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Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

I am a conservative. I am a conservative in religion, politics, family values, and even fashion. I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, prefer less government to more government, believe marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life, and believe men should never be allowed to wear open-toed sandals. I am by all accounts, a conservative. I don’t wear it is a badge of honor or as my identity. I am happy to move from any position I hold if convinced by a contrary argument, whether it is considered a liberal, moderate, or conservative position (though, you will never convince me that men should show their hairy toes in public). However, having said this, I find that I am usually one of the more conservative people in any given room. This has led me to watch and observe others who tend to lean conservative. There are two cautions that I would offer to myself and others who tend to be consistently conservative.

First, conservatives shouldn’t get nervous when someone is to their right in thought, ideology, or position. Young conservatives seem especially prone to this anxiety; as if there is something wrong with not holding the most extreme conservative position on any given issue. When some conservatives find a position to the right of their current conviction, they feel compelled to move with wild abandon to this more conservative belief. My friends, the furthest right position is not always the right position. This is true in theology, politics, family values, and “yes,” even fashion.

Second, conservatives have to work harder at getting their points across, because rightly or wrongly, we are often considered to be “cranks.” There is almost something natural in concluding that someone to the right of us is harsh, uncaring, and judgmental. Sometimes it is warranted, but often it isn’t. However, this perception is common.

Therefore, if I want my point of view to be heard as a conservative, I need to be more careful than others with how I express it. Now don’t get nervous! This isn’t motivated by “fear of man” or worry about offending. Rather, it is motivated by the goal we have in expressing that opinion. A good conservative shouldn’t want to express their view just to express their view. Rather, the goal is that others might hear the point and hopefully being convinced by it. Therefore, in most circumstances my conservative voice needs to be overly gracious, winsome, and careful. As the proverb says, “He who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as a friend” (Prov. 22:1). Or as the writer of Ecclesiastes stated, “The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor” (Ecc. 10:12). How do you speak the truth with grace and winsomeness? I don’t know that we can give a ten-step “how to” list, but we all know when we have seen it done well.

Having said all of this, it doesn’t mean we need to pander, shrink, flatter, or be apologetic. In no way does it mean that we shy away from our convictions, refrain from speaking, or pressing our beliefs in conversation, print, or meetings. It just means that we need to be careful and thoughtful about how we do it in order that the message itself is not lost by throwing unnecessary impediments into the way of its hearing.

At the very least, these cautions are what this lone conservative thinks are helpful considerations. But sometimes, I am just not very gracious or winsome. I can be a crank. At times, I gladly run to the most extreme conservative position and it is warranted. On that note, men, cover up those nasty, hairy, big, sweaty feet of yours. Socks were invented for a reason!

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9 thoughts on “Two Cautions for Conservatives”

  1. Joan says:

    Love this line: “Secondly, conservatives have to work harder at getting their points across, because rightly or wrongly, we are often considered to be ‘cranks.’”

  2. Curt Day says:

    These are the only two cautions there are for conservatives? I am a Christian Fundamentalist so I am conservative theologically speaking, but politically, I am an anti-capitalist leftist and I want to share some cautions from my perspective.

    1. Religiously conservative Christians have so much allegiance to the “conservative” label that they often have problems distinguishing political conservatism from Christian religious conservatism. Thus, a challenge to one is seen as a challenge to both.

    2. Because of the confusion in #1, political conservatives all too often become ideologues who end up attributing to their political conservatism an omniscience and an infallibility. Therefore they end up overusing logic and deductive reasoning to prove their political points rather than including induction and the facts on the ground.

    3. Because of #2, what Martin Luther King attributed to the West in his speech/sermon against the Vietnam War becomes an attribute of political conservatives. That is that they come to believe that their political position has everything to teach and nothing to learn. From this comes pride. BTW, political conservatives do not have a monopoly on this pride. This pride, however, becomes a concern for Christians because pride and faith in Christ do not play well together.

    4. Because of #2, many political conservatives fear democracy calling it mob rule. Let’s face it, somebody is ruling and if the power to rule isn’t dispersed by belonging to the people, it is consolidated by belonging to elites. And realize that both power is different from authority and that it always follows wealth. So that power can be found in private and/or public sectors.

    Now though I am a political leftist, that doesn’t mean that I have no conservative values. I am pro-life. I am for a discretionary use of the death penalty. I think society would benefit if more people would adopt certain conservative moral values. So I think there needs to be more dialog between those on the political left and right. But this last item will never happen so long as Christian conservatives fall prey to this confusion between religious and political conservatism.

  3. Andrew says:

    Glad your views on fashion don’t carry :)

  4. Oscar says:

    I agree with you in some of what you said. For me is difficult to place myself as conservative or not and this should be subject to a long discussion. Now, what I have to definitely say is that I am soo happy is that I found somebody who shares this fundamental idea with me: men should never be allowed to wear open-toed sandals :-)

  5. Thanks for this post. Excellent!

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  7. Simon says:

    I wouldn’t consider myself either conservative or liberal. I tend to be more “liberal” economically, and more “conservative” on social issues. What does that make me? I don’t know. I think Christians should seek to transcend the political spectrum rather than position themselves along this spectrum. This is my main criticism of this article. I don’t think being “conservative” (or “liberal” for that matter) is adequate to fully describe Christian ethics. By writing an article which assumes from the start that being conservative is where Christians should be on all issues is problematic because sometimes the conservative position is opposed to Christian ethics. Why should government be always small? To what extent are we talking? There are philosophical assumptions behind such arguments that Christians shouldn’t simply take for granted. It is the same for the so-called “liberal” positions on marriage and other social issues. Funnily enough it is the secular economic conservatives who are most consistent in their ideology (I’m thinking of people like Friedman and Rand who really didn’t care for Christian morality). These are the true “liberals” as they are liberal in both economics and social issues (by “liberal” here I mean as defined by classical economic theory). The same post-Enlightenment, utilitarian thought informs their positions on economics and society. It’s ironic that people on both sides of the political spectrum buy into this thinking to some extent and on certain issues but not others.

    The other thing to say about conservatives as cranks is that this is a fairly recent phenomenon. There are well thought out and even compassionate conservative political positions. However, with the extreme polarization in American politics we have seen lately, you do get cranks on both sides of the spectrum and these seem to be getting the most air time in the media. The author here is right, Christians shouldn’t feel compelled to follow the cranks to the ever growing fringes of the political spectrum. This is happening and needs to be stopped.

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