This topic has concerned me a great deal in the last few days, so please bear with me for a minute. Three things happened that triggered this…
- A friend said he had been a conservative until the 1990s when Republicans went “anti-” everything… Anti-gay rights, anti-environment, anti-women…
- I read a Facebook post about conservatives pushing for a “National God” (as opposed to a personal God). The majority of the responses were all anti-Christian, not just anti-conservative…
- I visited Senator Rick Scott’s new website RescueAmerican.com, and was uncomfortable by some of the things I saw there…
As a Christian, I began wondering how far Christianity had pushed into conservatism, and what affect it was having. Many of you will condemn me for saying so, but this worries me.
Barry Goldwater, known as the Father of Modern Conservatism, was strongly against any religion taking over conservativism in this country. He famously said:
“There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C and D. Just who do they think they are?”Sen Barry Goldwater, Congressional Record, 16 Sep 1981
Why exactly was he so dead set against religion in politics? It was because the religious leaders are immovable, unable to compromise on any “moral issue“. In order to govern, you must be able to compromise. He later said:
“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the Republican party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem… Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”Sen Barry Goldwater, 1981
Don’t get me wrong. Religion is a good thing on a personal level. Politicians should have some sort of moral conviction to do their job, and religion is a good way to hone that moral conviction. But which religion should run the entire conservative movement?
According to a 2022 Pew Research study, only about 64% of Americans today call themselves Christian (either protestant or Catholic). But that means that 36% consider themselves to be something else… Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, or even just “unaffiliated”. So it should stand to reason that only 64% of conservatives would be Christian, and so on.
Now, I strongly believe that all laws are the result of someone’s moral code making it into legislation (as mentioned in my list of Values, here). But, as Goldwater pointed out, you cannot govern without compromise. Gay marriage is accepted today by the vast majority of Americans… Mathematically, that means that many of the Christians must fall into that bucket. Granted, not all Christians think alike… So, which form of Christianity should govern conservative thinking?
I’m not saying religion has no place in politics. As Saint Reagan said on more than one occasion:
“If we forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”Ronald Reagan
Religion of all sorts is part of the very fabric of this nation. But should one religion outweigh all the others and force their moral code on all?
How do you feel? Do you disagree or agree? I’d really like to hear your point of view in the Reply comments below…
3 responses to “Religion in Conservatism”
I was brought up in a very strict, conservative branch of Christianity. It took me many, many years to let God out of that little box and learn to appreciate other points of view and forms of worship. That is not saying I do not believe in absolutes, because I certainly do have some non-negotiable things I believe. Compromise is good and necessary on many topics. My parents were adamantly anti-gay for a very long time, yet they have softened their stance on that after I came out and married someone of the same gender.
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Excellent article. My cynical side feels that the Republican Party intentionally throws the evangelicals some bones to get their votes to increase their voting power and then they continue pursuing their real goal of taking care of the wealthy and corporations.
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There once was an economic theory that said, by reducing taxes on everyone including the wealthy, the wealthy would continue to create jobs for the not-so-wealthy. You knew it as “trickle down” or “Reaganomics”.
Fact is, most of those tax cuts greatly helped small businesses. Many of them see sales in the low millions of dollars, and I still doubt anyone would consider them wealthy.
But that wasn’t the main point of this post. As time has past since Goldwater and Reagan, evangelicals (as you call them) have made huge gains in controlling a large part of the Republican party. My fear is, as they continue to push for power, average Americans will pull further and further away, weakening the party.