Thursday, January 31, 2013

Am I A Conservative or Not?

About a week ago, I posted an article about guns. Now actually I didn't go into gun control at all, or what the legal ramifications should be; but I did talk about why I, as a Christian, have a different view of guns than I used to have.

And wow, was that post far more popular--or, I guess I should say, unpopular--than I expected. Within about 48 hours, it had become one of the most commented-upon posts in the past six months, and I got plenty of emails, texts, and tweets about it. Some were quite respectful and thoughtful...others were, shall we say, less so.

One interesting question that came up--and which I have been asked before on my blog--is, "Are you a conservative or not?"

Much to my surprise, that has turned into a tough question. As I wrote about the other day, sometimes emptying yourself into God takes you in a surprising new direction.

The 2004 election would have been about the time that I think I was at my most-political phase. Though my parents were/are moderate-to-liberal, I always identified closer with my staunchly Republican grandparents and uncle. They tend to be more neo-conservative than I was; I always identified closer with paleo-conservatives. Paleoconservatives want ALL federal government to be small, whereas neocons want defense and homeland security budgets to be extraordinarily high; paleocons also want to be minimally involved in foreign policy, whereas neocons are very aggressive in that department; and paleocons want some government regulation of markets, while neocons are fully libertarian with regard to free market capitalism.

So I was never really a full neocon, like the Republicans of the last decade, but certainly I was still staunchly Republican--I had far more in common with them than with liberals.

During this time, I loved debating politics. I read a lot about it. I studied the history of various philosophies to know where they came from. I studied the issues in depth. And I loved to try and convert others.

But a strange thing happened in the last decade. God has changed me a lot.

Has He made me liberal? Not hardly. Libertarian? No. Populist? No. Conservative?...No.

Something funny has happened on my way to the voting booth. Christ has taken my passion for politics and swallowed it up. I simply cannot make myself get fired up about it like I used to.

I no longer believe that politics is a force which will shape our world for good. I no longer believe there is a party out there who consistently will represent God's interests.

As I've grown closer to God, I've grown further from the politicians. I suppose if I was paying attention that shouldn't surprise me, but it did nonetheless.

And so now, I find myself a strange mismatch of all kinds of beliefs. Going to the voting booth is becoming far more confusing. (In fact, take a historical tour of my 'politics' tag and you will see the complexity of where my head is at nowadays.) I have become increasingly convinced that if you agree with 90% of what one party is saying, then you haven't honestly considered about 90% of what they are saying!

In some ways I am more extremist conservative than I ever was before. As I wrote four years ago, a consistent pursuit of God has resulted in me having a truly pro-life policy: I oppose abortion in any form (unless the mother's life is in imminent danger, in which case it is a wash), I oppose capital punishment for any crime except murder, I oppose all forms of cloning, I oppose all forms of active euthanasia, I oppose destruction of embryos for any kind of research, and I oppose any war that does not meet ALL requirements of the Christian Just War philosophy. And, as I found a week ago, I now oppose using lethal force against home invaders.

So is this a conservative position or not? It is a rather mixed bag, isn't it? Some parts would be seen as moderate, some as extremely liberal, most as extremist conservative.

I have found that to be true in most other areas of politics as well. I have become much more compassionate toward those struggling in poverty, toward those needing to be adopted, and to immigrants. As such I have become more liberal on those issues. I have also become increasingly sick of hearing conservative Christians pretend as though we are being persecuted because someone wishes us a Happy Holidays, while some of our brothers and sisters are being beheaded for owning Bibles in the Middle East. Geez, perspective people.

In many other areas, however, I have remained staunchly paleoconservative, probably even moreso than I ever was before. I believe in a strong national defense but not as strong as the neocons. I believe in pro-life to a level that I never did before. I believe we should have a balanced budget, not failing as a nation to pay our debts.

So to answer the question of those many I a conservative?

Politically, I'm a "nothing." Even saying idependent seems wrong--I simply do not fit any grouping, nor do I seem to care. (In the past I have called this the Treebeard approach to politics.) I know that I am a Christian. And I know that Christ is in the process of changing me into something. Whenever I get there, if there is a political term for it, I'll let you know. (I doubt there will be.)

Until then, I guess I'll just call myself a WIP--work in progress.


  1. Debbie Schellhase31 January, 2013 16:26

    I fall into the same 'nothing' category as well, having always seen myself as an independent but always voting as a Republican. Not any more. Being true to Christ is sometimes makes my political views contrary to the Republican agenda just the same as it does for the Democrat agenda. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone in your 'nothing'-ness. Blessings.

  2. I agree with you, Michael, I think the "WIP" party fits me really well now. I have always been semi-conscious politically, raised in a family of self-employed, conservative-leaning, Christians. I never really paid attention (or never really became fully conscious, as it were) until the election season of 2008. A "smack in the face" retort from my mom over a naive comment of mine was what woke me up and cause my interest in politics to grow exponentially overnight. For the last few years I've based my political leanings and beliefs over history and theory mixed with two years of working towards an MBA degree which would further shape my fiscal perspectives and, subsequently, my basis for my views of most other political policies. Since then, my views have been curbed upon reading articles of yours such as "Against the American Civil Religion"; I have stopped seeing America as the end-all lifestyle, and my taste for politics has taken a STEEP dive. I am trying to get into the habit of being silent and thinking when I would normally speak [politically]. When you take a Christ-like approach and truly consider what you believe on certain aspects, applying The Truth of The Word to that situation, many of your pre-existing assumptions just fall apart completely.

    My coworker sent me a picture this morning and, while I don't think it is necessarily a point from which to go and reform all politics, it certainly is worthy of some introspection. I'll type below what it says (and no one jump down my throat on this, just consider it for what its worth).... its typed beside an artist's rendering/drawing of Jesus...

    "You were hungry and thirsty, so I eliminated funding for Meals On Wheels and food banks. You were a stranger, so I vilified you and demanded that you be deported. You were naked, so I called you an evil liberal who hates conservative family values. You were sick, so I repealed your only hope for health care. You were in prison, so I tortured you."
    --Matthew 25:31-46 in The Conservative's Bible

    That doesn't make me want to run across the aisle, politically. That makes me want to run out of the whole building.

  3. You might want to look at some of the more deeply spiritual progressives who profoundly distrust "big" government as much if not more than "big" corporations. Personally, I have no problem at all with any of your "social" agenda - I suspect we could hold hands and agree on working toward a world where there were no abortions at all, for example.

    In the current world, I can't imagine how one could allow a corporation to dump poisonous waste into drinking water that ends up not only killing fetuses (more abortions!) but infants, children, adults, and well, everybody - and often with horrifyingly painful, prolonged, tortuous illnesses before dying (and before you think me reflexively "liberal" - i would have the same opposition to countless military bases that produce various chemical, biological and nuclear toxins - its not about business or government, it's about compassion).

    So I like that you are open and not bound to any label. You might also want to look at some of Dave Korten's work - he was a staunch, conservative Republican for most of his life. It's funny - though people label him as progressive, if you look at his values - strong communities, limited government interference (as little as possible), local economies, etc - you could hardly distinguish him from the Republicans he grew up with.

    Well, here's more to staying open. Nice blog, thank you!