Thursday, February 07, 2008

Faith, Politics and the New Conservative

For well over a year now, I've been tossing around in my head this term: "New Conservative" - those of us with Baby Boomers for parents and were raised in the 80s decade of excess. We were cynical in the grunge decade of the 90s, and are now grown adults striving to overcome past sins. Not just these past sins of excess and cynicism, but the sins of our culture. A culture which, at times, gleefully uses up our nations resources without second thought; a culture that instilled in us this idea that money is good, all we need is more stuff, and only a job that made you that money (to get more stuff) was worth your time.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little here, but you get my drift.

The majority of my friends are in my age group; we are in that stage of knowing who you are, what you believe, and what makes you happy. But even more than that, we are aware that we can do to make a difference. My generation no longer just wants the white picket fence and the 2.5 kids. We want to change the world in small ways. (Because we know the big ways may not be attainable. And we're okay with that.)

So, the new conservative looks like this:

1.) Our priority is not ourselves. It is our community. We believe that change is only possible by working with each other, by overcoming our differences in order to make this world better. We believe in the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. But the new conservative believes in those rights in this context: we are all uniquely bound together. What we do affects the people around us. We do not believe that selfish behavior is okay when cloaked in a dark coat with this written on the back: "It's my right as an American".

2.) We like Jesus. Many prefer not to call ourselves "Christians" anymore ("Christ-follower" is the new preferred term among most.) We love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and like I stressed in #1 we love our neighbor as ourselves. His gospel is the gospel we seek to follow, not the gospel of money or patriotism or selfishness. We prefer to stick with the original. Love Jesus, love others. Easy, peasey.

3.) We care about the environment. We pick up our trash, recycle paper goods, plastic bottles and reuse our grocery bags. We shop for and buy green-friendly products, changed our light bulbs and don't do it because it's a fad. We do it because it makes sense. Anything I could say here would not be as simple and thought-provoking as what Ariah over at Trying to Follow has to say about it, so I will simple quote him:

So, let’s just assume for a moment that Global Warming doesn’t really exist. All that exists is a couple thousand slide Powerpoint presentation by a former Vice-President. What do we do now?

I still think we should drive fuel efficient cars. I still think we should consider the impact our choice of food and consumer choices have on the environment. I still think 20% of the world’s population should not be consuming 80% of it’s resources. I still think the rainforest, the Alaskan landscape, and other feats of nature are beautiful the way they are and we should seek to preserve them. I still think if our tax dollars are going to build life-destroying weapons of war then some of the tax dollars should also go to preserving God’s green earth.

My motivation to be a good steward of this planet and to be environmentally friendly has never been a reaction to the horrors of global warming, it’s been a reaction to the biblical mandate to care for this planet.

4.) We like peace. Call it a throwback to the hippie generation, call it liberalism; it doesn't matter. I think there is no one in the world who can call themselves "pro-war", and the new conservative prefers to exhaust every other possibility before resorting to a fight.

5.) Gun control is a big issue with the new conservative. I have a friend in the Marines who did two tours in Iraq and even he believes that there are far too many guns out there. "You don't use an uzi to hunt deer, " he says. "So just get rid of it." He's a traditional conservative to the core, and he also thinks mental health and violent crime back ground checks are absolute requirements for purchasing a gun. While I think it may be a little early, I will predict that this is one issue that the new conservative finds itself on the liberal side of the fence. I often find the new conservative fighting for the right to own a gun for sportsman purposes and self-protection, but also fighting to tighten gun ownership laws. When it comes to the safety of other human beings, I think it's okay to forfeit a little privacy. We are all in this life together (see #1) and we must live as such. Respect and love for fellow human beings is one small step to repairing our brokenness as a culture and a nation. If we ignore that, "those who live by the sword die by the sword."

Interesting fact: Marilyn Manson canceled his last 5 concert tour dates out of respect for the students at Columbine High School after the school shootings, but the NRA did not cancel their gun show scheduled in Denver just 10 mere days after the shootings. Hmm. I find that interesting.

6.) The new conservative is concerned about free trade, a concern born out of our own addiction to consumerism and watching small business after small business close because of "big box" companies that use foreign labor instead of American labor. (Obama says something interesting things about this issue in his book The Audacity of Hope.) The new conservative says this: "We are shopping ourselves out of jobs" and we take action to stop it. We shop at locally owned companies to support our economy, and if we buy foreign, we make sure the coffee we drink and chocolate we eat is fair trade. We boycott companies like Coke and Wal-Mart for their abhorrent labor practices, and we support organizations like Global Exchange and 10,000 Villlages.

