I’m conservative, politically. Anyone who knows me knows that. I don’t exactly hide the fact. And I don’t separate that from my
Christianity- I think the conservative view of politics and society most
closely aligns with the Biblical view.
But one view of prosperity and security that is often associated with conservatism
is just as wrong and just as dangerous as the progressive or leftist political
I think the central problem with progressivism is that it
tends to take a messianic view of collective action. This is why progressives tend to be much more
positive toward state solutions to problems.
They tend to frown on individual achievement, or at least to recognize
it only within the context of the broader activity of the state. This speech from Elizabeth Warren
that went viral and was very popular in leftist circles is a great example of that kind of thinking. The belief that collective action can solve our problems is something I firmly reject as Antichrist- it is the vain hope that man by his efforts can overcome the curse of God without reference to the rule of Jesus Christ the rightful king of all. This will never happen, and the vain pursuit of this dream has caused untold misery.
But on the conservative side of things, I often hear an intense focus on personal responsibility and individual effort as the means of achieving the higher good. If people would just work hard and take responsibility for their own actions, then things would be fine. Liberals often criticize conservatives as being greedy and uncompassionate, that the strong focus on individual effort tends to be very cruel to those on the margins of society and people who meet with personal tragedies of different kinds. Conservatives answer that the private sector is better suited to deal with compassion than the government; liberals reject that idea, saying that many will fall through the cracks and those that do get charity often will only get it under the restrictions of religious organizations. Liberals believe that a more systematic solution to problems like poverty are needed.
On the extremes, most people reject both of these ideas. People know that we have to work together in many instances. Conservatives for example support the collective defense of the country and prosecution of crime. Most liberals recognize that people should be held responsible for their crimes to a certain extent, and that some profit and reward for hard work is proper. But people tend to be conservative or progressive to the degree that they fall to one side or the other, and most people then end up with a sort of inconsistent hybrid position.
But aren’t both of these positions just different versions of the same thing, different ideas of how we as human beings can bless ourselves? Don’t both the individualistic perspective and the collectivist tendency deny that our blessings come from God by grace and not through our own effort? “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it. Unless the Lord watches the city, the watchman watch in vain.”
Liberals often accuse conservatives of greed and a lack of compassion, and I am afraid that they are often right. Conservatism doesn’t need to entail these things. But I have heard a great many conservative people view the poor and unfortunate in society with contempt, viewing their greater wealth as proof of their superiority. But what do we have that we are not given? Even recognizing that in a land of opportunity (yes, even now) such as ours, where poverty is very often (but not always) the result of poor life choices, what do we have that we are not given? If I have a good work ethic, is that not a gift from God for which I should give thanks and not take pride in? I can identify the poor choices of others whose lifestyle or laziness has made them poor and speak the truth of what the Bible says about work and responsibility. But if I view them with contempt and pride, then I am failing at least as badly as they are.
I have also heard many conservatives express the view that if only we had a society that encouraged hard work and personal responsibility, then we would achieve real prosperity and security. Conservatives also seem to think that a strong military presence will keep us safe from enemies. But is this any more Biblical? The Psalmist said, “Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we will remember the name of our God.” Our prosperity is not in gold and silver or in tanks and jets any more than it is in welfare programs and environmental regulations. Our blessings are in God.
So the Bible tells us that we ought to work hard and take responsibilities for our actions, and that poverty is often the result of laziness and irresponsibility. God often uses our labor as the means by which He blesses us. But conservatives ought to remember that none of our blessings are the result of our own strength or goodness, but the grace of God.
Overall I still prefer conservatism by a wide margin. Arrogance and greed on an individual level causes a great deal of personal destruction. But progressivism seeks to pool that arrogance and greed for greater effect, and the deadly results there are far greater. But pride is pride. The Biblical answer is that this is a cursed and fallen world, without hope apart from Jesus Christ, and that hope is only fully realized in the world to come. Any attempt to overcome that curse and seize prosperity and happiness for ourselves apart from Christ is greed and arrogance, and will come to ruin whether on an individual level or a collective level. A Christian view of conservatism recognizes this, and limits government not because we think a limited government will bring us more blessings, but because we don’t look to our political structure to bless us at all, but rather to our sovereign and benevolent God.