Skip to comments.No Conservatism Without a Religious Foundation
Posted on 10/18/2013 8:33:45 AM PDT by don-o
Not all religious people are conservatives; and not all conservatives are religious people. Christianity prescribes no especial form of politics. There have been famous radicals who were devout Christiansthough most radicals have been nothing of the sort. All the same, there could be no conservatism without a religious foundation, and it is conservative people, by and large, who defend religion in our time.
Lord Hailsham, a talented English conservative of this century, in his little book The Case for Conservatism, remarks, There is nothing I despise more than a politician who seeks to sell his politics by preaching religion, unless it be a preacher who tries to sell his sermons by talking politics. Yet he goes on to say that conservatism and religion cannot be kept in separate compartments, and that the true conservative at heart is a religious man. The social influence of Christianity has been nobly conservative, and a similarly conservative influence has been exerted by Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Judaism, and the other higher religions.
In America, a sense of religious consecration has been joined to our political institutions from the beginning. Almost all the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were religious men. Solemn presidential proclamations, since the beginning of the Republic, have invoked the might and mercy of God. Most of our leading conservative statesmen and writers were men profoundly religious George Washington, an Episcopalian; John Adams, a Unitarian; James Madison, an Episcopalian; John Randolph, an Episcopalian; John C. Calhoun, a Unitarian; Orestes Brownson, a Catholic; Nathaniel Hawthorne, a Congregationalist; Abraham Lincoln, a devout though independent theist; and many more. We know and we feel inwardly that religion is the basis of civil society, and the source of all good and all comfort, Edmund Burke wrote.
Now a conservative is a person who sees human society as an immortal contract between God and man, and between the generations that are dead, and the generation that is living now, and the generations which are yet to be born. It is possible to conceive of such a contract, and to feel a debt toward our ancestors and obligations toward our posterity, only if we are filled with a sense of eternal wisdom and power. We deal charitably and justly by our fellow men and women only because we believe that a divine will commands us to do so, and to love one another. The religious conservative is convinced that we have duties toward society, and that a just government is ruled by moral law, since we participate in our humble way in the divine nature and the divine love. The conservative believes that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
The conservative desires to conserve human naturethat is, to keep men and women truly human, in Gods image. The dread radical ideologies of our century, Communism and Nazism and their allies, endeavor to stamp out religion root and branch because they know that religion is always a barrier to collectivism and tyranny. A religious person has strength and faith; and radical collectivism detests private strength and faith. Throughout Europe and Asia, the real resistance to collectivism has come from men and women who believe that there is a greater authority than the collectivistic state, and that authority is God.
A society which denies religious truth lacks faith, charity, justice and any sanction for its acts. Today, more perhaps than ever before, Americans understand the close connection between religious conviction and just government, so that they have amended their oath of allegiance to read, one nation, under God. There is a divine power higher than any political power. When a nation ignores the divine authority, it soon commits the excesses of fanatic nationalism, intoxicated with its own unchecked power, which have made the twentieth century terrible.
Any religion is always in danger of corruption; and in our time, various people have endeavored to persuade us that the Christian religion endorses some sort of sentimental collectivism, a religion of humanity, in which the Christian idea of equality in Gods sight is converted into a dreary social and economic equality enforced by the state. But an examination of the Christian creeds and the Christian tradition will not sustain such an interpretation of Christian teaching. What Christianity offers is personal redemption, not some system of economic revolution. The human person is the great concern of Christian faithas a person, not as part of a vague People, or The Masses, or The Underprivileged. And when Christians preach charity, they mean the voluntary giving of those who have to those who have not; they do not mean compulsion by the state to take away from some in order to benefit others. Statists that labor to contrive a commonwealth without poverty, old Sir Thomas Browne says, take away the object of our charity; not understanding only the commonwealth of a Christian, but forgetting the prophecy of Christ. The Christian religion does indeed enjoin us to do unto others as we would have others do unto us; it does not enjoin us to employ political power to compel others to surrender their property.
