Becoming a Classical Liberal/Conservative

I was raised in a family that, (for the most part) were devoutly conservative in their politics. This is where I grew my first interest in politics because it was a normal part of my family’s life. I had an interest in elections, parties and issues, even from a young age. As the years have passed, my interest in politics and news has dropped considerably and I credit that to becoming grounded in a worldview more so than political agendas. The height of this for me was when I was in college and for a time in seminary. I had grown very frustrated with the actions of the Republican party and what was known as conservative politics. I had started to develop an understanding of the social needs that exist in the world, particularly amongst the poor and needy. The more I learned about these things, I became very dissatisfied with the Republican Conservative approach to the poor and needy and sought refuge in liberal view of social issues on basically everything except abortion.

This newfound desire for liberalism made sense to me for quite a few years, but it just couldn’t hold up for very long. However, I couldn’t return to the contemporary Republican view of the world, so I did what most did, I gave up and declared myself an independent. How brave of me, I know. It must be stated that I didn’t become an independent because I wanted to ride the middle. It was more confusion and having an understanding of the world that was undergirded by the contemporary, ever changing American political landscape. From here I began reading to understand what it meant to be a conservative, or a classical liberal in the way one looks at the world. I also wanted to understand Christian thinking, particularly historic, confessional minded Christian thinking on politics and quickly realized that I had missed the whole point. My problem with political agendas is that I saw everything through the lens of legislation and office holders and not how one understands God, the world, the purposes and limitations of the institutions God has made, and what it is that makes up a society. Secular liberalism left me nothing but a hollow empty world that misapplies its answers and solutions to problems, and does so because it has a faulty foundation. With that being said, let me give a few reasons as to why I moved away from liberalism and its secular variety.

First, secular liberalism doesn’t need God for its beliefs and applications. While it may try to make an appeal towards a higher reality, secular liberalism doesn’t see God as the ultimate higher reality. It will use God to validate its ultimate higher reality, or to validate its own claims, but never is secular liberalism based in the nature, character and existence of God. Conservatism in its truest sense is founded upon the belief that the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge. We must recognize that God is our highest reality and standard and thus all we do should reflect God’s nature and his desires for the good of humanity. Liberalism doesn’t make this appeal because to accomplish the liberal goal, you don’t need God. In secular liberalism, ultimate faith is in humanity. Thus the source of human flourishing is humanity’s ability, wisdom and resources to provide aid and help where needed and to remove the barriers that hinder an individual. It is easy to claim here that secular liberals and conservatives as I’m describing them want the same thing, but here is why we go in different directions: a conservative believes that God determines what barriers should and shouldn’t exist. Conservatives believe God determines what is good for a society. This is the major difference. Certainly there are those who don’t fit into this view, such as an atheistic conservative or an orthodox Christian who has secular liberal tendencies and beliefs. For this I simply appeal to the fall of humanity and remind the readers that people do weird things that seem consistent but aren’t fundamentally compatible, like putting cheese on Chinese food. It can happen, but it’s just not right.

Second, secular liberalism sees government as its highest reality. This is an overflow of a secular liberal’s deep faith in humanity as the highest reality. Government to a secular liberal is the elevated authority over the society that determines and guide where a society should be headed. Government will enforce fairness and unfairness, determine what is wealthy and what is poor and will take from where it must to ensure its determined poor have goods. It will decide what is healthy and not healthy, what is safe and not safe, who is safe and not safe, when to work, how much to work and how much a job deserves to be paid, all the while fearing Christians and conservatives and calling them oppressive haters of freedom. Secular liberalism sees government as its highest reality, which is another way to say it sees it as God. As an Orthodox, Protestant, Reformed, and Evangelical Christian, who believes every word of the Bible is true, inerrant and authoritative over every aspect of my life because it is the very words of the Triune God, I couldn’t disagree more.

Third, secular liberalism doesn’t actually believe in individual freedom: It believes in individual autonomy. A belief in individual freedom comes from our understanding of the value of human beings. Because I am a human being I am granted certain inalienable rights as a citizen in this country that the government and society can’t intrude on. These rights are granted to all human beings and are to be maintained and protected by laws and respect from other citizens. A secular liberal believes something different, called individual autonomy. As a human being I have certain inalienable rights that can’t be treaded on by anything or anyone else. It believes that humans are not only granted rights, but are granted autonomy, thus the individual human may determine what their rights are for themselves. Once an individual determines his or her own rights, other people, society at large and the government must enact laws to protect those autonomous individual rights: all 300,000,000 of us. What does this look like? abortion on demand, contraception given to those who can’t afford it, marriage extended to anyone who asks, mass amount of court cases over defamation of character, twitter and Facebook outcry of offense for anything the person claims has hurt or offended them, businesses closing because they have an autonomous right to buy a cake from you because they want to, children suing parents over disciplinary actions they didn’t approve of, sex changes for children under 8 years old, rampant pornography use that is easier access each day, Christians leaving churches over the expectation to live holy lives, Christians who stay mad and critical at churches because they don’t meet any perceived need they have, and I’m sure countless other things. I’m sure you are asking yourself, “doesn’t points two and three contradict each other?”, and my answer is yes: secular liberalism is vey confusing and faulty at its core.

Fourth, secular liberalism assesses everyone as an agenda and a target audience. I don’t mean here that I dislike the term such as African-American, Irish-American or Italian-American. I think it says more about America as a melting pot of ethnicities, which is a good thing. My criticism here is of the idea that we aren’t mere citizens: we are part of a very small target group. Human beings are much more complex and valuable than to be grouped together into a target audience. It’s much more akin to “white” and “colored” marked water fountains as a sign of power and victimhood than it is to freeing the oppressed. As long as the label sticks to you, you are a perpetual victim, which is what secular liberalism’s view of individual autonomy thrives on. This is a very vital point for me because my desire to help the poor drove me to secular liberalism, but in reality secular liberalism abuses the poor and leaves them in worse positions than before.

I could elaborate more as to why I rejected secular liberalism, such as its treatment of education as the societal sacrament, its religious zeal for individual autonomy while supporting the murder of children in the name of autonomy, its complete exploitation of the poor, its harmful efforts to raise the poor out of poverty that has perpetuated their poverty, its misuse of its own terms and beliefs, (see egalitarianism, racist, equality and many others), its changing and misuse of terms like gender, marriage and offense, its fundamental opposition to religion, aka Christianity and Judaism, its rejection of the idea of religion as the core of all cultures, its rejection of Christianity while demanding it determine and define what it is to be a faithful Christian, and I’m sure a few other things, but time doesn’t allow for that. Perhaps I can in the coming days, but for now this will suffice as to what drove me away from secular liberalism and towards a comprehensive Christian, conservative, biblical understanding of culture, government and humanity. If God is the highest reality, authority and good, then from His character and nature the world is to be built. God determines what is good. God calls the shots. We are accountable to him and are to build our societies based on what He has given us within the parameters of his natural law and biblical teachings. God gives every person value and God knows what is best for each society. We humans are the ones who rejected God and decided we would pursue our autonomy and build societies on our own terms. The problem is, we are using God’s world and must live within the parameters that God built the world. We are told to take dominion, but its dominion within God’s order. Conservatism, or as its been called classical liberalism bases its beliefs on these things, which is why so many Christians across Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches, and for that matter Judaism are conservative in the political realm. Societies are built on philosophy, whether we like it or not. Ours was not built on secular liberalism, but is there now and we wonder why things are falling apart before our eyes. May God grant us a return to the Rock of our foundation and may we flee the sand of secular liberalism.