Saturday, March 9, 2019

Confessions of a Political Independent

On occasions where my writing veers into the political arena, it is easy for some to assume that I am a Republican. The truth , however, is that I have not actively identified with any political party in well over twenty years. That decision was very deliberate and I have never, ever regretted it.

At various times in my life , I have been both a "bleeding heart liberal" and a loyal "Christian right" foot soldier. But as odd as it may sound, my core beliefs really weren't that different in either phase. Even in my most liberal phase, I still knew that abortion was wrong. At my most conservative, I was still uneasy about the callous attitude many right wing politicians took towards the poor. So after a long period of inner turmoil, I finally decided that  I would look at individual issues on their own merits and do what I believed was right regardless.

While it is true that my views remain right of center on most issues,  I want to see an end to war, poverty and racism just as much as my more progressive friends do. While we may disagree on some of the means to these noble ends, we can be civil and charitable in our discussion of them. For all of the passion and animosity they provoke, "conservative" and "liberal" are actually very ambiguous terms. If you call yourself a conservative, exactly what is it you want to conserve? Historically, it has represented the desire to preserve positive things such as tradition, morality and patriotism. Unfortunately, it has also been used to defend racism, anti-intellectualism and blind allegiance to the status quo. Similarly, the word "liberalism" bears the undertone of compassion and generosity, which obviously, are wonderful things. Yet even these noble motives can go horribly astray if they are not kept in proper perspective.

Both sides have their signature issues. For Democrats, these would include education, health care and the environment. Likewise, Republicans champion causes such as taxes, fighting crime and national security. Yet these concerns themselves are not partisan. Republicans want good schools and Democrats want to be kept safe from crime and terrorism. Sadly, we often take our eyes off the ultimate goals and let ourselves be torn apart by "gotcha" politics.

As a former professor of mine once pointed out, it is possible to be opponents without being enemies. Examples would include Republican President Eisenhower and Democratic House Speaker Sam Rayburn. Another would be President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill. It is also noteworthy that, even among Jesus' original disciples, there was a fascinating diversity. There was Simon the Zealot, who belonged to a group that advocated the violent overthrow of the Roman government. Yet there was also Matthew who, as a tax collector, was an employee of that same government. I would imagine that they had some pretty lively discussions!

I certainly recognize that the differences are there, and that they are often quite significant. Civility should never be used as a front for lack of passion or conviction. There are times when a non-compromising attitude is both commendable and necessary. But compromise is not always a bad thing. In fact, it would be impossible to accomplish anything worthwhile without it. For example, if our only available options are helping some poor people or helping none, reducing some greenhouse gasses or reducing none, preventing some abortions or preventing none, aren’t the choices pretty obvious?

Friends, blind political tribalism is tearing our country apart. Be involved. Be passionate. But please also be human. God is not a Republican or a Democrat and trying to remake Him in order to fit our labels is nothing more than idolatry.

#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames

Compassionate Conservativism Revisited

Regardless of what one believes about the presidency of George W. Bush, he does deserve credit for introducing a new concept into the American political conscience, one which politicians today would do well to revisit. That concept is known as  "Compassionate Conservativism."   In the president's own words: "I call my philosophy and approach 'Compassionate Conservativism.' It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and results. And with this hopeful approach, we will make a real difference in people's lives."

While the origin of the term "Compassionate Conservatism"  is debated, World Magazine editor Marvin Olasky is widely credited for popularizing its usage. In his book Compassionate Conservatism: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Can Transform America,  
Olasky gives an alphabetized list of seven characteristics of Compassionate Conservativism:

    1. Assertive- We must be proactive and innovative in addressing poverty issues, rather than passively looking to government. Citizen assertiveness is key.

2. Basic- The most foundational institutions, i.e. family, faith community and neighborhood, should be the first avenues people look to for help, followed by outside organizations. Government should only be sought as a last resort and even then, the appeal should be to local and state governments before going to the federal level. However, government should be as supportive as possible in offering protection for volunteers where needed. This might take such forms as providing added police protection for agencies in troubled neighborhoods, as well as better Good Samaritan laws to protect volunteers from frivolous lawsuits.

3. Challenging- A safety net is to be a trampoline, not a hammock. Job training and career building are a key component in Compassionate Conservativism. Poor people should not be treated as pets. The goal is to help them to become everything they were created to be.

4. Diverse- A wide choice of programs should be offered from a variety of viewpoints and with different points of emphasis. People should be offered areas of assistance reflective of their individual beliefs and values.

5. Effective- Services must be constantly monitored in terms of overall effectiveness. How many people are fed and bedded is less important than what happens to them long term.

6. Faith Based- Voluntary religious education contributes greatly to the person s sense of responsibility and self-worth, and should not be denied to those who desire it.

7. Gradual- Compassionate Conservativism is not so much a  revolution  as it is a pragmatic blueprint for gradual, sustainable change.

The word compassion means  "common passion"  or  to suffer alongside another.  While there are certainly areas in which the government can help, it is, by nature, too mechanical and too bureaucratic to offer compassion in this capacity. That requires a much more human touch, one that can only be given by individuals and groups specifically dedicated to that purpose. This is the genius of Compassionate Conservativism. It is a plan which balances compassion with individual responsibility, and provides a much-needed  middle way  between the neo-Marxism of the far left and the social Darwinism of the far right. These issues are not going away, and these practical guidelines would be a worthy addition to any candidate's platform.

Keep It Real, 

#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames