Religion can result in more or less government; it’s how we approach it

Last week, we left off discussing how religion and tradition, regardless of the particular creed, help preserve a well-ordered society.

 

Authentically religious individuals tend to trend toward conservatism. In the U.S., however, conservatives tend to exclude religions other than Christianity. This automatically turns off a huge voting bloc of naturally conservative individuals.

Before you attempt to crucify me for the evolution of conservatism, would Jesus exclude individuals from being in his camp because they were of a different persuasion? No. Careful scriptural study underscores the fact that He was inclusive of Jew and Gentile.

Traditional and Paleoconservatives can learn a lot and preserve conservatism for generations by recognizing that the U.S. can benefit immensely from a great understanding and acceptance of world religion and tradition. There are more similarities than differences in the moral bases of world religions and tradition.

Understandably, someone will comment on this article with radical Islam and evince how conservatism cannot include Muslims. I say, do not judge a religion by a few fanatics.

For Catholics (my particular belief system that shapes my entire personal worldview concerning morality and virtue) there is a saying: don’t judge Jesus by Judas. We, too, should apply this to all religious communities.

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Let us focus on the sameness, rather than the radical differences that separate us. Besides, this column focuses on what will preserve conservatism for political purposes; the spiritual world is private. It should never be touched for governmental purposes.

Let us remember the point of Christianity for moral premises: love everyone, especially those different from you. This starts with treating others how one would like to be treated; it is followed closely with empathy, love, charity, compassion, and respect toward all, especially one’s enemies.

It means rather than focusing on the errors of the other, we focus on our own faults. By perfecting our own soul, we indirectly perfect the government. How? Because in a democracy, representatives mirror the voters. In other words, we vote for who we are.

This goes against what the Founders envisioned; the Constitution was designed as a republic, meaning voters would try to elect those better than themselves. But we no longer have the courage to admit that others are superior to us, especially in regard to morals, virtues or talent. Thus, we elect those we see ourselves in.

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Logically, then, we can posit that if we are focused on perfecting our own souls through self-reflection and critical analysis of how we personally live our lives, we will want to vote for others to represent us that we see these same traits in.

This mirrors closely Plato’s conception of justice: know your place, or, as I like to remember it as, mind your business. Society will be more just and cooperative if each of us focuses on our roles and individual status in life, rather than trying to criticize other people’s business or personal morality. And this is certainly not the job of government to enforce.

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The history of political philosophy, and most pointedly presented by Tocqueville, suggests that focusing on the eternal by reflection of the status of one’s soul corrects for the ills of democratic governance.

We have lost this in contemporary politics. Liberals more and more seem to want no religion, even in the private sphere; and conservatives seem to want to contradict limited government by forcing religious adherence through government interference.

Both of these are flawed. Liberals should accept the role religion plays in society, and conservatives should extend the sphere of acceptance to authentic religions and classical cultures with a deep history of tradition regardless of the particulars.

In so doing, the base of popular support will multiply significantly and, more importantly, it demonstrates that conservatives love – and love authentically – everyone.

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Religion helps us protect the dignity of all when we protect our internal dignity. When we work privately toward self-reflection, society and government benefit and reciprocate those efforts naturally.

If we all worked on our personal morality and virtue, perhaps there would not be so many people left behind creating the structural critical condition that allows many to want government to become parental guardians.

If we cared more, based on the traditional notions of religion, the need for big government would diminish. Too often, conservatives don’t want to help the needy and ignore them; this leaves ample rationale behind liberals that argue for government to play the role we should be playing individually.

Then again, if liberals would stop bashing religion so forcefully, perhaps more people would become religious and take care of others without needing government involvement. We would understand it’s our personal responsibility to care for the underrepresented in society. Both sides need a dialogue here, and each of us could learn a lot from the other.

To summarize the last two weeks, Millennial Conservatism focuses on improving society by improving the self through the preservation of religious belief and tradition, regardless of the specific persuasion as long as they work toward the American ideal.

 

The writer is associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Augusta University. Follow him on Twitter: @polscountrydoc.

 

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