Sunday, June 5, 2011

Growing Out of Conservatism

I hope this is enlightening for both my liberal and conservative readers.

The whole 'liberal vs conservative' conflict of ideas is one that dominates much of American cultures. I say cultures because these ideologies come with and further form different cultures and potentially differing genetic pools, so to say it affects 'American culture' would not be accurate to the reality that ideologies do not make up what I consider to be 'American culture'. I refer to this conflict as a a battle of ideas and evidence of cultural polarization in America because the nature of liberalism and conservatism is so pervasive in our society that it naturally exists in any random sample of Americans and affects worldviews so much that we live life differently and disunity is the inevitable outcome.

This conflict is a battle for truth in the eyes of those who fight it. Eternity hangs in the balance for them based on whether or not things are as they think they should be.

Not all liberals and conservatives think cohesively, though human imaging would suggest they do. Many of us grew up on one side or the other of this and it is an expression of more than just our voting habits. I grew up in a Republican household (conservative culture with conservative genes) and I will explain here why I am not a conservative anymore.

I was president of Young Republicans in High School, voted most conservative, nominated "Most likely to watch the world fall apart due to global warming", I listened to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and watched Fox News because I genuinely thought it was unbiased. I thought those guys had truth rolling off their lips and I loved to hear them bash on stupid liberals and American-hating commies. Grew up in the church, anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti-environmental regulation, pro-free market, anti-welfare, pro-capital punishment, pro-war, anti-taxes, pro-gun rights, pro-interventionism, pro-meat eating, and anti-UN.
But my stance on issues didn't define my conservatism, rather it was the way I viewed the world and American society. Conservatives grow up with thought processes that believe that people deserve to die for criminal offense, the poor deserve to suffer for not working and making money, our enemies deserve to be defeated for challenging us, and we should be trusted to handle weapons and pollute if it means defending ourselves and gaining prosperity.
These thought process go down further into social life (I have a pact with two friends to never date liberal girls!). The way this manifests is different for everyone, but it can be related to the thought processes I described.

By no means am I trying to comprehensively detail the psychological or ideological profile of myself or a conservative ideology. These are just surface examples that hopefully are indicative of processes you can relate to or be appalled by if you are a liberal (which indicates you think very differently, as I would postulate).

Each of these thought processes are answers to questions. I believe that conservatives and liberals ask very different questions. The liberal sees victimization and oppression in society and questions it. The conservative sees something not working right and questions it. One is a progressive liberator and the other is a skeptical troubleshooter.
I did not understand this difference growing up and going to college. But I began to see things about right wing ideology I did not like.

But it wasn't just a problem I had with right wing ideology. I also had an issue with the way the ideologies had polarized, because polarization causes truth to become secondary to winning. This shows me that while this battle of ideas claims to be a battle for truth, it is really a battle for victory. An important distinction because truth may be sacrificed for the sake of victory. The result is a conservative ideology that is inconsistent with both my technical knowledge as an economist and political scientist and my faith.

The Republican party imposes plenty of economic intervention and spends lots of money (gaining a lot of debt). Capital punishment and war are tools for killing when I believe that all life is precious. The environment has limited resources and we are called to care for it. A disregard for international law is an attitude of being above the rest of the world, when I believe all men are equal and deserve to be protected.

The existence of the religious right disgusts me. Have we become so incompetent as disciples and thinkers that we have to force those who disagree with us to do what we want them to? Do we not live in sin every day and argue for the economic and political freedoms to allow us to continue pursuing our materialistic and consumerist habits? Yet, then we turn around and argue to restrict those we have cast out of our churches and social circles for doing what we have deemed "unclean." (Acts 10:15) For we are to love all men as God loves all men. God does not force people to follow Him. God redeemed us all, despite our disgusting habits like condemning and ostracizing people who live lifestyles we have a problem with. That a political agenda exists at all for people who want to live for Christ is paradoxical in that Christ did not come to change the earthly authority, as He clearly displayed.

So then, one might ask me, "Isn't all legislation a moral legislation of some kind?" Indeed it is, our constitution is based on the morality of our founders which is not unique, but it is not Republican or Christian. So how is it different that we are legislating our morality versus some other morality when some morality has to be legislated? My question to you would be why you are focusing on what morality is being legislated at all. If we are not called to change earthly authority and some moral code will be legislated no matter what happens, I can conclude that the moral code of the government is not important to the person who is concerned with the eternal and not the temporary.
Clarification: I am not saying here that as a Christian you should not be involved in politics or policy decision making, because I believe in having intelligent people making intelligent decisions, but the morality of the government is not of concern to the eternal-minded. Obviously a morality that systematically kills people is an unintelligent and detrimental choice, which we should have intelligent Christians trying to stop, not just dismiss as a non-eternal concern. But we must keep the eternal and temporal in perspective. Sacrificing eternal concerns for temporal concerns is not acceptable. Generally speaking, dictating whether or not gays can get married has done more damage to the image of Christ and His message than good, leading me to believe the temporal concern that people are living the way we want is hurting the eternal concern of whether or not they will ever know Jesus! (Which is more important than any other eternal concerns) But systematically killing people is also a good way to prevent people from receiving the love of Christ. So both of those things I would place in the 'bad legislation ideas' category.

The eternal-minded know that the fate of the world does not rest on how the government deals with the issues you see with society!

As an economist, my technical expertise evaluates both the Republican and Democratic parties as abysmally lost. As a Christian, I have found that legislating what should be the result of a deeply personal search for Christ promotes neither Christ or a right way of thinking for those we oppress with our human standards.
So obviously, this does not mean I am a liberal (I cannot accept the victim/liberation progressive view of history as a vehicle of truth), but I hope this strange journey of mine gets people thinking about how they view our polarized culture and how the worldview battle might be way off focus.