Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Second Look

Are there ever any conflicts between one's conservatism and one's Christianity?
Could there be times when the ideology and the faith are, if not completely incompatible, at least extremely uncomfortable residing in the same heart and mind?
The question popped out at me as I read a news headline stating that cries are growing louder to let the Big 3 automakers die a natural death; no life support bailout, no breathing machine extensions, just a quick pull of the plug.
My knee-jerk reaction, fostered by years of Limbaugh and Hannity, was "Let 'em die."
Not being particularly impressed with the product quality of the Big 3, and being even more disgusted with the extortion practiced by the UAW, my overview was, "Good riddance."
If the UAW had convinced their members that working on an assembly line was worth $50 an hour, then perhaps a bracing jump in the cold water, a quick immersion in reality, was what they needed.
Then, a second thought, perhaps prompted by my recent difficulty, read something more like this, "However, if I worked for Chrysler, I would, no doubt, have a decidedly different take on the subject, regardless of my own personal political and fiscal ideas."
(The sudden burst of compassion may answer part of the question why? in all of this.)
It depends on whose kid has the flu that determines how bad it is.
I suddenly saw a financial disaster looming over thousands of families and was gripped with compassion.
I suppose that makes me a compassionate conservative, and, judging from what I'm hearing from conservative punditry these days, that means I am a hopeless, pretentious neo-con discipled by the likes of, heaven forbid, George W. Bush, and, as such, am out of style by about seven years.
I'm still wearing boot-cut Arizonas and an Izod button-down.
And its tucked in, for the love of Armani!
But maybe I'm being too snide. Maybe, I'll grant, these conservative thinkers are looking at the big picture.
We'll go with their take for a minute.
Distilled, their philosophy reads so: The less government intervention on the behalf of home-owners, lending agencies, banks, and auto manufacturers translates into less government interference. I.E., lower taxes for the general public, thus a more consumer-friendly environment, thus a better economy, thus more jobs for those pulled down in the undertow of the Big 3, and the housing market.
But, a transition of such magnitude can be likened to a massive forest fire. Such occasional holocausts are natural and healthy to the overall balance of the ecosystem, but devastating to individual trees unfortunate enough to be in the path of the fire.
The human element to headlines such as these has become painfully apparent to me lately.
The trees will grow back taller, yes, but only by feeding upon the soil fertilized by the compost of their dead predecessors.
So, are we to take the long view?
It has long been the stereotypical characterization of conservatives that they are cold and unfeeling, and the opposite profile has long been attributed to liberals; compassionate and unthinking.
Which is why Marvin Olasky of World Magazine coined the term "compassionate conservative" to provide an identity and an impetus to Christians frustrated by the dichotomy.
George W. Bush essentially bought the rights to the phrase, and despite some mistakes and many conservative opinions to the contrary, has stuck to his motto.
I believe this principle dictated to him his position on the border. (He certainly didn't earn any political capital from it, and he knew he wouldn't.)
And I think that same question faces him every day.
Do I view everything dispassionately, or do I allow myself to be distracted by the human element?
Unfortunately for him, the question is overwhelmingly complex and nuanced, and fraught with unknowns and lame-duck status.
For my part, I believe my heart has been somewhat softened of late by my own problems, and I can now view these conundrums with something more than rose-colored glasses or a blindfold.
Easy for you to say, Carpenter, the president might say, it's not your problem.
Ah, but it is.
Look, it is perhaps unavoidable in the media culture we live in, but I feel that our attention to political detail often squeezes out our attention to Christ.
Yes, we were thrilled with the advent of Rush Limbaugh, and increasingly so with the rise of FOX News, and a host of up and coming "alternative media" because at last someone was giving voice to our side. But the truth is that most of these people share our politics, not our faith.
They throw in an occasional jab at abortion, or gay marriage, and thus retain their membership in the Christian club. But the other ninety percent of the time, they are discussing issues and taking positions that, while technically pertinent and accurate, should be a three or four on a one to ten scale of a Christian's priorities.
Without retreating back to the cultural cave in which Christians lived for so long, let's not become so focused upon the politics that constantly bombard our minds.
Unfortunately, I know too many Christians, including myself, who get more stirred up over Barack Obama's plan to destroy America than they do Satan's plan to destroy souls.
Barack Obama can't send anybody to hell.
I know a message like this can sound cloying, or saccharine, or overly pious. But remember that I usually write what has only recently been revealed, or re-revealed, to my own mind.
Your view of whether or not the Big 3 should be bailed out is not dictated by your Christianity, but your view of the person who loses his or her job as a result is.
Your view of whether or not $50 an hour is exorbitant or whether or not those people shouldn't have bought a house that they couldn't afford is not dictated by your Christianity, but your compassion for the anguish and uncertainty they face is commanded.
Maybe they are greedy.
Or maybe they just saw an opportunity for a good job, and have spent the last thirty years building what they saw as a secure future for their retirement and their children's college options.
And if that be greed, I'm kneeling at the altar right next to 'em.
Individuals get lost in the headlines, the blogs, the talk radio.
Souls are statistics.
Liberals are them, conservative R US.
But we're all going to one of two places when we die, and that has become my new obsession!

p.s. In regards to our own difficulties I refer to, I would be extremely ungrateful if I did not thank God for the way He has taken care of us and also ungrateful to the channel through which He worked. Thank you so much.


wncjr said...

A really great blog,as all your stuff is.I am thinking of hiring you for my ghost writer to get me so I can pose as a great thinker.

wncjr said...

A really great blog,as all your stuff is.I am thinking of hiring you for my ghost writer to get me so I can pose as a great thinker.

ps said...

See what I mean I accidently said it twice.

Anonymous said...

You know, I have been thinking along the same lines, though not as eloquently, I admit, and I think too that it is probably because of your experience. I'm so thankful God is such a patient teacher.

Devan said...

I couldn't agree more. I find myself having more patience as I interact with people. If I get behind a long line at WalMart or behind a slow-poke on the road, I find myself asking, "I wonder what difficulties this person is facing?" I think it has made me more aware of "souls" as well.