7.) Social justice, social justice, social justice. Organizations like the One Campaign, Invisible Children and Blood:Water Mission are organizations with give to, fight with and support with fervor. The new conservative goes beyond their own community and works to create better places in other countries, too.

8.) We are sick of the excess. We are sick of "stuff", we are sick of debt, we are sick of it all. The new conservative is conservative with what they buy, teaches their children that the true meaning of Christmas is not about how many gifts you get, and gives to others before they take. We are hopelessly idealistic at times, believing that a departure from the disease of "stuff" can help end poverty, can provide clean water for those who need it, and most of all remind us all that we can help each other.


We are still morally conservative, adhering to what scripture says is right and wrong. But the new conservative no longer accepts stereo-typical conservative politics just because it's already established. We question the status quo, we don't accept generalized answers and we recognize that we can't do this whole thing called "life" alone. (Even if it means working with a liberal to make it happen.)

I picked up a book called A New Kind of Conservative by Joel Hunter last week. It's on my growing pile of "to read" books. I may post again after reading it.

8 comments:

Landon Whitsitt said...

In an attempt to help flesh this out, two things:

1)What exactly are the things that scripture says are "right" and "wrong"? (Watch out! Landmine ahead!)

2) Although I'm certain you did not mean it, the statement which prompted Q1 could be construed to mean that those who would not use the label "conservative" do adhere to what scripture says. Could you explain/expand that thought?

Landon Whitsitt said...

I meant "..do NOT adhere..."

Kansas Bob said...

I think that this baby boomer is.. by your definition.. about 91% new conservative.. even we old folks can see the errors of our Reagan/Dobson political/religious conservatism.. and don't embarrass me by asking me about that other 9% :)

stephanie said...

Landon - I had a feeling you would go there, and to by honest I was general for a reason. (I'm not a fan of landmines as you probably know.) But that's fine. I'm in no way afraid to answer your questions. When I have more time to think about my answer, I'll post it. (Probably not a good idea while I'm at work.)

KB - I'm glad to hear the Boomers you know are like that. The ones I know are not. That gives me hope.

meredith said...

i cannot wait for you to read that book and give me a report. ASAP. this was a ggggggggggoooooooooddddddd post.

Barbara said...

Wow, what a great post. I think I will link to this later.

I was a die-hard supporter of no gun control and used to argue with an Australian friend about it all the time. I insisted to him that my position would NEVER change....but it has.

Times have changed, so belief need to change with them.

stephanie said...

In response to Landon's post:

While I consider myself a liberal in some political matters, I most certainly would never assume that "the new conservative" I've labeled here is the only one adhering to the moral rights and wrongs of scripture. Those I know that adhere to different beliefs, such as agnosticism, atheism, "no religion, just spiritual" for example, are some of the most morally upright people I know. Most do a better job of keeping the big 10 than I do.

I find myself wanting to separate my biblical morality and politics more and more. For example, I consider myself pro-life but I have been a strong supporter of a woman's right to choose for a many years. Do I support it because of my faith? No, I support it in spite of my faith. Abortion is a law that some say has eaten away at the moral fabric of our country. I don't think it has. I think it's us who needs to change. I think the only way to prevent a woman's desire to terminate a pregnancy is not to make it illegal, but to repair what is causing her to want to terminate the pregnancy in the first place. (Mind you, I'm speaking of situations that don't require DNCs, but in situations where both the baby and mom are physically healthy.)

Another example I will offer up is gay marriage. A very dear friend from Sterling, who loves Jesus, is the son of a pastor and follower of Christ with his whole heart, told me he was gay. He got married last fall and I cannot help but be happy for him. The moral fabric of our society isn't going to deteriorate if we allow two people who want to remain faithful to each other are allowed to call themselves married. I just don't see how it can. If anything, it supports monogamy which most Americans consider morally right.

These are two of the political issues on which I find myself on the left side of the fence, but these issues are not the ones most important to me now. I'm concerned about the health care system in this country, poverty, civil rights, and the war to name a few. So that's what I look for in a presidential candidate, and that finds me on the liberal side. I was proud to caucus for Obama yesterday. He's not the perfect candidate. But he's the best one we have right now.

I'm not sure I answered your questions, but I guess I had to start somewhere, right? Feel free to ask me to step on a few more. (Land mines, that is.)

stephanie said...

Thank you mere and barbara, for the compliments. :)