What the Conservatives Got Right

Consumerism = Slavery
Consumerism = Slavery (Photo credit: just.Luc)

I had this realization today.

That realization is this: the conservatives are (almost) right.

I bet I got the attention of the people I know.

The thing they got right, and we on the left got wrong, is that there is a battle of world views going on.  There is an enemy.  The way that people view the world is of critical importance.

The reason that they got this almost right is that they have the enemy all wrong.

The enemy is not the homosexual agenda.  Or liberalism.  Or activist judges.  Or communism.  Or socialism.  Or anarchism.  Or Islam.

I think that list implies one of my issues with the right wing.  They all seem to agree that there is a single world view tearing us apart.  But the name of that view seems to shift with the wind.

The truth that they have right is that there is a single enemy.  His name is Satan.  I don’t, for the record, believe that Satan is behind any of the world views listed above.  I chose them because they are favorite scare crows of the overly conservative crowd.

A deeper and wider and more destructive world view, one that has lots of manifestations and repurcussions, one that Satan is always behind, is a world view that many of the right are so enmeshed in that they sometimes don’t even get that’s it’s evil.

The world view is consumerism.

Such a telling title, consumerism: we devour what we use.  It’s built into our nature.

I think, on the whole, capitalism might be a smart way to go.  I’m not sure, however, how we disentangle capitalism from consumerism.

But I know that we must.

Consumerism is the enemy of community.  Community is a web of mutual and sustainable relationships.  Consumerism is a list of one-sided interactions.  Consumerism has gotten itself clever and grasped on to the deeper truths that community reaches in us.    It has dressed itself up.  And I don’t know about you, but I’ve bought it all too often.

There is nothing wrong with meeting a friend for a $5 cup of Starbucks.  But there is something terrible about the fact that we’ve been convinced that this is the only viable place we can experience community.  There is nothing wrong with an advertising executive trying to sell me on the idea that if I buy product X I’ll be part of an exclusive group.  But there is something terrible about the fact that I accept his claims so easily.

The church is this amazing counter-cultural force.  I think it is the hope of the world.  A part of this hope is to be the source of an alternative to consumerism.  Because it’s not enough to rail against the dark.  We must turn on a light.  And I just don’t see any other lights around.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

8 thoughts on “What the Conservatives Got Right”

  1. What is at the heart of Consumerism? Is it not wanton self-interest? Even when executed blithely there’s an element of cavalier disregard which qualifies it as somewhat craven.

    i agree with you mostly. The problem isn’t that Conservatism fails to recognize the enemy (which it mostly does), the problem is that its enemies are selling something that isn’t at all a remedy to the problem.


    1. I probably should have expressed the idea that nearly all of us are failing to recognize the enemy. I think if we did recognize the enemy, then we’d be on guard for false remedies.


  2. Good post. Its good to see that more and more people are waking up to the fact that consumerism is the ultimate evil. It ruins our environment, our economy and our social structures, all while making us fat, unhealthy, broke and unhappy.

    Unfortunately, we live in a world where every politician sees increased consumer spending as the primary sign of a healthy economy and people still try to keep up with the Joneses. We have to stop this madness before it is too late…


  3. Thank you for your excellent thoughts.

    I’m mostly conservative…and you’re right that the real enemy isn’t any one of the standard things that conservatives fight against. The enemy is the devil. You’re also right that consumerism is evil. Yet I don’t think consumerism is MORE evil than the other things you listed. Satan wants us to do anything that is opposite to God’s will. That includes abortion, homosexuality, greedy consumerism, proud intellectualism, worshiping the environment, destroying the environment, neglecting the poor, stealing from the rich, and so on. It includes false religions and the cult of the self. It includes trusting in being on the left, or trusting in being on the right.

    And yes, the church, when it’s true to its nature, is amazingly counter-cultural. It’s godly in the midst of a world that rejects the simple, costly message of Jesus Christ. When we truly follow him, we can’t be as neatly pigeon-holed as being conservative or liberal. On some issues, our culture will call us right-wing. On others, it will call us left-wing. Yet our trust will be in him, not in politics.


    1. I think that many of the things you list can actually be boiled down to consumerism.
      You make great points about Jesus’ transcendence of the left or the right. When ever I hear people trying to co-opt Jesus for their political side, I always think of how the angel spoke to Joshua. He essentially said Silly little mortal creature, you’ve got it so backward when you presume that God takes sides in your petty conflict. The question that matters is will you take sides in God’s conflict?


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