Thursday, April 24, 2008

On Christianity and conservatism

S.M. Hutchens explains why Touchstone magazine is not "conservative":
.... The social and political operation of Christians is not based upon theorizing about what works best for the ordering of the world, but belief about what pleases the living God. The result is a way of thinking and acting that may or may not be agreeable to those whose understanding of the ordering of state and economy is based on a realistic appraisal of human nature coupled with an ideals of moderation and resistance to earthly utopias - that is, the classical tradition usually identified as “conservatism.” Christianity’s affinity with political, economic, and social conservatism is particularly pronounced in societies suffering from moral breakdowns which adversely affect all areas of life, but in Christian eyes the difference between “conservative” and “liberal” theory is still only a difference between theories, one more reasonable and more in agreement with Christianity about the nature of man than the other, but still based on a theory about human good that deals only with the achievement of happiness in this world. [....]

Of this end outside the world, and its beginning in the same Place, mere conservatism can know nothing, despite a superior reason, realism, and assessment of human nature as compared to “liberalism” - the latter characterized by belief in the goodness of human nature, its forward evolution in the world, and a utopian end. Despite its practical wisdom, it will find an enemy in Christianity when the ethics of the faith overrides its pragmatics - when, for example, Christians insist that its practical reasons for limiting population growth are overridden by divine mandates concerning the conduct of family life. In such matters the conservative, who may quite reasonably believe that life on earth can be more happy and comfortable for its inhabitants when there are fewer people, especially in overpopulated areas, will make common cause with the liberal - who believes the same thing, with the admixture of progressivist and utopian notions - against the Christians. ....

Here at Touchstone we are Christians. When placed in the context of certain modern political contests we will look most dreadfully conservative for two reasons: first because we believe, with traditional Jews, Muslims, and almost all people of faith, in ancient, universal moral norms, in sexual matters in particular, against those who think that certain elements of societal or scientific progress have rendered them nugatory, and second, because we agree with conservatives that a realistic appraisal of human nature leads to skepticism about its innate goodness, militates against undisciplined progressivism, and is non-utopian. [more]
Religious belief is much more important than political conviction and both should take priority over partisan loyalty.

Touchstone Magazine - Mere Comments: Why Touchstone is Not Really “Conservative”

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