Any great religion is assailed by heresies. In the year of the Communist Manifesto, Orestes Brownson declared that Communism is a heresy from Christianity; and he is echoed today by Arnold Toynbee and Eric Voegelin, Communism perverts the charity and love of Christianity into a fierce leveling doctrine that men must be made equal upon earth; at the same time, it denounces real equality, which is equality in the ultimate judgment of God. And other ideologies which would convert Christianity into an instrument for oppressing one class for the benefit of another are heresies.
Books by Dr. Kirk may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Essays by Dr. Kirk may be found here. This is an excerpt from The Intelligent Womans Guide to Conservatism (1957).
except for including islam, this is right on.
You are not a real conservative unless your are a economic and social conservative.
It is instructive to consider that this was written in 1957. Islam was different then, to state the obvious.
You don’t even have to BE religious, just have a appreciation for the value system and gratefulness for where it brought us the first 175 years.
Amen. But get ready for the "moderate" detractors. They deem to know what conservatism is, but deny that ability to you.
a true conservative is a humble seeker and defender of the Truth. thus, for a true beliver, the conclusion is inescapable, since there is but one place where the Truth resides.
There’s no America without the Christianity-based foundations of our society and government.
If I may. It is the concepts of sovereignty, absoluteness and timelessness that we get from Christianity. We have a right to free press, always had it (was not recognized largely) and always will; timeless. Freedom of press is beyond any man's right to alter it; absolute. Freedom of the press is to be proactively protected within our borders; sovereignty.
These qualities are found in the devout of Christianity.
I was curious about what Kirk had to say about Islam and turned this up
Someone who believes in eternal principles can’t be easily manipulated for long. Someone who walks with God and takes his direction from the Almighty can’t be easily manipulated for long.
The totalitarians use hate and guilt to manipulate the masses, feeding grudges and offering themselves as the solution, feeding guilt and offering themselves as the source of absolution. If you are a man who lays his anger and guilt on the altar, and looks to God to lead him then you aren’t a man who can be easily manipulated for long and the totalitarians will have to mock, attack, marginalize, destroy you.
Or just educate your kids for you. That works.
Most conservatives who live by Biblical principles are also fiscal and social conservatives, as well. Over the past couple decades, the likes of Rick Warren, the “name it and claim it bunch, the faith (over Biblical teachings) group, etc., have drawn people people into their own version of scriptural teaching which has slightly more and more distorted Scripture to mean what they want it to mean, the feel good brand, if you must. People can learn to live high on the hog and do good deeds to feel good about themselves.
However, unless we return to a Bible-based way of living we will continue down the road to destruction. No economic recovery outside a moral recovery will last. But, tell me, who is saying this these days? Almost no one. I wonder what effect the Billy Graham Crusade will have today, and, just who will take the time to listen? I hope we all are praying that MANY will turn it on, even if just for curiosity.
“If you ain’t socon, you ain’t nocon.”
The title say’s ‘religion’, then proceeds to espouse Christianity as *the* religion. Talk about confirmational bias.
There are religions with higher moral standards than Christianity (like Buddhism), or competing hard line standards (like Islam).
So the premise of the article as indicated by the title ... is wrong.
Our founders where largely Deists. Which IMHO is basically a confused state of Agnosticism. They had a western sense of fairness, justice and conditional altruism. Conditional altruism in the sense that greater respect is given to those that adhere to the unwritten social contract of society.
Religion is just a support structure for that unwritten contract and Christianity is just one of those religions. We do, however, run into the pesky question of ‘moral relativity’ which is a very real condition between dissimilar societies.
The difference being, conservatives seek to change moral reference to the individual and the Liberal seeks to change the moral reference to the society.
The net result is the natural constituency of conservatives are hard working individualists with higher and strict morals while the natural constituency for liberals are people on public assistance, victims of fate, sense of entitlement AND the guilty success stories.
That’s not to say there is no crossover.
This is what I and many others have been saying for a long time (and one of my complaints against talk radio). I am encouraged by the replies here to this article.
