Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Ignorant and stupid are we

Jake Herrera is a junior majoring in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He writes (in the UW paper) an article explaining why there are so few conservative academics on America’s campuses. His conclusion: Blame conservatives because they are anti-intellectual, they don’t read books, etc. And "the conservative voting bloc that is responsible for the Bush ascendancy has lost any connection with its once proud intellectual roots." No other comment is needed on this essay than a note from Mark Twain: "Don’t explain your author, read him right and he explains himself." This guy’s explanation of himself is not to his advantage.

Discussions - 56 Comments

As a conservative I find Mr. Herrerra’s comments to be condescending and insulting. I hold a Masters Degree in History, and I do read books, articles, newspapers, and journals. I just don’t read what Mr. Herrera would consider intellectual. I gave up on Marx, Chomsky, Trotsky, Lenin, mAo et al a long time ago. Ignorance is ignorance no matter how it tries to cloak itself in intellectual frumpery.

Herrerra will soon have a job in a Colorado university.

I like this one: “When liberals come across a book they don’t agree with they prefer to read it. Conservatives, on the other hand, want it burned and buried. And conservatives wonder why they’re not in our universities.”

How do liberals know they don’t agree with a book before they read it? Please notice the “our” universities.I’m sure he means "liberal" universities.Are there more soldiers in the army than there are civilians because civilians are stupid? To become teachers in liberal universities people must become liberal.

I think it is wonderful when liberals are so honest about their bias.

Gee, how interesting that an enlightened liberal can’t pick out his own contradictions. He needs us conservative yokels to point them out.

Wow- he acknowledges that we knuckle dragging conservatives have "proud intellectual roots".

Let’s not give this guy a hard time- he’s made a big step.

Okay- scratch that, let’s give him a hard time after all.

Wow, what a load of horse crap. Sounds like a 17 year old writing for his high school news paper’s comment section.

Big deal. Let him have his college echo chamber. The adults are in power. Once his students leave his influence and venture into the business world and have to pay taxes, and have kids that watch TV and see movies, and live in neighborhoods that put image above saftey, we’ll see whose ideas win out.

And, even when conservatives, like George Bush, read books, liberals hurl charges at them such as, "They’re just reading books to find support for their position," or that they don’t understand the works anyway. Is this more proof that the "tolerant" among us are the most intolerant, close-minded people who cannot believe that any rational person might come to a different conclusion about something?

Just who are these liberals who "prefer" to read a book they disagree with?! I have never met them. I have, however, seen liberals steal newspapers, burn newspapers, and shout down best-selling authors with whom they disagree. Perhaps someone should ask Jake Herrera where his "tolerant" friends were hiding out during all of this. Or for examples of similar atrocities perpetrated by us moron, anti-intellectual bumpkins who dare to vote for national security and free markets instead of some washed up, uber-wealthy hippy throwback. At least at my anti-intellectual school we learned to provide real examples when one is making exaggerated generalizations.

A sad time for us all that there is time spent on a commentary from a young liberal struggling to form coherent arguements.

However, Ohio Voter, one must also look into their own camp for the "stealing of newspapers, burning of newspapers, and shouting down best-selling authors Are these things not happening now with radical crazies like Churchill and Michael Moore? I’m not claiming that they are correct in their statements or publications all the time. Rather, I think we have out examples of similar atrocities right there.

All that to say I’m not disagreeing that Herrera was and is way off base with his commentary. Sayings like "cast ye not the first stone...speck in his eye, plank in yours", etc come to mind. Herrera’s arguement is dismissable at best, and not worth our time. The issue is hiring process and staff overstepping teaching boundaries and creating brain-washing seminars, not intelligent conservatives or liberals.

But Joel, it is so easy . . . even in spite of Herrerra being an intellectual supremacist. Please let us have some fun that doesn’t take a lot of reading.

