More than Just Conservative (VIII)

Freedom for the individual is a necessary social condition so that people can fulfil their callings. But freedom does not exist in abstraction. Nor does it exist between the ears only. It requires an environment where a person has the liberty to act, without restraint, in order to achieve certain goals. This atmosphere, or social condition, is a political system that has minimum government, allowing individuals to pursue their God-given callings in the way they think best.

There is a force at work today that aims to take freedom away. This force is religious in nature and anti-Christian in its motivation. It is, like all non-Christian belief systems, an endeavour to create heaven on earth: Utopia- without God.[1]

The fallen human heart loves the idea of a political solution to our problems. After all, if there is a political solution to some or all of life’s problems, I won’t have to change. “Personal responsibility?  Don’t give me that line!”

We can generally measure the level of personal maturity of the community, by its response to proposed political solutions to national problems. And when the community reacts with acclaim and enthusiasm to a government plan which requires massive expenditure increase, we are reminded that we Christians have a lot of work to do, educating the community.

The embrace of true conservatism means that people have to change the way they think, and especially, what they believe. Ultimately, it is really a spiritual and a theological issue. Because it begins spiritually, we Christians ought to be the first to identify and articulate what genuine Christian conservatism is. Tragically, we have sometimes been as seduced as Eve ever was, by the false promises of the counterfeit political Messiahs, who have numbered legions in history. And they keep coming.

Utopians love to assert their rule over others, and they believe in salvation by legislation. “See a problem? Change the law!”

People like to celebrate the New Year with fireworks, but sometimes those celebrations get out of hand and someone gets injured. The Utopian solution? Ban the public from using fireworks! The only people who can have them? Government employees!

Firearms get misused. The Utopian’s answer? Place severe restrictions on ownership. But as the twentieth century showed, gun control frequently led to genocide. Those that have no weapons are defenceless.

When I was a boy on our farm, we sometimes needed to remove trees, by placing explosives under them. The tree was in the way, and using explosives was a cheap and quick way to solve a problem.

Dangerous? Potentially, yes, but as long as we acted responsibly, no problem. We could buy the relevant explosive material over the counter, no questions asked. But now that terrorism has become an international concern, not any more. Buying explosives? Why, we could be terrorists!

Late in 2012 a married woman was abducted while walking home alone late at night in Melbourne, raped and murdered. The Leader of the Federal Opposition, Tony Abbott, had a solution: spend $50 million on surveillance cameras!

Tony: I don’t think so. This is not East Germany in 1965. This is the very thing that Orwell implicitly warned us of in 1984: government by the elite, through the Surveillance State. He may be a Rhodes scholar (like the humanists Bob Hawke and Kim Beasley), but Tony needs some frank instruction in Biblical ethics.

He thinks he’s a conservative? What about a general warning of the dangers of the night for unaccompanied women? What about a reminder of the responsibility of fathers and husbands to look after their daughters and wives? What about capital punishment for murder? And what if women carried a handgun in their purse, in case of attack?

How far we have fallen from a Biblical understanding of individual liberty.

We Christians must be the first to acknowledge these facts: there is no perfect world, or perfect society; no Utopia. Why is that? Well, sin has been with us since Adam and Eve. The Bible tells us that “all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isa.53:6), and “the heart is more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer.17:9). Thus the dreamers who promise to remedy social problems with some grand government plan are dangerous people to any community.

Of course, they are not the real problem. The problem is within us. That foolish, ignorant people who ignore history and what the Bible says about human nature believe in them, vote for them, and then ultimately get disillusioned when the facts of failure become readily apparent, if they survive the experience.

So, conservatism begins with a measure of negativism about the human heart, and about the inability of politics and politicians being able to effect real change. That might seem hard, but is very, very necessary, if we really want to avoid yet another experience of pain and disillusionment at the hand of government. All over the world, we should have had enough by now. But we probably haven’t.

Real and lasting change in any community begins with individuals, families and churches, believing what the true Messiah said, acting upon His Words, and taking responsibility for their actions. There is no other way of true liberty.

I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts (Ps.119:45).

[1] Ian Hodge, “Freedom and Utopianism,” 2011.