Tag Archives: conservatism

Now, here’s a conservative who gets it.

For the most part, I am not a political conservative, (though, it really depends on the issue). I think that society does have a moral responsibility to provide food, shelter and basic heathcare for those who cannot provide for themselves. I think that we—both as individuals and as a society—will be judged by the way we provide for those in need. (Or at least that’s what I read in an old book somewhere—something about sheep and goats, I can’t remember).

So it’s probably not surprising that I decry Romney’s language in the recently leaked video (above) that has stirred up such a media frenzy. I don’t even mind to take some heat for it. What is interesting is when conservatives, like David Brooks, notice the inconsistencies of the of atomistic, Nietzschean superman rhetoric that now pervades the Republican Party.

Here are just a few choice quotes from Brooks’ op-ed in the Times this week:

Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers.

But this dichotomy is just too constricting.

Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?

What’s more, as Brooks ably points out, comments like this show that Romney really misunderstands his base.

The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees.

Or maybe he understands them all to well—counts on them to commit what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error: “I need these government aids because of my very special circumstance. It’s those other lazy bastards who are picking the tax payers’ pockets.”

And the insistence that people who go-it-alone are driven, while people who receive aid become dependent, fundamentally misunderstands the psychological and sociological nature of human motivation.

Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear.

But look, the bottom line is this:

There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.

Brooks gives Romney the benefit of that doubt, that he only

…says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater.

I wish I believed Brooks were right about that.

You can read the rest of his column here.

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Conservatives & Progressives on Biblical Interpretation: Why the Disagreement?

I’ve noticed an interesting pattern emerging in some theological discussions I’ve had recently in public forums: Most of my progressive Christian friends recognize that they (and everyone else) are espousing a particular interpretation of the Bible which gives rise to their theological commitments, while most of my more conservative friends insist that they are not interpreting at all, but simply reading the text as it is. I’ve been thinking a bit about why this would be the case, because it’s not obvious. It could just as easily be the progressives saying “that’s what the Bible says, and I just believe the Bible.” Most of my progressive Christian friends do in fact believe this. And the progressive reading does seem to some the straightforward reading, especially folks who have been formed by more progressive traditions. But the progressives I know simply aren’t talking this way. Why not?

Here’s my theory: many progressives I know converted to that position later in life, while most conservatives I know were formed by conservative traditions from childhood. (I grew up in Southern West Virginia). That kind of shift constitutes an epistemic crisis after which one must espouse a new belief which both (1) incorporates her new position and (2) explains how she could have held her old position in error.[1] It seems to me that in debates where a particular text, like the Bible, is the key piece of evidence (as it is in theological debates for both the conservatives and progressives to which I’m referring), a deep hermeneutical awareness is just that kind of belief. Understanding that a text necessarily has multiple interpretations, and that there is no objective way (that stands outside any particular interpretation) to adjudicate between them, explains both one’s current view and how it would have been possible previously for her to have wrongly had some other view.

Of course the sociological picture that I have drawn—where people are converting to progressivism but not to conservatism—isn’t universal. Many people are reared in more progressive traditions and some convert to more conservative positions. But I think it is the case often enough that social pressure would pick up most of the outliers.

What do you think? Any other theories?


[1] That’s the argument Alasdair MacIntyre makes is “Epistemological crises, dramatic narrative, and the philosophy of science,” pp. 3-23 in The Tasks of Philosophy: Selected Essays, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

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