With all due respect, I must disagree with the earlier comments. I don’t buy arguments that some groups are under-represented at universities because of wide-spread institutional prejudice, nor do I believe that “affirmative action” for conservatives is necessary. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and conservatives need to do some soul-searching about the reason for liberal dominance in our universities and what measures should be taken to address that (rather than sponsor feel-good legislation to get newspaper coverage). At some level, conservatives are by their natures not suited for university-style intellectualism, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Conservatism, is, in its essence, American, and Americans in general are not “intellectually oriented.” We are a utility-driven, practically-minded people (see de Tocqueville and Churchill on this if you don’t want to take my and Mr. Herrera’s word on it). Conservative parents generally encourage their children to follow more “practical” paths like business, engineering, etc. Moreover, conservatives with intellectual talents are (like good Americans) goal-minded and hence drawn towards more public venues than the ivory towers of the university. This has been true historically: America’s greatest philosophers have also been her greatest statesman, and hence conservative political debates have been traditionally much more ideologically-tinged than liberal ones have.

The second problem here (and this is a bit more controversial than my earlier point) is the tone of America’s religious sects. Evangelicalism _is_ anti-intellectual (and I speak as a former evangelical). The fact is, the “evangelical mind” (if there is such a thing) has made virtually no significant contribution to any area of human intellectual achievement (art, literature, philosophy, etc) in its history. As a matter of fact, the only Christians in the last century who should be taken seriously as academics (Lewis and Tolkein) were Anglican and Catholic respectively. This is not to impugn the civic-mindedness of evangelicals or their value as citizens of the U.S.A. This is only to argue that evangelicals have never found a place for reason that they are fully comfortable with as the Catholics and Anglicans have.

So what to do? Conservative parents need to encourage their children to think more seriously about the “big questions” in life and support their pursuit of learning for the sake of learning. Conservatives also need to begin patronizing institutions that emphasize a “liberal” (in the classically understood meaning) education and evangelicals in particular (Baylor University offers some hope on this subject) need to have a serious internal debate about the place of reason and academic freedom in their institutions that may shake their theological foundations.

#11 - spoken like a true windbag. So, no achievements at all? Does this count in the field you

"But music was never just music to Bach. Nearly three-fourths of his 1,000 compositions were written for use in worship. Between his musical genius, his devotion to Christ, and the effect of his music, he has come to be known in many circles as the "Fifth Evangelist.""

I dare say this example is one of pure genius, who turned the world around with his music contributions and made our lives the better for it.

It took me but a few seconds of googling to find this. There are plenty more in the fields of mathematics, science, and literature.

My friend, you confuse intellectual with book smart ideas. You believe that because an award is given, the person’s contributions are not worthy. I automatically dismiss these kinds of silly generalizations. My limited experience in the world shows me proof that you are full of hot air.

I agree with most of the comments from "Conservative and Intellectual,"
post # 11. While the article referenced in this thread is unfair to conservatives and much too fair to liberals, it contains an important insight. The fact that there are some intellectual conservatives does not absolve conservatives as a whole from their limited intellectual curiosity, limited education, and limited willingness to fight the battle of ideas. Conservative history and conservative intellectual sources are indeed too little known among the 51 percent of the country that voted for Bush. We intellectual conservatives have a great deal of work to do among our brethren.

Complacency is never, ever a good thing in politics. Sometimes the truth hurts. But the truth must always be our starting point.

I too disagree with "conservative and intellectual." He overlooks the Puritans (who founded Harvard, for crying out loud). If Christianity were so anti-intellectual, how do we explain the emergence of science and codified knowledge in western European and American societies? As for contemporary evangelicals being anti-intellectual, many of these denominations have their own universities. What they have tended to reject are explanations that do away with can we blame them? Believe me, there are countless engineers, writers, and physical scientists who are also devotely Christian. Of course, you won’t find many post-modernist philosophers in the pews, but who cares? Such philosophers are the true deadweight of Western society.

As for conservatives in academe...where would you go to school in, say, the social sciences or the humanities if you wanted to approach socially-significant questions from a conservative point of view? The number of graduate programs that are not OVERTLY hostile to conservativism are pathetically small. If you get a Ph.D., who hires you? Who grants you tenure...people who hate your point of view? No, there IS discrimination (both conscious and unconscious) against conservatives in the academy. The current outrageous imbalance in universities is a product of long, persistent and vicious institutional discrimination.

To Dain: many evangelical churches do have universities, and by and large they are mediocre institutions (I include my own Brethren church affiliated alma mater, Ashland University, home to the esteemed Ashbrook Program and NoLeftTurns in that generalization). I don’t doubt that there aren’t countless intelligent Christians (evangelicals even) who are successful writers, engineers, doctors, etc. In essence, you are only supporting my argument that bright conservatives are going into applied-knowledge, utility-directed areas.

