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A coalition without a core

Craig A. Carter | Is there a place for Christians in the emerging “conservative” fusionism?


Dave Rubin appears on the set of "Candace." Getty Images/Photo by Jason Kempin

A coalition without a core
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At the recent National Conservative Conference, a panel discussed the possibility of a “new fusionism” among conservatives. In the post-World War II era, traditional conservatives, libertarians, and anti-Communists joined together to form the modern conservative movement. But now, odd political realignments are occurring outside of the traditional fusionism project. The growing strain of anti-wokism is producing a coalition of unlikely allies who share a certain set of goals, but who are chiefly animated by their disgust with the reign of leftism.

The panel’s makeup was an eyeopener. First, there was Yoram Hazony, an orthodox Jew who advocates for America re-claiming its heritage as a Christian nation. Next was the Catholic Integralist, Sohrab Ahmari. Then add the British journalist Douglas Murray and Dave Rubin, two gay men representing classical liberalism. There was no evangelical Protestant on the stage.

The topic was the feasibility of a new conservative coalition consisting of a libertarianism that affirms same-sex marriage and a rather old-fashioned American civil religion in which the Christian majority would promote a Judeo-Christian public morality. The urgency to create such an unlikely coalition arises from the threat of a powerful worldview that is in the process of taking political power using the Democratic Party as its vehicle. Political power is within its grasp because of its massive cultural dominance in universities, public schools, Hollywood, Big Tech, multinational corporations, and so forth.

The two-party (liberal v. conservative) system that has persisted through most of modern American history has broken down. We now have a three-cornered battle between the Marxist Left and traditional conservatives, with liberalism as a third but increasingly irrelevant party. When the Left calls liberals who speak up in defense of free speech “fascists,” they mean it. For them, everyone who disagrees with their ideology is the enemy.

For 60 years now, liberals have been negotiating a step-by-step surrender to the radical Left. It started with university administrators negotiating with Students for a Democratic Society instead of expelling them. Fast forward six decades, and the “long march through the institutions” has resulted in leftist hegemony over education, entertainment, and so on. Liberals want to join the conservative movement because they are being forced out of their own institutions.

The liberals are even bigger losers in the culture wars than evangelical Christians. So, how much value do they bring to the conservative movement? They have no metaphysics, no natural law, no divine revelation, no absolute truth—just procedural liberalism for carving out the space for individuals to “self-actualize.” This was always a recipe for the dissolution of tradition, social order, and peace.

Since liberalism is empty to its philosophical core as a governing vision for society, it cannot resist when unbridled ideologues become clever enough to frame their demands in the therapeutic language of self-actualization they learned from the liberals. Liberalism always collapses before a determined, ideologically driven foe. The Left uses liberalism to weaken the bonds of tradition for its own purposes, which, as Rubin and Murray have belatedly come to see, are totalitarian and much more dangerous for minorities than Christendom ever was.

The moment the wheels came off for me was when Rubin casually tossed out the comment that he and his “partner” are thinking about having kids. That, of course, is biologically impossible. God did not design for offspring to result from two males or two females, but the conjugal union of husband and wife. What Rubin means is surrogate motherhood, which rents a mother’s womb and severs the child’s development from the need of a mother. It is its own radical proposal pushed off as routine. There is no such thing and never has been, or could ever be, any such thing as same-sex “marriage.” To claim that there is such a thing is to live in unreality where words don’t have any stable meaning.

And do the panels’ liberals think transgenderism is beyond the pale? Transgenderism is the logical extension of their own beliefs. Natural marriage is a man and a woman living in a life-long covenant that is open to children. Once you tinker with natural marriage, you destabilize the complementarity inherent to marriage, eventually removing gender from nature altogether and placing it under the arbitrary control of human will.

Rubin and Murray may think they are close to conservatism, but they are destroying the traditional wisdom they hope will protect them. They are progressives driving the speed limit who often say profoundly true things, but that is about it. Instead of forming a coalition with them, we should defend the metaphysical order of Christianity as the only building block for society to conform itself to—not for Christianity’s own power, but for the sake of truth, human flourishing, and the common good. The question is what is going to replace liberalism. Will it be a new totalitarianism or a return to traditional wisdom bequeathed from the Judeo-Christian worldview?


Craig A. Carter

Craig A. Carter is Research Professor of Theology at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario, and theologian in residence at Westney Heights Baptist Church in Ajax, Ontario.

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HERBERT

It depends on what you mean by "fusion" and its extent. One does not have to put an imprimatur on an individual's total worldview to recognize the contributions of, say, a Glenn Greenwald to appreciate what they bring to the table. As an example, Mr. Greenwald's unique reporting should be a welcome addition to the range of understanding that is essential for Christians to have in these times.

Phoebe Wesley

Excellent piece. Bari Weiss and Bret Weinstein are in the same category. They often say fascinating things with wisdom derived from common grace, but without the enlivening structure of God's Word, they always veer off track.

