Mark Shea blasts the old Rush Limbaugh Homelessness Updates. To be honest, I can't remember what those were. I actually didn't listen to Rush much in the olden days. My guess is, if I know Rush, they weren't mocking someone actually suffering on the streets as much as they were likely mocking something in the institution or the hypocrisy of big government or possibly the tendency to not solve the problem at hand rather than just talk about it.
Nonetheless, Rush did represent that sort of 'Darwinian Capitalism' branch of conservatism that often put financial profit and acquisition of things and stuff above all other goods. If Limbaugh didn't mock the homeless per se, I'd heard him say plenty of things over the years that smacked against even the broadest interpretation of our responsibilities as Christians.
But then, I never confused conservatism in America with Christianity. At best, I saw it as an uneasy alliance. Conservatism was merely a term for those trying to conserve whatever they were conserving against a very definite revolutionary movement called liberalism. I understood, as a Presbyterian friend explained after the 1994 midterm election, that for many American conservatives, Christianity was valuable insofar as it came with the whole Americana package. It belonged somewhere on the shelf between Rockwell and Apple Pie. As long as it stayed out of the higher purposes - like financial gain to the exclusion of all other priorities - then it was fine and dandy.
Perhaps that's where Mark and I differ. There are times when Mark writes things where I believe he thought that American Conservatism and Christianity were, in fact, one and the same. And when it came to his attention that this was not the case, out went the baby with the bathwater.
To me, modern, Baby Boomer era conservatism was often a rejection of key elements of Christianity for the sake of preserving individual priorities, even if those priorities were financial in nature. Liberalism, however, was an all out assault on doctrines of Christianity, often at its most fundamental levels. Hence the conservative alliance against a greater threat. It never dawned on me that conservatives were somehow better than liberals, or that liberals were really good, but misguided people, unlike conservatives. I saw liberals just as willing to be bad or to exploit or be greedy as conservatives. It was what they represented and supported that was the issue.
The Bush years were bad for conservatism. GW Bush, himself only moderately conservative, was a bad president. He showed bad leadership, poor decisions, and a lack of clear administration of his office during critical periods in our history. True, he was up against a movement that was far more interested in defeating him than stopping any external threat to our nation. Nonetheless, he reacted poorly, and created a branch of conservatives who were going to back him up no matter what. Perhaps they were aware that we now fought two enemies - those who wanted to attack us from without, and those who wanted to topple the best of our nation from within.
In any event, it caused a rift in that uneasy alliance against a movement that had, only years earlier, been seen as a true threat to our nation, our world, our churches and ourselves. What has happened since can be expected. Some jumped ship, like Mark, and now all but embrace most of what they once condemned. With minor exceptions, Mark is now a full blown leftist and filters all reality through that prism, including a merciless and uncharitable interpretation of anything that doesn't fall into lockstep with the modern Left.
Others, like my old classmate Russ Moore, have joined folks like Rick Warren and realized that the old battles are lost, and are finding ways to speak the new lingo, and filter the Church's mission through the priorities as set forth by the side that won. There is no abandonment of old teachings, but there is an emphasis on making priorities of what the new age insists are important.
Yet others have slipped down the path toward those more radical extremes of resistance that existed back in the day. Taking on a compound mentality, they are now now following, rather than taking, the lead in that shaky and diminishing alliance. Whereas once the Christian conservatives demanded their voices be heard, even when non-Christian and non-religious conservatives grumbled, today they stay dutifully silent. They see their gains diminishing and, as often happens, are holed up now with any allies they can find, dutifully following, willing to turn a blind eye.
If anything has changed, it's that the assault on the Faith, on the worldview of Christianity, of the basic morals and doctrines of the Church, and of the freedom to not be liberal, has escalated exponentially. This makes those who would jump off the sinking ship seem all the more desperate to either justify their change, or deny the obvious.
And so Mark, who laments not turning away from the blasphemies of Rush, appears to make the same mistake with the Left. He's doing the same thing, but for a different ideology. Instead of calling out the heresies and blasphemies of the Left, he downplays, diminishes or ignores its manifold sins, just as he says he once did with Limbaugh. With abortion, for instance, he still stands against it, but rather than call out its staunch defenders among the Left with zeal and outrage, he embraces the liberal focus that abortion is basically about misogynistic, rapist men and evil Capitalists forcing poor women to have no choice but to abort babies.
Abortionist update. No channels turned, just repeating what is heard. In the same way Rush would have focused, not on getting out and helping the homeless, but on this or that institutional corruption or ideological hypocrisy, Mark accepts the Left's focus on cause here or hypocrisy there, rather than the sin at hand and its staunch defenders. It's making the same mistake he made, just for the other team.
The trick to being a Christian is realizing that we are strangers in a strange land. No country is pure and perfect. No culture is a manifestation of the New Jerusalem. Some, like Nazi Germany, can't be defended. Others, like America, have plenty of good, even if there appears to be many who want the good to go with the bad. As Christians, we owe it to our posterity to make sure we can tell the difference, and how best to approach our situation.
When compromising with all manner of conservatives, the temptation can be to not change those things that need changing, merely because there are those in the alliance that would see them maintained. Conservative Christians have, at times, fallen into that rut.
The temptation when compromising with a revolutionary movement like liberalism, on the other hand, is that you will inevitably be asked to throw out elements of goodness and truth simply because that is the latest demand of the revolution. Liberal Christians used to do it as a matter of course. It's amazing how so many former traditional believers are now at the head of the pack when it comes to this particular failure of the left. I suppose it's just not easy to touch pitch without becoming defiled, no matter which side the pitch comes from.