The Conservative Worldview

I recently got our local right-wing rag delivered to my house the other day. I read the articles, even though I disagreed with a large part of what they said.

In doing so, I came to the conclusion that it seems like too many on the left do not understand the conservative "worldview", especially that of evangelicals or "religious conservatives", especially of those living in the "red states".

Simply put, the conservative worldview is simple, orderly, highly structured, and mostly logical. It's just not based in reality.

This worldview is highly structured with God at the top. Church and state are agents of God on earth. Then the family, with a husband in charge, then the wife, then the children.

While as a person of faith, I agree with the importance of putting God first, the God at the top of this heirarchy is not Jesus's "Daddy" or the loving, forgiving God that large parts of the Bible show, but the authoritarian God of the Old Testament and the legalistic God of a badly misinterpreted St. Paul. Jesus is not the unconventional Jew who challenged the religious leaders of his day, healed the sick, denounced materialism, and dined with sinners, but he is more often portrayed as the helpless victim of a vengeful God on the cross or the all conquering King of Revelation. The theology of Easter centers on the horrors of the crucifixion, not the glories of the Resurrection.

Church and state take parallel roles below God. Although most Protestants reject the idea of a hierarchy like in the Catholic Church, the truth is that many religious conservatives take their leaders far more seriously than most Catholics do the Pope, although they would never admit it. (Conservative Catholics, on the other hand, tend to take the hardest line possible on statements from the Vatican, in effect, becoming more Catholic than the Pope.)

The state exists to protect God's people. Not the other people. True to Old Testament form, the modern nation is seen throught the lens of Biblical Israel. The state can only prosper while following God's commands, including slaughtering (or converting) large numbers of unbelievers when necessary. In a democracy, Christians have a duty to ensure the state stays on this path.

Modern Israel is supported unconditionally because they remind people of the good guys in the Old Testament. The fact that about 20% of Palestinians are Christians is irrelevant.

The family has a father at the head who makes all major decisions in the family. A woman's primary duty is to her husband and children (always plural). Children are at the bottom and are to learn what amounts to unconditional obedience with corporal punishment often handed out if they do not obey.

Sexual politics are centered around male control and female virtue. Some young evangelicals have "Kissed Dating Goodbye" at the suggestion of Joshua Harris' book. While Harris does have some legitimate critiques of modern dating, which I will not go into here, the purpose of why he wrote the book is to keep (primarily) women virgins until marriage, to put the power of choosing a mate out of the woman's hands and into her family's, specifically her father's, hands and to groom young men to take over the role of the providing (and controlling) father after the wedding.

Unfortunately, reality and facts have little bearing on this worldview. (Remember, you can make a logical argument out of nonsense.) If the facts do not fit the worldview, then the facts must be wrong. If the ideas do not match the reality then the perception of reality must be wrong. This is one reason why Bush won these people overwhelmingly. What he said matched their worldview even if it did not match reality.

Repeat over every issue across the board. The War in Iraq is good because we are either killing or converting the unbelievers. It doesn't matter that there were no WMD or connections to 9/11. Abstinance based education works because that's we want our children to hear and to do. Public schools are bad because our children will be exposed to other viewpoints and may question ours. Homosexuals and Hollywood are ruining marriage, not a paradigm that often leaves both partners unsatisfied. Poor people are poor because of God's will and their own failings. Wealthy people are wealthy because of God's blessing and their own virtue. Etc, etc, etc.

How do you fight the ever growing appeal of this worldview? The answer is not by muddling your way through the middle of the road, trying to be conservative-lite. The answer is to provide an alternative worldview that is a better answer than the conservative one. This should be a worldview based in hope, not fear.

The religious left has been painfully silent as the religious right has risen. Liberal intellectuals have gotten slack compared to those on the right. We need to put our values out there and stand up for them. Why haven't I recieved any progressive news and opinion delivered to my door like the right wing paper?

That being said, it is always important to be tactful and sensitive when the time calls for it, lest we accidentally push people toward the right.

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1 Comment

I would argue
that most of the social problems pointed to by conservatives are caused by capitalism in two ways. 1) The "losers" don't have enough wherewithal to support mainstream lifestyles. 2) The winners are so spent by competition that they don't have time for their families.

We ought to and will again look upon the welfare state of FDR as the cradle of "family values" not its enemy. It helps society out alot when the average (dare I say "below average"?) male can get a good Union job at the local factory right out of highschool. Since that male is going to have sex anyway (or at least try) he can at least afford to do so in his OWN home and with a woman who will not castigate him for not making enough money. Who knows, that woman might actually contribute to our society having at least a replacement rate of 2.1 births per couple!

Remember. If you have the intellectual means to defend empricism, then you can defend FDR's welfare state. Why? Because the existance of the welfare state correlates with America being the dominant power in the world. Its destruction, or alteration, correlates with our decline.

An economic black cloud could have a silver lining: as more americans remember that they arent the top people, they may realize that they need the welfare state.

by Paul Goodman 2005-01-05 03:41PM | 0 recs


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