Recently I have been reading the research-based book, "unChristian", by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. In it, I have found amazing revelations into the minds, specifically the perceptions, of today’s young adults on how they view Christians. Basically, they see Christians as mostly “unChristian.”
Soon, I began looking for parallels between this research and our present-day political climate. As I listened, read and, most importantly, held conversations with regular citizens, the similarities became rather astounding. Case in point…Kinnaman stated,
“Christians are supposed to represent Christ to the world. But according to the latest report card, something has gone terribly wrong. Using descriptions like “hypocritical,” “insensitive,” and “judgmental,” young Americans share an impression of Christians that’s nothing short of…unChristian.”
Now, my parallel.
Conservatives are supposed to represent traditional moral, social and fiscal values to the world. But according to the results of recent elections and polling, something has gone terribly wrong. Using descriptive terms like “unethical,” “corrupt,” and “irresponsible,” most Americans view Conservatives as…unConservative.
Conservatives believe (at least this one does) that our country was founded on the basic moral and social principles of individual rights, limited government, low taxes, and a strong national defense. Our founders articulated those beliefs in our Constitution, and, over the course of our nation’s history, various leaders like Lincoln and Reagan have diligently sought to govern by those same core values. They saw the “unalienable rights” of Americans as a matter of principle, not opinion.
However, as we find ourselves in today’s culture, those on the outside looking in find conservatism hard to grasp because we have done a poor job of standing firm on those founding principles. Recently a contact of mine from Twitter made this statement. He said, “Conservatism means little unless you can clearly articulate what you’re conserving. Few have successfully done that.”
There is a lot of truth in that statement. Although Conservatives throughout history have done well in clearly defining our values (see founders and other leaders mentioned above), the problem has become that recent “conservative leadership” has chosen to compromise or even abandon that foundation, causing a vague representation of true conservatism.
Americans find it hard to trust anyone who doesn’t have strong convictions and are unable to back up those convictions with action. According to recent polling, most Americans still hold true to basic, core conservative values. The problem is the negative perception of conservatism brought about by our own leadership. Americans have witnessed conservative leaders acting “unConservative,” and, as a result, they have lost trust. It’s not that conservatism is losing, but rather the confidence in leadership is fading.
David Kinnaman went on to say in "unChristian" that “what people think becomes their reality, and although we may not deserve all those images, some of their thoughts about us may be accurate." In the case of conservatism, those images tend to be played over and over again among those in key leadership positions. More often than not, our leaders say one thing, and then do another. It is that hypocrisy that becomes the reality in the minds of the general public.
Now, as a Christian and a pastor, hypocrisy is always a concern. One former pastor of mine told me whenever someone said, "I don't go to church because they're all full of hypocrites," he would always say, "well, join ours...one more won't hurt!" That could seem a bit abrasive, but there is a lot of truth there. Romans 3:23 clearly states, "for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [emphasis added]." Every Christian who chooses to be labeled by that name will "fall short" at some point. Most will do it more than once.
Consequently, Kinnaman wrote, "We are not responsible for outsiders' decisions, but we are accountable when our actions and attitudes--misrepresenting a holy, just, and loving God--have pushed outsiders away."
The parallels between the "unChristian" research and what I believe is the "unConservative" truth is clear. Our leadership’s hypocrisy, coupled with our inability to stand firm and hold them accountable, has caused many within the conservative movement to walk away.
But what about the non-conservatives out there...the liberals, moderates, and the undecided (more like uninformed, or those who could just care less)...who witness these same misguided, misrepresented, and plain misses made by our "conservative leadership?” What sort of reaction should they have? Often in the case of outsiders’ opinions of Christians, their views are generated by their own personal experiences with Christians on the inside. How often is that happening to non-conservatives, who now find themselves as "outsiders" because when they were "inside" they witnessed "unConservative" action? And why would anyone who has always been on the outside want to join ranks with a movement that doesn't stand firm on its basic principles and is pushing its own people away?
The conservative movement is in desperate need of people and leaders, who not only talk, but represent by their actions, a deeper, more authentic vision of what Conservatism was and is in our ever increasing liberal, socialist society. “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” In others words – common sense.