To Gary I ask that he more carefully reread my comments and think through my position. In this instance, I am purposely reducing “intellectualism” to “book smarts” because “ivory tower” intellectualism is required in the academy (it has ever been so). Universities and professors (doctors of philosophy) are supposed to get at not just the particular aspects of their disciplines but the underlying theories and assumptions behind them.

When you find a turtle on a fence-post, chances are he didn’t get there by himself. My point is that conservatives need to engage in some self-reflection as to why liberals have come to dominate the most prestigious institutions of higher learning. It was not always so. Moreover, whining about institutional prejudice is not only counter-productive, it is an inherently anti-conservative idea as is the further politicization of colleges and universities. Young conservatives need to be encouraged to explore the hard philosophical questions and be supported in (not dissuaded from) an academic career by their parents and instructors. Serious scholarship cannot be ignored forever, footholds can be taken, academic departments brought back to their purpose. Be not afraid.

Dain - Good round up and come back. I’m glad you spent the bandwidth on it. Let’s see if Mr. Windbag comes back with the same lame come back I got at another conversation along the same lines...which is ’oh, I don’t mean Puritans, or Catholics (or whomever the person’s religion is) I was talking about evangelicals’. That’s usually code for the robotic bible carrying faithful people thought to be devoid of all independent thought. If this was an arguement used against jews in the 50’s, it would sick. But under the guise of being ’honest’ and ’intellegent’ in assessing this subject it’s somehow OK to these elitists.

OK, I’m done.

"Conservative and Intellectual" made several good points which are not getting fair treatment, I will deal with one. He did not say Christians are anti-intellectual, he said Evangelicals are. Far from refuting him, both Dain and Gary reacted in a way which was defensive and betrayed that "Conservative Intellectual" was not given a fair reading. Are you familiar with the book, "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind?" It was written by an Evangelical Christian, and constitutes a rare instance of severe self-criticism in that community.

Your counter- examples hold no water. Bach? Not an Evangelical, not an American. In fact, the divine Johann was a High Church Lutheran, and part of a broad intellectual tradition which includes sacramental Christians like Lewis, Tolkien, Eliot, Williams, et al. As to your example of the the Puritans - they were not conservatives in any meaningful sense of the word. They were religious radicals - in fact, they were regicides! Their radicalism, sans the religion which originally inspired it, continues in New England in an uninterrupted arc from the founders, through Emerson and the abolitionists, to the old and new left. I would hardly describe as conservatives people who moved from the old world to the new in order that they might establish an ideal community excluding all outsiders and dissenters!

I join "Conservative and Intellectual" in challenging anyone to name for me a significant novelist, playwright, poet, or philosopher produced by the American Evangelical community. I ask this more in sorrow than in anger; I am a Conservative Republican, and a regular church attendee who went to an Evangelical Christian high School. I am well read in the theology and (lamentably) have read the literature produced by this community as well. The merits of Evangelical Christians are many; among these my brothers and sisters one can almost always find compassion, open-handedness, social awareness, principled politics, upright dealings, and a certain humility before God.

However, these undeniable and important virtues exist alonside a philistinism which is breath-taking. Evangelical services are most often led by rock bands in warehouse chapels. They have no liturgy at all, turning their back both on their own reformed traditions and on the glories of the Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox churches. When Evangelicals read at all it is either horrible self help nonfiction with a Christian gimmick, or horror story literature like the Left Behind books. (One could do an admirable thesis on the question, "Which is worse, the writing or the theology in the Left Behind series?" My answer? "Yes.") And many of these folks, among whom I have long lived, believe in their heart of hearts that philosophy and art are not really necessary save as a tool to attract converts.

What I have written here is obviously not true of every Evangelical Christian, but were this a community which placed any emphasis on the life of the mind, everything from church services to the literature they produce would be very different. I understand why Dr Schramm posted the link, the original editorial which provoked this discussion is mostly asinine. However, David Frisk is right, Conservative Intellectual’s post is a necessary dose of self-criticism.

wm, for once I think we agree! Cheers!


For the record, it is "Miss Windbag" not "Mr. Windbag."

not the progressive ms?

and thanks Joel!

