Having become a Christian only last year, I am beginning to see the parallels between conservative ideology and my faith. This is not to say all Christians are conservative or all conservatives are Christian. However, 85% of Christians are conservative and 78% of conservatives believe in God. The relationship between conservatism and Christianity is a topic that could fill an entire book but the parallel comes down to two core principles that both share: morality and tradition.
A key aspect of conservatism is recognizing there are objective moral truths that impress themselves on our lives, speaking to every decision we make and forming the basis of political values. As individuals, we have a responsibility to be more than what our instincts tell us we are. Conservatism does not accept the idea that everything is subjective and there is no just way to live.
Russell Kirk said that conservatism holds to a “belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law. Political problems at bottom are religious and moral problems.” Each moral calls upon both our personal and political lives. As such, it is moral to sacrifice ourselves so our kids can have a better life and so too is the design of an education system that best serves our children. It is virtuous for a man to protect a woman with his life and so too are society’s beliefs about the place of masculinity within it. It is right to help any who are struggling in our community and so too is it to structure an economy in which they can find deliverance from poverty.
For most Conservatives, moral truths come from a higher being. There is no basis for morality outside of God as our animal instincts do not care about moral truths. Within the Christian tradition, the Bible itself commands us to seek a better way and live as Christ did. Christianity recognizes that living by your instincts alone will not lead to a moral and virtuous life. It commands us specifically to avoid vices such as, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” Obviously, these are high and difficult moral standards to live by but seeking them betters a community.
It is not something that any human being will ever be able to perfectly accomplish in this life. However, Christianity and conservatism both advocate for the denial of selfishness and instead promote higher moral purposes for both individuals and communities. It is not about perfection but the struggle to obtain these goals that will give life purpose.
Conservatism is about looking at the past and expanding on the ideas that have been given to us. Specifically, the founding fathers built this country off of two traditions: Judeo-Christian values and the liberal idea of balancing and restraining the powers between the branches of government, both local and federal.
This is no easy task and it causes change to be slow. Laws must go through Congress, be approved by the President, and checked by the Supreme Court. State and local governments have an even harder process because they must make sure their laws comply with federal laws. There is a reason for this slow process for change. The founders did not believe rash and emotional decisions should guide this country. They understood that meaningful change required thought, debate, and time.
Keeping with the tradition of the founding fathers does not mean the laws should not change. The history of this country has been a process of taking the ideas and laws that the founding fathers put in place and expanding and applying them to everyone. And yet, conservatives recognize that the governmental structure handed to us is essential and progress is not the destruction of this system. Instead, we can work inside it to expand and improve the laws we have.
Beyond just governmental norms, conservatism also champions foundational cultural traditions—traditional family values being one of the most important. Perhaps secondary is the belief that the American dream exists for anyone willing to work hard and risk everything. Again, overtime these traditions adapted to their new environments. The American Dream doesn’t mean dropping everything and going to California to find gold. However, the ideas themselves are not dead. You improve on tradition as time moves forward, you do not completely do away with it.
Running parallel to this reverence for tradition, the purpose of Jesus’ ministry was not to invalidate the Old Testament. He states during his Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Rather, he came to live within the law perfectly. That is why tradition and the Law in the Old Testament are so important to Christians.
There are over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfills in the Old Testament. The fulfillment of these prophecies helps many today believe in Jesus and gives him the moral authority to speak to every individual. Going even further he said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” He did not destroy the Law; he loved us so much that He completed the Law and made salvation and grace available to all.
Conservatism and Christianity do not line up on everything. However, morality and tradition are key foundations in both. Common between them is the recognition that there is something greater than you that has been around and will be around long after you are gone. These concepts are riddled throughout Conservatism and the Bible and there are no arguments for either concept that can begin without the foundation of morality or tradition underpinning it.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.