Not sure if you’ve heard that or not, but it’s a phrase often bantered about on the intertoobz. I have no idea of the answer on account of the fact that I am not invited into the halls of power, the smoky backrooms where conservatives gather to define themselves and explain exactly what they are conserving.
However, I can certainly speak for myself, and if all those conservatives in the smoky backrooms in the halls of power are wise, they will take my words seriously. I jest a bit, but please do feel free to forward my post to the illuminati or our alien lizard overlords, or whoever is running this place.
The bare bones of it for me, is that my conservative values are built on the idea that people are well, people, and therefore not just inherently good by nature. I grew up with the “let’s all hold hands and sing kumbaya” crowd. There was no such thing as bad people, just good people who sometimes do bad things because they are oppressed by the system. This really messed with my head, on account of the fact that I was surrounded by bad people doing bad things who were not oppressed at all. I was pretty much just abandoned on the doorstep, waiting patiently for the good people to finally get around to doing all the good things that supposedly just come natural to them. They never really showed up.
Trust me, this world where sin does not exist even though it is right in your face 24/7 is a rather horrific form a gaslighting that will make you quite crazy. Pedophilia than simply becomes a “lifestyle choice,” and doing away with your own unborn offspring becomes a “human right.” Your soul will be forced to go to war with your own reason while you go quite mad trying to make the round peg fit in the square hole where logic used to live.
I see a lot of this same frustration in many of our protesters and rioters right now. What do you do when you can’t acknowledge that sin is a real thing in the world that cannot be fixed, but redemption is possible? You rage. You try to destroy the object of your wrath, the cause of your discomfort. What is the cause of all the problems in the world, the cause of your discomfort? The system, the man, this country, patriarchy, racism, global warming, all external and somewhat vague “demons” that nobody really has the power to “fix.”
I sometimes joke about how I may have been the most excited, the most joyful recipient of the concept of sin, ever. It was a huge revelation, a missing puzzle piece that turned my whole world right side up. Hallelujah! I so get it now. We are just a fallen people living in a fallen world. Ah ha! So we are flawed people, sinners. It suddenly all makes sense.
Our system of checks and balances, our 3 branches of government, are all based on the idea that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” There are a handful of genuine saints in the world, meaning people with a servant’s heart and some wisdom to go along with it, but they are few and far between and seldom allowed in the halls of government anyway. Therefore, you need to look realistically at human nature and the nature of people, and design a system where you do not leave piles of cash laying out on the table in the lobby.
What conservatives are really conserving is the whole concept of sin. This is a cornerstone, a foundational concept, a presupposition if you will, upon which the rest of our values are built. The US Constitution, the division of power between congress, the supreme court, and the presidency, the issue of state’s rights, the matter of property rights, are all laws and ideals built on the concept that people are deeply flawed and not worthy to be gods unto themselves and certainly not gods over the rest of us. We have laws, boundaries, separation of powers, the right to petition for a redress of grievances, and elections, in order to create safety and security for ourselves in a fallen world heavily populated by sinners.
Let me pause here and point out something that is held in tension, a paradox. I am a saint, meaning chosen by God, redeemed and saved. In Christ there is no condemnation. I certainly don’t walk around in the world as if I were a wretched sinner, because that is not my state of being. I am one of the redeemed, the beloved, His. However, not everyone shares those same values, not everyone in faith walks it out perfectly, and in spite of our best efforts, we still live in a fallen world. (Or perhaps due to our best efforts we still live in a fallen world.) Regardless, “sin” is alive and well in our world in spite of all our attempts to make it just go away or to give it other names or to try to justify and legalize it.
There has indeed, for my entire life anyway, been a cultural war to try and erase the idea or the concept of sin. We’ve been working very hard for a number of years to just call good “evil” and evil “good,” and to legalize everything. Honestly, we are such a bunch of legalists, it makes me crazy sometimes. Something does not necessarily become “bad,” simply because it is illegal or become “good” simply because it has been legalized, but we like to try and pretend that this is the basis of all morality.
Which brings me to lawfulness. Another word for “lawfulness” could be “civilized.” Lawfulness should serve the idea of being civilized, of having rules, edges, and boundaries that promote, encourage, and nurture civilized behavior. This probably sounds redundant and simplistic, but flat out, you cannot create a culture of lawfulness if you are unwilling to simply name sin for what it is.
In order for people to really thrive and prosper en masse, we need a system not of laws, mandates, rules, and endless force, but a system that values the necessity of lawfulness.