Conservatism isn’t evil

Some people I encounter become more surprised than I would prefer when they are confronted with the following seeming impossibility: a) I am a pretty nice guy, and b) I am conservative.

In order to avoid confusion, I will begin by defining “conservative.”

conservative

adjective

holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.

  • (of dress or taste) sober and conventional: a conservative suit.
  • (of an estimate) purposely low for the sake of caution: the film was not cheap—$30,000 is a conservative estimate.

(source: New Oxford American Dictionary)

Let’s look at some of the key words in this definition—traditional, cautious, sober, and conventional.  Is there anything inherently bad about any of those words?  It really just looks like my political stance is playing it safe, don’t you think?  Let’s look at each of them in turn.  Perhaps this way I can justify being conservative and a good guy at the same time.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be conservative in every aspect of my life.  My conservative thinking extends mostly to the political, moral, and economic spheres.  I am more liberal and experimental with technology, culture, etiquette, and art.

Traditional

As a conservative thinker, I tend to be interested in maintaining tradition.  I’m not referring only to traditions with family or friends to celebrate special events in our own special way, but also traditions in thinking, in religious practice, and political policy.

I advocate for doing many things the same way we’ve done them for thousands of years, so long as they continue to serve society in the best way.  For example, the greatest tradition I cherish is that of marriage between man and wife.  It is self-evident that a man and a woman are required to perpetuate life on the earth.  There is no reason to frustrate this tradition because of shifts in culture or thinking.  There is no scientific advantage of homosexual relationships over heterosexual relationships.  Homosexual relationships cannot even produce children.  There is no reason to change the nature of the family in this way, as it has served humanity best in its traditional sense—as a union between a man and a woman and their children—for thousands of years.

Note: if it is not clear, I do not hate people who choose to act differently than what I believe is morally correct.  However, this is a complex topic which deserves its own post.

Cautious

This trait follows logically from being traditional.  Because I am fond of and protective of traditions I know to be good, I am wary of changing them.

Although doing something because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is not a good reason to blindly perpetuate tradition, there is wisdom in learning why such traditions exist.  There may be a good reason.  There is good sense in having caution about changing such traditions.  This is especially pertinent in a religious context.  Very few times has God changed His policy, and never as drastically as people have changed it for Him (or necessitated that He change it as a consequence to their actions).

There are some things that society has rightfully changed because of obvious scientific advances and realizations.  For example, though it was previously thought that the world was flat, abounding scientific evidence has since proven that it is indeed round.  Similarly, while peoples of different colors, races, religions, and sexual orientations have been discriminated against without cause (e.g. because of their identities and not their actions), social rights movements have drawn attention to this injustice and advocated that people show love more equally.  In these cases some traditions that were deeply flawed were rightfully amended.

These understandings of fact were established under the common consensus of the people with a reasonable knowledge of the matter (read: not a panel of judges).  They were made with caution and took months and years if not decades of debate before becoming standardized.  Some might say that it would have been better if it had not taken so long.  I identify with the school of thought that would prefer to take longer to be sure the right decision is made, rather than quickly deciding something that may be grossly incorrect.  In addition, I firmly believe that if people never departed from the original morality and having love for others that Jesus taught in the first place, they would not have to spend some much time returning to it.

Deciding what truth is is a difficult business.  This is probably because humans aren’t supposed to decide what truth is.  I believe that people were given necessary truths pertaining to morality by God and it is only through our own confusion that we have departed from what we knew.  I am cautious about adopting “new morality” because I don’t believe moral truth can be discovered scientifically.  Rather, I believe it should be remembered from when it was taught to civilization from on high.

Sober

Usually when people hear the word sober, they associate the word with abstinence from alcohol.  While that certainly applies in my case, I am sober in more ways than one.  The word can also mean “serious, sensible, and solemn.”  I definitely have a funny side but when it comes to matters of importance, I try to show respect and good judgment.

I try to take serious issues seriously.  I avoid insulting others and making light of sensitive situations.  I believe it is important to keep calm and cool when discussing delicate topics, even if they are close to me.  It is by being sober that my words can be heard and understood.  If my views are expressed with expletives, libel, and hasty generalizations, they will not amount to much.

Conventional

This attribute is closely related to being traditional.  As a conservative, I try to live my life in a reasonably normal way.  I don’t expect to be too different from other people.  I don’t expect to be treated as a special case deserving of special privileges.  If there’s something that I want, I have to fight for it.  I can’t expect anyone else to give me resources out of obligation.

I am morally conventional.  I have the same classic morality that was once esteemed in this world.  I believe it’s right to get married before having kids.  I believe that using clean language is a sign of intelligence and self-control.  I believe that modest dress demonstrates the value of and respect people have for their bodies.

Conclusion

There is no such thing as cutting edge morality.

Truth is eternal.  There isn’t anything we can do to create or modify truth.  We have much to learn in the way of science but little in the way of morality.  We must only remember what at least some of humankind has known for millennia—the difference between right and wrong.

There is no need to be radical about morality.  There is nothing new to discover.  I am conservative because I firmly believe that we humans know enough to treat each other well.  We simply need to do it.

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