I am reminded of the passage in Rom. 1:28: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;”
Look at all the “inconvenient” things we have to endure in our nation today as a result of rejecting God. Unrighteousness makes you stupid.
A few better known founders were Deists. That has been extrapolated to "largely" by revisionist historians with an agenda.
It is gratifying to see some thoughtful posts being made to this thread.
I am not certain that the title, using “Religion” accurately reflects Kirk - the article is a selection from a larger work.
I think it would be an interesting study to track back when and how the argument that the FF’s were Deist rather than Christian.
Found a 2004 FR thread on the subject of deism and the FF’s.
I believe there to be a “stack” of consequences that lead to either a successful society or not. This is a “bottom up” view.
Prosperity (good, bad, everything in-between)
Cultural attitudes (the “in-grained” beliefs we absorb regardless of an individuals spiritual belief, what somebody thinks as “good”)
Religion <- at root of everything
...now, as religion is at the root, consider Christianity vs Islam - and the rest that follows upward. Or, more importantly, Christianity vs. Atheism. Also, every country in the world follows this, yet come to very different results in terms of prosperity. I find it no coincidence that western culture prospered - the underlying ethics basis followed Judeo-Christian thought.
Without God, you can’t have any consistency in Law. There’s no ethics basis for it. It is unworkable. You’d seriously need to re-evaluate certain social norms:
- Why is marriage for 2 people anyway? Many cultures allow more.
- As we’re all just animals, why not marry one?
- Some cultures have considered “strength” to be the definition of “right”, stealing and killing aren’t “wrong”, it’s just survival.
With God, you have opposites with Christianity and Islam, they’re not compatible. In each context a persons idea of what is “right” or “good” becomes very different than the next person. You hear the term “for the greater good”, very dangerous words without God (or wrong God). It is a fact that our law is based on Judeo-Christian ethics but the atheists have a different version of “good”, therefore we get into conflict. You can bet though, given human nature, Christians will be considered “bad” by them - because we have a moral philosophy based in religion (that non-Christians don’t want to live by or even think has merit). Because of their arrogance they’ll force the concept of Christian=bad into law. We already see this happening. The government agencies are basically Democrats, Christians not welcome, especially over “gay marriage”...same in the military.
This is why I hate the phrase “separation of Church and State”....there can be no such thing. It is used to assert that religious philosophy shouldn’t play a part in shaping law. This can only result in law that is devoid of Christian beliefs, mandated as so. The Establishment Clause, to me, reads in the opposite direction - the emphasis is that government has no jurisdiction over the Church...along with not being run by one of those establishments. That is very different than having no ethics basis for shaping law. Liberal atheists demonstrate their lack of understanding here because they keep saying, “it’s time to tax the Church”. They don’t realize the reason it isn’t already, Congress has no power to do so. Is it any surprise that an extremely liberal President asserts that it *does* have that power? ...no, it is a threat to them, they need it to be suppressed. They’ll ignore the constitution, even though they understand it perfectly.
Ultimately I think we’re screwed, for now. So long as people don’t understand how a prosperous society happens it’ll result in laws that aren’t consistent (chaos, innocents are now criminals, etc.) and trample on peoples God given rights. This isn’t going to end well. The good news, I can’t imagine all of this change won’t result in an inevitable “big event”...let the absurd go to the extreme of absurdity. Then it’ll be obvious what is wrong and things will change, probably forever. The sad part is we have to go through it first.
I believe our technology has driven our arrogance. It makes us feel like Gods, along with mitigating the consequences of poor moral choices (antibiotics, antiviral drugs, abortion, etc.). We behave like petulant children spitting in the face of God. If we could learn to merge our technological society with the correct ethics system we would prosper like no other society in history. It is a reality we could create, we just choose not to, rationalizing our poor behavior because we enjoy our dark ways. We need to emphasize that Christian ethics cannot be separate or excluded from shaping law, you can’t separate them, they’re linked. Otherwise you’re saying that Christians can’t be represented in government - there’s no in-between.