the 221st General Assembly

Posts tagged ‘conservatism’

Similar Coins


I’m highlighting a post from my other blog. This is not about the PC(USA) on Israel and Palestine. It is not about the PC(USA) at all. But it has a certain relevance.

No matter how much I grouse about this fact, the PC(USA) bears a striking similarity to the secular political landscape. Naturally, the PC(USA), like most mainline denominations, has made numerous forays into secular politics. For all the prophetic church language, these stances have been identical to secular political stances. But that’s what I’m talking about.

There are two overarching, meta-narrative sorts of philosophies in secular politics. You might call them progressive and conservative. You might imagine them as right or left wing. And this has been the case for literally centuries. Multi-party systems suffer from the same (to my mind clumsy and inaccurate) groupings. There are parties of the left and parties of the right. To form coalitions, these really mimic a two party system.

For the last four decades, the PC(USA) and its predecessors have seen a similar struggle between progressives and conservatives. All but the most ostrich-like would have to concede that the conservative side has lost ground on every front. Now in a church setting these have considerable theological meanings not found in secular politics. But the setup is essentially the same. PC(USA) internal politics and secular politics are not two sides of the same coin, but two very similar coins.

One of the reasons for this similarity is, in fact, the intrusion of secular politics into the PC(USA). But that is an inescapable side-effect of theological progressivism. While individual self-identified theological progressives may not share this view, progressivism as a philosophy / theology equates secular political action with spiritual act.

I am persuaded that one of the reasons for the failure of conservatives within the PC(USA) – whether there concerns are theological, spiritual, or political – is a feature also found among conservatives in secular politics. The situation is not identical, but the premise is.

 

Conservatives – mostly in the GOP, but also in other far smaller parties – are foundering. They may or may not do well this November, but that’s quite beside the point. The problem is, even if they do quite well, they will remain unable to actualize a conservative vision.

 

(From my point of view, this has been the case for my entire life. Even when their rhetoric wins, even when they convince enough of the American people they are right, that rhetoric is not translated into policy. Which is, of course, the only point of politics. Policy is all that matters – not on discreet issues but across the board. The fact is, there have been discreet issue policy changes, but the overall, across-the-board policy direction that is decidedly not conservative, continues basically unabated.)

 

No doubt conservatives will argue with this assessment. While progressives may also deny its truth – that is more for public consumption. The basic fact is that the country has been and continues to move in a particular direction. Attribute it to cultural evolution, to the tide of history, degeneration, to whatever framework appeals to you – but it is an overall truth.

 

Of late, conservatives, and the GOP in particular, has struggled more than usual.

 

This is not a product of a hostile media – though conservatives do have far fewer media allies than progressives. It is not a product of IRS and related government suppression of conservatives – though that is appallingly anti-Constitutional and an abuse of power. It is not the result of their failure to reach out to minority groups – though their efforts have been less than effective. It isn’t even the result of the great appeal of progressive arguments – they’re not markedly superior to conservative ones. All of these may be factors, but they’re minor factors.

 

The main problem is that conservatives suffer from big tent syndrome. I don’t mean here that conservatism is a big tent, but that there are four or five different types of conservative. These have conflicting goals and priorities. They have incompatible philosophies. For these reason, conservatives have been unable to select compelling national candidates; conservatives have been unable to articulate a clear point of view; conservatives have fought nasty and personal battles among themselves – that are, at times, as beyond the pale as anything progressives are able to throw at them; conservatives have singularly lacked the ability to unite around their common ground. And most importantly, conservative voters have faced the choice of voting for what they see as the lesser of two evils, or staying home.

 

I personally believe the GOP will continue to founder until it decides what it truly is. I notice that progressives have the same problem on paper – progressive subgroups want mutually exclusive policies – but when it comes to campaigns, they don’t seem to suffer from the same effect. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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