Joe Carter, the Web Editor at First Things wrote a thought provoking piece applying William F. Buckley Jr’s book God and Man at Yale to the current trend of conservatives turning their back on social issues.
This book helped launch the conservative movement as we know it today 50 years ago. Carter writes of the current conservative Beltway culture:
How remarkable that the thesis of a book that helped launch the conservative movement could, less than half a century later, be completely repudiated by people who claim to be the author’s intellectual heirs. But that is not quite true. It would be more accurate to say that they repudiated only part of it. They’ve foolishly discarded Buckley’s emphasis on Christianity but retained, as they should, his love of free enterprise.
For instance, everyone in the conservative movement knows that you can be an atheist who actively works to undermine traditional Judeo-Christian morality and conservative social issues and still receive a book deal with a conservative publisher, a fellowship at a conservative think-tank, or a place on the masthead of a major conservative publication. What you cannot do—without being stripped of the label “conservative”—is question free market orthodoxy. You can be squishy on the issue of cutting a child out of the womb, but waver on the prudence of cutting the capital gains tax and you’ll be treated as a traitor.
Of course you can still be a Christian—even an evangelical one—within the movement, for the conservative elite is not openly hostile to the faith. In fact, many of the leaders in the movement are, like the administrators of Yale in the 1940s, good churchgoing folk. They are all in favor of religion, provided it is practiced in private and not forced on others. Christianity can be a harmless pastime, similar to woodworking, quilting, or homosexuality.
When it comes to the expression of religious convictions in public and as a defining mark of conservatism, these movement leaders are moderately pro-choice. Christianity should remain safe, legal, and—like Judaism—rare.
Be sure to read Carter’s whole piece. While the GOP certainly is right to see that people are concerned about the national debt and other pressing economic issues; it would be a mistake to dismiss social concerns. They need both groups.
This was originally posted as my inaugural post for The Innocence Blog.