Conservative and Intellectual - haha! You should’ve expected that from your fellow conservative intellectuals: they assumed you were a man, and then when you pointed out that you weren’t (after they called you a windbag for your very mild -but interesting- dissent!), one of them took a tiresome stab at the "Ms." title.

I’m sure that Dain and wm wouldn’t mind if we referred to them as Misses, eh?

wm -
Most definitely _not_ ms, and I thank you for mentioning the other great secramental Christian intellectuals of the 20th century I omitted in my earlier posts.

Don’t be hypersensitive TK, I posted in support of "Conservative Intellectual," and I wrote "he" because I am old fashioned enough to use that as a default instead of the more current "one" or the barbarous he/she. The Ms thing was a joke! However, you can call me Misses if you want, I’m secure in my masculinity! :)

Perhaps it would be useful if someone would define what they mean exactly by "evangelical." Obviously since it’s not Puritans, Anglicans, Catholics, etc., some of you must have some very specific denominations in mind?

I would remind you that if "evangelical" is something relatively new, have they had time to create their Newtons and Darwins?

Modern Protestants in the anabaptist tradition who usually describe themselves as "Christian non-denominational." They have a fairly long tradition in the United States, but it is fair to say Evangelicalism is more a tendancy than a particular denomination. Their emphasis is on the conversion experience rather than the sacramental life or any mystical asceticism.

Most I know would bristle at the very name of Darwin! This community might very well produce a Newton, but are emphatically not on the way to producing a Dostoyevsky, Blake, Johnson, or O’Conner. You might check out the article in a recent National Review, the title of which was something along the lines of "Want to Win the Culture Wars? Start by Having a Culture." Again, tis is criticism coming from a friendly place - much like mine.

Misses Wm

Well, I’m wondering if its more of a class phenomenon. Sounds like all the rich Protestants aren’t "at risk" of being evangelical.

I might also add that, if the major problem with these "evangelicals" is that they think they already have the Truth (and therefore don’t need to pursue it), there isn’t a great deal of difference between such people and the current professoriat (particularly in the humanities and social science). Thousands of professors suffer from leftwing dogma, and far from trying to discover the "truth," they are trying to produce evidence to confirm their own prejudices. Even hard science can be like this (Kuhn’s ’scientific paradigms). So, perhaps the university is just the modern-day cathedral, and noting that Christian conservatives are not in attendance is rather like noting the lack of Jews in Sunday school.

Just a thought!

Dain -
I have heard this comparison drawn before (i.e. the similarities between the dogmatic right and the dogmatic left, neither being beneficial for intellectual discourse), and I think there is something to it. This only underscores the importance of encouraging conservatives with a commitment to reason and the truth to pursue academic careers. I believe J. Knippenberg of this blog has cautioned against the trend among some conservatives (the Young America Foundation variety) to “fight fire with fire.” Universities should be places of reasoned debate with thoughtful consideration given to ideas on the basis of their merit not hot beds of political activism where the loudest mouth is able to intimidate and silence dissent.

But I expect better of my co-religionists!

No, 11:"The fact is, the “evangelical mind” (if there is such a thing) . . . "

Wow, that is deep.


This has been a fascinating discussion, and for what it’s worth I think "Conservative and Intellectual" and "wm" are quite right. There is a deep populist and anti-intellectual strain in the modern Right, one that’s been around at least since the New Deal era. It was during that time that conservatism began to separate itself from Wall Street and to appeal to midwestern populism--to farmers that didn’t like all those New York intellectuals that FDR had making policy.


Can you give us a couple examples of "the big questions" people need to ask?

I would like to hear what theological foundations you think would be shaken up by reason.

Evangelicals base much of their reason on the Bible. If you have read the Bible, could you tell us what the book is about? What do you think the central underlying theme is?

And let’s be fair to Conservatism! It is hard to condemn America for not producing a Jean Paul Sartre "the imperialists must be killed" or a Franz
Fanon "violence is a cleansing force." It seems unwise to complain that the US has not spawned a Futurist movement which romanticised war for its own sake, a Fascist or Communist "vanguard" agitating for the destruction of millions. Twentieth century trends in European thought are often pretty good arguments in favor of the common sense distrust of intellectuals which is at the core of much of American Conservatism. Primum non nocere!