CCAU4371

Rubin might have some conservative opinions, but he still lives a twisted life-style. Twisted, to say the least!! Hope for the best for World and their Opinions !!!

FIMIKI

We certainly live in interesting times. As one born during the Reagan years I'd always felt comfortable labeling myself as a conservative based on the understanding of that term as developed under the Reagan coalition. Now? There's a populist, authoritarian spirit on the right that's making me question weather it makes sense to call myself a conservative still. I understand that a lot of it is in reaction to the totalitarianism of the progressive left, but fighting fire with fire - responding to leftist excesses and power grabs with right wing equivalents hardly seems like the manner in which a Christian should pursue politics.

For an alternate perspective, here is David French's explanation for why he thinks classical liberalism reflects the "traditional wisdom bequeathed from the Judeo-Christian worldview" more than the alternatives:

https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/a-christian-defense-of-american-classical

NBrooksFIMIKI

Thank you for this comment, Fimiki. When you me mentioned David French, I reacted negatively. But I read the article, and it was really, really good, a great paradigm shift.

TWHFIMIKI

Thank you for your thoughtful and substantive comment, and for leading me to David French's column on the subject. As a Biblical Christian, I want to be sympathetic with his (and your) argument, but your "fighting fire with fire" analogy is what keeps me on the side of Mr Carter. The so-called culture war has been a war of conquest. Only academic-types like French can be comfortable to referee from the sideline. This is a real war, affecting real people. God gave us a say in our government and we must take every ethical avenue to uphold his will.

FIMIKITWH

Of course, but the manner and means by which we do so is critical. Whatever political ends we pursue, we pursue for the sake of the gospel and making Christ known. What does it profit us to gain the whole world of political power and secure a comfortable place in the culture but loose our distinctive witness as Christ's ambassadors here on earth? We shouldn't welcome suffering and persecutions, but we shouldn't fear it either. Moreover, I'm increasingly skeptical of the power of policies to substantively impact the culture, particularly if they are ones that can be swept away by the stroke of a pen by a successive and hostile administration, and even more so if they're enacted and enforced in divisive ways.

Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, had this to say on the significance of manners vs laws: "Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them in a great measure, the Laws depend. The Law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them."

Again, I don't blame many Christians for acting the way they do in response to the increasingly destructive and harmful excesses of the post-Christian progressive left. It's just how one would expect a person in their position to act. But that's also what worries me.

TWHFIMIKI

The problem I have with the horseshoe theory is that it assumes that there is a standing middle that both extremes deviate from. Instead, in 2021 culture the movement is all to the left, moving to one leg of the horseshoe. The conservative reaction is trying to pull back to the middle. Compromise can only result in a somewhat slower move to the left.

Living by Biblical principles is God's design for human flourishing. It's not an extreme position to advocate and work towards!

FIMIKITWH

For sure, but it would be a mistake to think that all policies that lead to human flourishing are held entirely by one party, one ideology, or one wing of the left-right spectrum. It's also a mistake to view classical liberalism as being primarily about compromise - it's a collection of checks, balances, and principles that - if followed - ensure no one is able to gain an abusive level of power.

[begin nerd analogy]
Everyone thinks that if only THEY had the ring of power they would wield it in a magnanimous and fruitful manner and remain uncorrupted, but classical liberalism is Elrond screaming to Isildur at the top of Mount Doom "Cast it into the fire! DESTROY IT!!!".

But alas, men are weak and evil was allowed to endure.
[end nerd analogy]

TWHFIMIKI

I said, "Living by Biblical principles is God's design for human flourishing." I made no claim about this approach being limited to one party or other group. However, it's not a natural approach for man (Romans 1), so can only be found (somewhat) consistently in those who bow the knee to the Lord. My point in mentioning human flourishing was to show my contention that Biblical Christians aren't looking at a horseshoe where the extremes lie close to each other.

NBrooks

The point of this piece is confusing to me. Our relationship with unbelievers should always be from the Kingdom of God, not as part of an earthly political movement. That doesn't preclude a relationship based on other things. One can enjoy a love of sports or work for a political campaign with an unbeliever, but why would we have the right to tell people in an earthly political movement that they should not be part of the movement? If the movement takes a left turn (or a right turn) away from the Kingdom of God, we're just not part of it anymore. Complex subject, just as Love the sinner, Hate the sin.

Paul wrote in 1 cor 5:9 I wrote you in my earlier letter not to associate with those who sin sexually. 10 But I did not mean you should not associate with those of this world who sin sexually, or with the greedy, or robbers, or those who worship idols. To get away from them you would have to leave this world. 11 I am writing to tell you that you must not associate with those who call themselves believers in Christ but who sin sexually, or are greedy, or worship idols, or abuse others with words, or get drunk, or cheat people. Do not even eat with people like that.

12-13 It is not my business to judge those who are not part of the church. God will judge them. But you must judge the people who are part of the church. The Scripture says, “You must get rid of the evil person among you.”[b]

DWAL5874

Excellent work and stance. May God guide us as we hold fast to His teaching.