No Crying, No Whining
No one likes a complainer. Yes, I might be going through some tough times, but there is always someone who has it worse than me. So I’ll shut up and get through it without all the drama.
I found a life mate and I’m determined to stick with that person for life. That’s why we call them ‘life mates’ in the first place. I have decided to love, even when I don’t feel like it. My marriage means more to me than the person I am married to (and I mean that in a good way). I understand the value of a promise and I want my promise to mean something.
Children Are of Utmost Importance
Kids are more than just fun to have around (cuz they aren’t always fun to have around); they are the reason for living. It’s in the context of children that I’ve discovered what it is to sacrifice, to wait, to love, to laugh, to hurt and to help with homework. I am dedicated to my children and I respect the institutions and traditions that we have formed as a culture to protect our kids. When push comes to shove, kids come first.
It’s OK to Defend the Truth
Yes, I’m an old fashioned modernist. Truth does exist, even if that idea makes you uncomfortable. Get over it. There will be times when I will simply have to stand up for what’s right, because, after all, some things are right and some things are wrong. It’s OK to defend yourself from attack, and it’s OK for me to take a stand when I have to.
Know Who to Thank
I’m done taking things for granted, I know I have more than I deserve and I know that there is so much to be thankful for. So, while it’s in my nature to complain and bellyache, I’ll do my best to adopt an attitude of gratitude, and I’ll focus my gratitude on the proper object of my thankfulness.
I know this list is not exhaustive, but it begins to capture what I mean when I talk about conservative values. Some would argue that conservatism is dying and that its future looks bleak, but they fail to recognize the power behind the ideology. Think about it for a minute. The values I’ve described are nonsensical from a purely naturalistic perspective. Why would I EVER put someone or something ahead of myself in a natural, materialistic worldview? If this short life is all that I have to live, if this material world is all that exists, why would I ever do anything other than live in the moment? Why would I ever put others ahead of myself? Why would I ever delay my own gratification? Why would I care about doing anything that would inhibit my own hedonism? Why would I ever look for someone to thank?
It seems to me that conservatism only makes sense in a worldview that understands there is more to life than what can be seen. Conservatism makes sense in a view of the world that recognizes the eternal nature of life and the interconnectedness of all of creation. Perhaps this is why Christians are generally far more conservative than non-believers; I don’t know. But, it does seem that conservatism is the reasonable expression of a theistic worldview, and if this is the case, then it just may have a theistic source. If that is true, we probably don’t need to worry about the future of conservatism.
Let me know what you think…