The Conservative Church
There exist a few kinds of conservative in the United States. First and foremost, it should be noted that the first group I’m going to mention don’t consider themselves conservative at all; instead, they consider themselves true liberals. These are the libertarians. Social freedom, as well as economic freedom are the main tenets of their ideology. They claim to be the ideological heirs of the Age of Enlightenment, and as such many (but by no means all) libertarians, men such as Penn Jillette and Christopher Hitchens, consider themselves hardened realists (i.e., atheists) and even more hardened believers in the free market. The first tenet seems to be optional; indeed while many libertarians are free thinkers, skeptics, and men of science and reason, many others also happen to be religious. The second tenet, that of economic freedom, however, seems to be a must for anyone who labels themselves a libertarian. You see, that’s because to libertarians, free people are almost absolutely free. It means as few laws as possible, both in our social lives and our economy; no distinction is made between society and economics.
Which brings me to the second group of conservatives, the ones we all know as Republicans. They’re libertarians with a twist: they also happen to be deeply religious and comfortable with establishing rules that govern your private life. They tend to appeal to religious sensibilities. What they do retain from libertarian philosophy is a rabid dedication to fiscal conservatism which, I hope I don’t have to explain, is really another name for free market capitalism. Remember, libertarians really stress the “free” in free market. In the economic sense at least, Republicans are very liberal. In fact, they’re sometimes considered “neoliberals”. This is why Bush wasn’t really lying when he said he wanted to promote “freedom” in the Middle East; by freedom he didn’t mean freedom from the bonds and shackles of their royal overlords – such as those who rule over our ally Saudi Arabia – rather the freedom of corporations to do business however they see fit, free from laws and regulations, unaccountable to the people. Of course, they had many of us believing the former, stressing the latter very little, if at all. That’s because if the people were really told about our true intentions in Iraq, nobody would go for it. And that’s because I believe that at the end of the day we really are an altruistic people; we were told we went in to “free” the people of Iraq (OK, so it was after we were told that we went in to eliminate nuclear weapons and that Saddam and Bin Laden were butt-buddies). That’s why Republicans need religion; I believe that if people were told the truth about who profits from free market capitalism and who gets the shit end of the shit stick, none of their ideas would ever fly with the American people. Why else do you think they have to lie to you? You know something is wrong when millions of corporate dollars are funneled into free market think tanks to promote an economic system that goes against both your own economic interests and your very human sense of altruism. And, somehow, it’s working. A large, overwhelming chunk of Republicans are people of faith, and yet they believe in an economic philosophy that finds itself at odds with the altruistic principles of their faith. Christianity is utterly incompatible with a capitalist worldview…but Republicans somehow make it work. Some do so by shortchanging the Christianity. Once again, it’s telling that when it comes down to your social values vs. your economic values, some go with the money. Mike Huckabee, on the other hand, seems like a good man; if I ever meet him I’m going to ask him how he reconciles these two opposing ideas. With apologies to Huckabee, I believe many Republicans posing as Christians would do better to ditch their religion and embrace their greed; at least then they wouldn’t be hypocrites. Their adherence to moral religious principles tends to be little more than a veil. Real libertarians adhere to principles of social freedom, which if followed means having no sexual hang ups or hatred for homosexuals; in this country, Republicans constantly demonize gays only to be themselves discovered hiding in the closet…along with many other skeletons.
According to Ayn Rand, the core of her libertarian principles is called “ethical egoism”. I prefer to call it “egotism” myself. To put it bluntly, it’s about selfishness and greed, living for self and nobody else. An economist by the name of Milton Friedman would go on to elevate this human trait into something wonderful – kinda like how an Aztec priest by the name of Tlacaelel elevated the bloodthirsty practice of human sacrifice into something good, even necessary, for the survival of the world. Greed all of a sudden became something good, an engine for running a fair and just system. The irony of the libertarians is that for people who prize reason, they cling to the irrational belief in an invisible hand that guides the economic world, and that if people just let it be that everything would fall harmoniously into place and everybody would be rich and prosperous and well fed and free. Except that’s not what happens under a free market economy. If you want to see what an economy free from restrictions looks like, look at Iraq.
In this country, neither the Democratic party nor the Republican party represent pure libertarianism, but when asked to choose between the party that (supposedly) promotes social justice (Democrats) and those that promote laizzez faire capitalism (Republicans), money seems to be the deciding factor – most libertarians go with the guy promising less taxes instead of the guy promising gay rights, legalization of marijuana…except that Democrats don’t do that, either. And here I always though that “Blue Dog” Democrats were more in line with libertarian principles than Republicans.
Which finally brings me to the “conservative church”, the third type of conservative. I respect libertarians because they are open to reason; I respect real Republicans because they are altruistic people. I can find common ground with either of them. If I can make a good case for promoting a more fair economy, I might be able to debate a libertarian. If I can appeal to a Republican’s religious sense of kindness and charity, I can see eye to eye with them. What I can’t do is talk to anybody who is a member of the conservative church. These people are the fundamentalist of their “religion” – and believe me, it really is a religion. They combine the most exaggerated and worst aspects of both of the aforementioned philosophies – the greed and self-centered philosophy of the libertarians, and the rabid religious fervor of the worst Republican Christians; in fact, they ARE the worst Republicans. Gone is the reason of a libertarian like James Randi; gone, the compassion of a Christian like Mike Huckabee. In their place, the ignorant, jingoistic, racist, and most vile members of the human species. I call it a church, because they are dogmatic in their beliefs, closed to all appeals to reason and logic; you can not win a debate with a fundamentalist in this church. The following are just a sample of their latest beliefs: Obama was actually born in Kenya; Obama is a socialist; health care reform is about building death panels for you grandma. Their greatest hits: Obama is a Muslim; Obama is the Anti-Christ; John Kerry was a coward, gays will burn in Hell; Mexicans should go back where they came from; Saddam has WMDs; Saddam planned 9/11; evolution is “just a theory”. Their clergy are the fat, loud, obnoxious hypocrites on Fox News and just about all of talk radio; their pope is Rush Limbaugh. Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and Laura Ingram are the unholy trinity, each a grotesque inversion of the holy Virgin Mary (though it should be noted that I don’t consider any of them their equivalent of the Virgin Mary; that role belongs to Ronald Reagan). Their clergy preach from on high to an audience of stupid, unquestioning hillbillies who go on to do stupid shit like disrupting town hall meetings, hanging congressmen in effigy, or shooting abortion doctors.
In recent days, members of the Conservative Church have become increasingly visible. It’s no surprise; haven’t you heard that we recently elected the Anti-Christ? For months people had been talking about the death of the Republican party. What they should have been talking about was the renaissance of stupid. The Conservative Church never died; it got angrier and mobilized, fueled by corporate dollars and by think tanks that they don’t even know exist. They don’t know about the Cato Institute and that they’re funded by the richest corporations to promote an economic system that rips them off; all they know are the ads and the literature they put out (Not that they read the literature themselves; Fox News does all their reading for them). They don’t know that beneficiaries of the largest health and pharmaceutical companies are funding Recess Rally; all they know is that Obama is a socialist who wants to kill your grandmother. In short, Bill Maher is absolutely right.
I’ve just dedicated a massive amount of text to conservatives, now a word to the rest of you. To those of you who believe in social and economic justice – make no apologies for it. You have the moral high ground against the vicious fundamentalists of the Conservative Church. You also have the facts on your side, so that no amount of Faux News propaganda can sway your judgment. You are the reasoned intellectuals of the Enlightenment and the compassionate followers of God. You are progressives.