On the other hand, when one considers the glories of Catholic Philosophy, Russian Orthodox mysticism, Anglican poetry and novels, Methodist hymns, etc one cannot be satisfied with Evangelical culture today.

Someone brought up art. At is a site devoted to art that may well be described as conservative. In the index is an article about modernist art and “realist” art. Below is a paragraph from that article by Fred Ross>

”But we have equally the right to say that it’s not art at all without being told that we are trying to limit their freedom of expression. Saying that we are doing that is really just a tactic they use to intimidate and suppress those with whom they don’t agree while they are actually doing what they accuse of the realists. If they can make people who don’t like their work fear being labeled as right wing extremists or “oppressors” then they have effectively silenced their opposition, in the name of freedom of expression. But for four generations, Modernist ideologues have controlled all the major museums in the free world and most of the minor ones. They control nearly every college and university art department, and their puppets and clones rule journalistic art criticism with total control. They receive all government funding, and their propaganda missives are called text books in secondary schools and college."

Awesome religous discussion.

I have a question: Does anyone who has posted consider themselves an evangelical conservative? Note from the discussions earlier distinction that being protestant is not always the same.

Believing in the Divine Inspiration of the Bible (and being "evangelical" for whatever the label may roughly imply) means that clearly reason is not sufficient for either my beliefs or life. Recently this was brought up in class when discussing Locke and reason. Apparently Locke left himself an out for things believed by faith that reason cannot totally explain. I guess though that Locke thinks that faith cannot openly contradict reason. Yet this is not enough for me because jumping in a river 7 times to heal leprosy is not just incomplete reason but totally against reason. Because of instances like this (and other miracles, revelations, etc), evangelicals are not huge fans of reason and do not believe it has all the answers.

Original sin of course is a big part of this and the belief that man is flawed and therefore his reasoning may be flawed. There are numerous opinions about how flawed it may be.

Lastly: Why is an anti-intellectual movement such a problem?

I think it’s important to remember that this thread began with the accusation that conservatives are seriously under-represented in universities because they are stupid, uneducated, or closed-minded. Somehow this discussion has equated conservatives with evangelical Christians, but I would remind all of us that there are many kinds of conservatives. I’ve met lots of Catholic and mainstream Protestant conservatives, and many that simply aren’t religious. Whether or not evangelicals are dunces (and I don’t think they are), this could not account for the SERIOUS under-representation of conservatives in the academy. The numbers are simply overwhelming, and I think it plays into Leftist hands to stress how religious fervor accounts for this "gap" in the professoriat. No doubt it plays some role, but the major explanation, I contend, is Leftist discrimination against all other worldviews.

Clint -- I think you touch on a valid point. By definition conservatives do not believe that humans possess the wisdom to "redesign" our societies or to perfect human life. Reason alone cannot accomplish this because reason is amoral (e.g., it would be reasonable to do away with the aged and infirm, it would be reasonable to utterly destroy your competition). Conservatives believe that our tried-and-true institutions need to be preserved so that human proclivities (particularly the nastier ones) are held in check. Conservatives clearly understand the need for social (moral) order.

I think this is the reason that conservatives are so under-represented in the academy: Our worldview necessarily resists liberal/leftist utopianism, which almost always entails the use of State power to tear down current institutions and rebuild them in the image guessed it, the left-liberal intelligencia. People who can’t join the "faith" are filtered out, pure and simple.

You spelled intelligentsia incorrectly, Dain. Oh the irony.


