Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Christianity and conservatives

William F. Buckley's God and Man at Yale [1951] was the book that first brought him widespread public attention. It was an indictment of increasing secularism and socialism at Yale. Buckley's remedy was controversial even among conservatives - Russell Kirk disagreed, for instance - but not his description of what had happened. Joe Carter, in "God and Man in the Conservative Movement", thinks much the same thing - at least with respect to Christian belief - is happening in movement conservatism.
.... In God and Man, he unapologetically declares, “I believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.”

Who would have the courage to make such a claim today? Can you imagine the reaction if a prominent conservative were to say that at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference? After the crowd recovered from fainting at such a bigoted religious view, they’d boo him from the stage. How dare he besmirch the good conservative atheists? They have as much claim to the title “conservative” as anyone else. ....

Of course you can still be a Christian—even an evangelical one—within the movement, for the conservative elite is not openly hostile to the faith. In fact, many of the leaders in the movement are, like the administrators of Yale in the 1940s, good churchgoing folk. They are all in favor of religion, provided it is practiced in private and not forced on others. Christianity can be a harmless pastime, similar to woodworking, quilting, or homosexuality.

When it comes to the expression of religious convictions in public and as a defining mark of conservatism, these movement leaders are moderately pro-choice. Christianity should remain safe, legal, and—like Judaism—rare. ....

Stop by a trendy D.C. bar and strike up a conversation about social issues with a group of young Congressional staffers, think-tank interns, and associate editors of opinion journals. If you can tell the difference between the liberals and conservatives based on their view of same-sex marriage I’ll buy the next round; if you can find more than one committed social conservative in the group I’ll buy you the saloon. ....

Increasingly, the elites of the institutional conservative movement do not reflect—much less emphasize—the traditional religious values of their supporters. The obvious question we should be asking ourselves is the same one that Buckley presented to the Yale alumnus: Since they do not support our values, why do we continue to financially support them? .... [more]
God and Man in the Conservative Movement | First Things