Author’s Note: I’ve been asked more than once why I identify as a conservative and why I think conservatism is valuable and important. I offer some exposition on the topic below. It is not given as any antithesis to alternatives; it is not a “conservative is better” diatribe. It does, however, illuminate a key point: “conservative” is just another word hijacked by those that are anything but….
Because I’m a Conservative, I believe in a strong separation of church and state. As Eliade wrote in The Sacred and the Profane, “the sacred always manifests itself as a reality of a wholly different order from ‘natural’ realities.” We do a disservice to the truly sacred when we force it into Caesar’s world. What is sacred to me is between myself and my Maker—and forcing that into the public square diminishes both of Us.
Because I’m a Conservative, I care about the environment. Whether prompted by the Bible or by our own sense of morality (itself a part of the sacred), we are stewards of this earth, and we owe it to ourselves and our children—and to the plants and animals who cannot protect themselves from us—to provide not just good stewardship, but as perfect a stewardship as we can conceive.
Because I’m a Conservative, I support gay marriage. I believe that a family with two loving parents is a benefit to children—and to parents. Kids get to see loving interactions (important to their development and world view) and parents can both join with—and rescue, when needed—each other, having a close friend with whom to share the thoughts, feelings, joys, and stresses of life, amplified even more with children.
Because I’m a Conservative, I care about personal responsibility. Too often, though, the term has been re-interpreted to mean “taking care of #1” when personal responsibility should also include ownership and accountability for what goes on around me. That means I have a responsibility to understand the plights of others, to recognize when and how I might contribute to such ills, and to do what I can to correct them, to create a fair and level playing field where everyone has the same chances given the same efforts.
Because I’m a Conservative, I care about reasonable gun control. For me, a key component of traditional conservatism is feeling safe and secure, knowing that risk is minimal, and understanding what to expect of my neighbors. Randomly politicized gun-waving does nothing to further this cause, instead making us feel less safe, less secure. There is nothing “conservative” about walking into a store armed with semi-automatic weapons; it is egocentric, narcissistic, and dangerous.
Because I’m a Conservative I care about knowledge. Through the ages much has been learned, discovered, explored, and revealed. Not all of it has been good for us, but much of it has. And learning begets learning, all of which raises us up. To be conservative is not about the worn-out equation of ignorance and bliss, but about recognizing that our greatest assets include both our souls and our minds, and encouraging the growth of both equally. They are, after all, both a part of us, and handcuffing the one in favor of the other only insults each.
Conservatism, I strongly believe, is not a bad word or a bad ideal. It is, however, a term misunderstood. Those who label themselves conservative today seem most often not to be conservative at all. They have, in reality, a highly radicalized agenda, one set on taking us backwards. It is that direction which seems to imply conservatism, but it shouldn’t. Radicality lacks a vector, and should be known only through the severity of its proposed changes. To roll us back to a time when religion alone led us, to a time when white skin alone defined the rules, to a time when only the few owned nearly everything, is radical and not, axiomatically, conservative.
For those of you who embrace the roots of conservatism, I urge you to continue to do so. For those who seek to call out conservatives, I ask that you recognize the difference between those of us who are, and those who have stolen the terminology from us and bastardized it for their own specious use. And for those of you who claim the role of conservative but so clearly are not… well… I ask nothing of you, for you have already shown us who and what you are.
NOTE: I recently put up Because I'm a Conservative, Part 2, which may also interest you....
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