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The Bankruptcy of Conservatism

The collapse of the Iron Curtain has made at least one thing obvious -- the bankruptcy of some forms of atheistic humanism -- but it has not cleared up as many things as it should have. One of the disappointing features of all this has been the fact that it has not revealed the bankTptcy of modern American conservatism.

The conservatism we have afoot today simply tags along after the liberals, picking up the pieces of the latest boondoggle, trying to figure out a way to make it all work. Or, to change the metaphor, our car of state is driving toward an immense cliff. When liberals are behind the wheel they have the gas pedal to the floor; when conservatives wrest control of the wheel from them, they will occasionally tap on the brakes.

It is important for us to consider two features necessary to any successful movement among men -- both of them lacking in the modern conservative movement. Its adherents have to be willing to lose, and they have to know where they are going.

With respect to the first, R. L. Dabney identified the reluctance of conservatives to be martyrs long ago: "American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition...It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle." And to the conservative pragmatist, we may echo the words of the Lord, "Worthless servant! With your own words I will condemn you..." By its own standard pragmatism stands condemned; pragmatism doesn't work.

With regard to the second, American conservatism has no marching orders, no foundation, no central cohesion. In short, it has no telos. So long as communism was a credible threat, with its frightening telos of world conquest, conservatives here at least had something to bind them together. What will serve that purpose now? Opposition to adjustments of the minimum wage? We must always remember the Gadarene Swine Rule; just because the group is in formation doesn't mean they know where they are going.

Conservatism has no telos because it has no God. To be sure, conservatives are generally theists, but their god is silent. And to have a god who does not speak is the same as having the god of the socialists -- he didn't know what was going on either. The explicitly secular humanism we have here in the United States shows no signs of following eastern Europe. They still control the government schools, the law schools, the medical schools, the seminaries, and so forth.

In opposing them, we do not need the God of the Lowest Common Denominator. We need the God of battles, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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1-17-96 tew
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