Last night Conservatism was dealt a blow–Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term as President. But we should keep in mind a few things. Foremost among them is that the truth of an idea is never determined by a popularity contest. Even though the conservative candidate lost last night, that doesn’t mean that conservatism is wrong. A party advocating conservatism lost, their ideas weren’t proven wrong. And that is what we have to remember going forward. As John Mark Reynolds, Provost at Houston Baptist University, said via Twitter last night, we must now refocus our energies on explaining the merits of conservatism. What we have is not a crisis of ideas, but a crisis of people not being educated on what those ideas really are and why they matter.
Much has been said, and will continue to be said, about the deeply partisan divide in the United States. The animosity expressed by advocates of both parties is alarming and there’s no question that America is worse off because of it. (Deep animosity among candidates has always been with us–Andrew Jackson once called John Quincy Adams a “pimp” after Adams referred to Jackson’s wife as a “dirty black wench.” However, as a colleague of mine pointed out, such animosity among advocates of candidates does seem to be new.) I’m quite skeptical of whether there are some structural changes that could be made that would help with this problem, but am still hopeful that we can make progress toward a more United States of America. We, the people, must first come to grips with the fact that the “other side” doesn’t really want to destroy our country. You might think their policies will destroy it, but that’s different from thinking they want to do so. Conservatives have to stop comparing Obama to Mao and liberals have to stop saying Republicans want to reinstitute slavery (looking at you Al Sharpton). What has been most frustrating to me is that these sorts of attitudes are nearly identical both inside and outside of the Church. I’m for less government because I’m for more Church and I firmly believe you can’t have both. But if you read most left-leaning Christians they can’t seem to even entertain the notion that this idea is consistent with, for example, a deep care for the poor. They take it as gospel-truth that the purpose of Paul Ryan’s budget was to step on the backs of the poor so that he can get closer to the rich. This sort of caricature of views cannot continue if we, the Church, hope to have any influence in the political arena.
One way conservative Christians can contribute to this idea is to truly pray that Obama’s plans for America succeed. Every year I tell my Critical Reasoning students at Tyndale that if you’re proven wrong about something you should be happy about it–you get to stop believing something false. Who wants to go through life defending a false belief? This attitude, I believe, can help us care less about being right and care more about holding true beliefs. This, I also believe, carries over into the political realm. We shouldn’t hope that Obama’s policies fail (even if we think they will–after all we have four years of experience suggesting it) because that carries directly over to more suffering for America as a whole. This is one of the strange things about politics. After a loss of my party, I ought to hope that the opposition was right. But, if that hope becomes realized, that only serves the opposition during the next election cycle. This isn’t a problem if we keep in mind that our ultimate aim is the well being of our country and not the well being of our party.
There is one caveat here that can’t be ignored. In this election there are some ideas of the Left that will never be good for the country because they are immoral. There are many ways to help the poor and, if truly helping them, each would be consistent with God’s will. But there are zero ways to support the culture of death (as seen in the Left’s support of the abortion industry and things like embryonic stem cell research) that is consistent with God’s will. Here too, I think, we need to double down on our efforts to educate people as to the inherent moral problems with these views–whether you’re a Christian or not–and pray that these ideas take hold in the hearts of an overwhelming majority of Americans. That may seem impossible to many, but if God is able to get a camel through the eye of a needle, I’m confident he can do this too.
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