Conservatism Needs to Detach From Christianity; They Both Need to Detach From Hatred
Modern Christians must believe that theirs is the god of charity and that performing Good Works on earth — particularly for those who cannot perform their own — is one of the noblest uses of one’s time.
Modern Republicans must believe that the root of all virtue is self-interest, that commercialism and capitalism are self-righting ships and that nobody on heaven or earth can tell anybody else how to live their life.
Both believe in governments small enough to neglect the poor but large enough to enforce God’s will on earth — up to and including institutionalized marginalization and in some cases genocide.
How can one person believe all of this at once — and still make it to the polls to pull the lever for the GOP? It’s called cognitive dissonance. And it’s why the unholy Republican-Christian alliance is about to burn itself to the ground — or else turn itself into something entirely new.
Christianity Is Not Compatible With Conservatism
There’s nothing wrong with the central tenet of conservatism. Fiscal responsibility — not spending more money than you need to — is a worthy personal and legislative goal. Here’s the only problem:
Literally everybody in the world is fiscally conservative.
It means we all spend money on the things we think matter. The things that matter to us. We don’t buy things we don’t want or to which we can’t assign estimable value. This writer spends no more than is necessary on, for example, automotive expenses. My neighbor’s lawn care budget approaches austerity. Donald Trump spends more in a weekend than most of us make in our lives to be constantly surrounded by the color gold.
One imagines he’s fiscally conservative in other ways throughout his personal life… although I simply cannot imagine what they might be.
The point is this: How a person spends their money tells you nearly everything you need to know about them and how they wish the world would operate. So. What do we know about extreme Conservatives based on how they operate the nation’s budget?
We could spell out dozens of things and cite evidence, but we don’t have to. The way they govern is proof enough: Greed, greed and more greed. Colonialism for the sake of profit margins while we ignore the sick and dying back home. Cycles of tax cuts for the rich, austerity for the poor, a tightening of the nation’s purse strings, followed by more tax cuts for the rich.
We could go on, but let’s speak plainly: Modern Conservatism is literally as far from the teachings of Jesus Christ as it’s possible to be. This should be as plain to Christians as it is to atheists.
Conservatism Is Compatible With Absolutely Nothing (Including Our Survival)
There’s a kind of hatred at the heart of extreme Conservatism. It’s in the impulse to burn down the ladder behind you after you’ve climbed it. It’s in the slamming-shut of borders. It’s in the consolidation of power into the hands of folks with loose morals who call themselves Christians instead of folks who actually behave like Christians.
About 80% of Christians apparently believed Donald Trump when he claimed his “favorite book” is the Christian Bible. Nobody familiar with his decades-long public life should have been willing to believe that.
The point is, there’s simply no way to reconcile the several kinds of hatred in Conservative dogma with the apparatus of the Christian Church, to which it has stubbornly affixed itself.
There is also no way to see how the movement that calls itself “Conservatism” will not result in the wholesale destruction of the human species in the near future if it does not stop pushing an agenda which rewards polluters and carbon abusers as it works to undermine green technologies.
If Christianity is “being a good neighbor” practiced on the personal level, then, by their interior logic, Conservatism should be the global equivalent. Does that seem to be the case today?
Do the Conservatives in positions of power appear to wish to live in harmony with their neighbors? Do our military and our corporate cultures — also synonymous by now with Conservatism and therefore Christianity — exist to benefit just a few, or do they concern themselves with making sure resources and opportunity are distributed more fairly in the world than they are right now?
These are rhetorical questions. We know the answers.
If an institution does not serve the public good first, what value is it? And when it serves private interests exclusively and in fact at the expense of public interests, how could it not be morally correct to dismantle that institution? Or else make sure it can’t hurt anybody else in the future?
As they exist in their extremist forms currently, Conservatism and Christianity are both completely useless for solving any of our real problems. They outsource human compassion and charity to the whims of a god who, himself, saw fit to dispense these unevenly across the globe. They make greedy and nihilistic economic nationalism untouchable behind the firewall of “religious freedom” and somehow claim nation-building in the name of Exxon-Mobile and Boeing is compatible with the behavior outlined in the Christian Bible. They do these things hand-in-hand with no sense of irony.
What Young People Want From Conservatism and the Church
Pope Francis makes headlines for mostly the right reasons these days. And he’s in good company: young people increasingly want a more socially relevant and more tolerant Christian church.
To put it another way, the millennials who will soon take over stewardship of government, the economy and the Church seem to want religious freedom practiced the way it was always intended: personally, rather than politically. Take the good parts of organized religion — kindness to neighbors, financial responsibility, charitable works — and divorce it entirely from a political process which weaponizes faith and skepticism alike. They want an end to a politics steered by identity and spiritual inclinations.
Young people want to see Christianity get back in touch with its roots. Millennials are more charity-minded than they’re given credit for by older folks. They throw themselves into mission trips with genuine zeal and see it as an excellent complement to higher education. Millennials want a Church that’s less punitive-minded and which attaches no strings to the good it does in the world.
Like anything else touched by humans and money, Conservatism and Christianity both still have a lot to offer a modern world — but they have to get with the program. Most of us want to live in a civilization. Most of us want that civilization to condemn hatred as a matter of course and not hold a person’s lack of financial solvency against them. If these groups can’t maintain their hegemony over American and world politics without stooping to pettiness like hatred and greed, then we’ll find better moral leaders.