I think I see what you may be trying to get at with your post at 37. However, I would say that our society is designed by people; that’s how it comes about in the first place (as for the place of God in establishing any particular social institution, I would not care to speculate here).
I entirely agree with you that "Reason alone cannot accomplish" making society a utopia, because people are fallible and because, as you say, "reason is amoral."
However, when you talk about how "our tried-and-true institutions need to be preserved," you seem to forget that our institutions -- which include states -- have been designed by fallible people.
In addition, you talk quite correctly about how institutions keep in check the nastiness of people’s proclivities. However, wouldn’t it be the case that the use of the state for left/liberal ends, which you decry, would be an example of exactly the type of institution that is used to keep human nastiness in check? Indeed, for most of human history it was -- for better or worse -- a government (albeit aligned in those times with religion) that kept people’s behavior in check.
Now, I assume you are talking about religion as the primary conservative institution that you wish to preserve -- and which you probably consider of divine origin -- and that you probably make the assumption that the current American state is both (a) controlled by the left and (b) being used for the planned purpose of undermining the religious-based institutions such as church and marriage. I do not see adequate evidence for either of these assumptions.
I am not an apologist for the state; however, you seem to be arguing that using the rationality of the state to control human behavior is inferior to using supposedly divine commands from traditional religion -- which historically has worked in a symbiotic relationship with the state, augmenting the state’s legitimacy and using the state’s power to enforce its rules.
You seem to believe, as I do, that humans cannot be perfected. However, you also see the need, as I also do, for institutions of some kind to be used to keep imperfect, sinful behavior in check.
I have a question for you, Dain: do you decry the use of the state as a behavior-checking institution, or do you merely decry the use of the state in presumably undoing other behavior-checking institutions?
The reason I ask is related to the fact that I agree with you that it is emphatically wrong "to do away with the aged and infirm" and "to utterly destroy your competition." These sins seem, however, to be one of the results of unchecked capitalism, against which my own leftism is most focused. I do not know whether you are a laissez-faire capitalist, but if you are, that fact would be ironic given your sharing in my condemnation of people’s inhumanity toward others in the name of rational egoism, the cornerstone of laissez-faire capitalism.
Nevertheless, my larger point (and I apologize if that was a digression) is that an institution of some type is indeed needed to check human behavior, and the state has played an admittedly imperfect role in doing this. Whether behavior can be checked without any state is an issue I won’t deal with here. I do not believe the state has been -- or moreover, should be -- used to dismantle any religious institutions.
However, it seems to me that part of checking human behavior would be to keep some people from exercising undue power over others to unjustly control their behavior for the sake of the sinful nastiness of the first party (I hope that made sense). What I assume you call leftist-state dismantling of old conservative institutions (which I repeat, are also created by people) is most likely some attempt -- yes, admittedly imperfectly -- to keep Person A from unjustly controling Person B through the perversion of the conservative institution. I am not going to argue whether any particular case of this is justified (although one of the few issues I’m conservative on is abortion, on which I’m pro-life). I just wanted to open up some of the seeming contradictions in your line of thinking. I hope this helps you, and I want you to know I respect you.

(e.g., it would be reasonable to do away with the aged and infirm, it would be reasonable to utterly destroy your competition).
e aged and infirm, it would be reasonable to utterly destroy your competition). Conservatives believe that our tried-and-true institutions need to be preserved so that human proclivities (particularly the nastier ones) are held in check. Conservatives clearly understand the need for social (moral) order.

I think this is the reason that conservatives are so under-represented in the academy: Our worldview necessarily resists liberal/leftist utopianism, which almost always entails the use of State power to tear down current institutions and rebuild them in the image guessed it, the left-liberal intelligencia. People who can’t join the "faith" are filtered out, pure and simple.

Look, this started as a comment about Jake Herrera’s poorly thought out, factually inaccurate article. Let’s keep the criticism where it belongs. If Herrera is going to make the kind of broad claims he did, he should have something to back them up. So should the rest of you. So far, all I have seen is a bunch of silly attacks on religious people. Have any of you done studies on "evangelicals," or their supposed disinclination toward learning? I didn’t think so. And if we are just going to rely on opinions and anecdotes, Comment 35 looks pretty darn correct to me (even if I have fought with Dain on other strings). Conservative disinterest would explain some differences, but not the 20-to-1 ratios found at some "elite" schools.

The struggle for control of intellectual institutions has become a little frantic. A few generations ago God was the only power capable of destroying Earth. Now mankind can evaporate the atmosphere in an hour. We can keep dead people “alive”. We can alter the design of plants and animals. There are many new questions and no well known answers: No real experience with some of these miracles of invention. Universities seem to be more important now than ever in the history of humanity.

Since ancient times intellectual concepts have hovered just beyond experience. Intellectuals push the limits of new ideas while the great conversation maintains a sense of reality. Liberalism controls the conversation now, but time and experience have revealed flaws and failings. A new generation recognizes the failures and now “conservatives” realize it is time to take the reins: Students in college today are the first of this new generation, (with a few old dinosaurs to remind them of ideas that worked in the past and may still be valid today).

Then, someday, conservatism will fail to achieve perfection and another generation will take the reins.

I don’t think any measure will place conservatives in universities more quickly than better ideas and scholarly proof that liberal ideas are bankrupt. It took liberals two generations to establish control over teaching, and it will take a long time for conservatives to do the same. Lamenting the lack of conservatives in universities at this point in history is like lamenting the small number of Englishmen in America in 1670; the conservative movement is just beginning.


In response to your question, I am an "evangelical" and I also agree with the gist of what "Conservative and Intellectual" said. I have been an "evangelical" Christian for as long as I can remember, but I also recognize the general lack of of depth in this type of Christianity. I went to a Christian high school... enough said.

What books do we read? We read "Christian" books. I have to agree with the assessment: this usually means bad theology or pop-psychology with sprinkling of Scripture. We do not read great books, world-moving books, or even crappy books that everyone should read at some point (Nietzsche comes to mind).

What music do we listen to? We listen to "Christian" music. This means it is always "positive." Sometimes, this means we simply copy a "secular" song and throw in a few God-references.

Evangelicals are so determined to forget "religion" in favor of "relationship" that we essentially cut off the roots of thousands of years of Christian tradition. I have come to respect the Anglican tradition and even the Catholic tradition (despite by "evangelical" impulse to dismiss everything they say). Tears welled in my eyes in the moments after the Pope’s death: he was a great Christian man. The pastor at my "evangelical" church did not even acknowledge his passing.

In spite of my disappointments, I still consider myself an "evangelical." At the same time, I recognize the dangerous tendencies. We divide the world between "secular" and "sacred." We instinctively vote Republican because a candidate says "God" a few times. We dismiss the importance of the intellectual life. We encourage our children to get through college as fast as possible, so they can make lots of money (and of course give the 10% "tithe" to the local church).

An aside, I would say one "evangelical" who is (or at least should be) taken seriously is Francis Schaeffer. Certainly not as well known as Lewis, for example, but intellectually and theologically impressive.

Kevin -- if you have so little respect for your religious persausion then you should leave it. There are so many different kinds of Christianity available, it makes no sense to stick with one that you so clearly disrespect.

Justin -- you are putting lots of words in my mouth and making lots of assumptions about my beliefs. Actually our "tried-and-true" institutions were not "designed," they evolved through trial and error (this is even true of our government, which comes closest to a designed form of social organization). I am a social evolutionist, and I believe that time and human nature are the selection agents. You might read some of Thomas Sowell -- he has written pretty extensively on this idea. At any rate, State actions are a form of mutation, and as such they aren’t yet tested. My "beef" (and the reason I’m on the Right, for the most part) is that we have a lot of leftist politicians tinkering (and tearing down) time-tested institutions and replacing them with harebrained schemes (e.g., socialism in all its forms) that violate human nature. Yes, follow the Goddess of Reason and you get 1) the reign of Terror, 2) Stalinist Russia, 3) Maoist China, 3) Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Now I realize that religion also has its fair share of bloodbaths, but these have generally been when it has had governmental powers (e.g., the Spanish Inquisition). The bottom line is that human beings have difficulty managing their own affairs, particularly when a single vision (whether it is the Christian Right or the secular Left) comes to dominate government.

Speller Man -- what the heck dija expect from a knuckle-dragging redneck such as myself? Ah course I cant spell "intelligentsia." Dang new fangled words! I figure I needs more edumocation.

S of D -- I’m glad we had a moment of agreement. You might even find that I’m quite reasonable on the question of immigration (so long as it’s not a floodtide).

Justin: Many of these conservative institutions you refer to are not created by man. Institutions like marriage, the church, and our laws to protect life are ordained by God not created by man. God is the solidest foundation of any state. For example the God given rights in the Declaration of Independence. Institutions created by mans intellect, even "tried and true" ones, can be wrong. As an evangelical conservative, the intitutions that I want to save were generally founded by God.

Kevin: Clearly you have jumped off the wagon and left the evangelical movement in spirit if not in where you go to church (not that I’m saying that’s bad). I say this because I think you are missing something about evangelicals. The ones I know do read books that are always about religion, but they are often challenging and even critique the beliefs of Christians like Bush. We don’t dismiss intellectual life, but we realize that it is not man’s highest purpose.

Oh, I can’t stand "Christian" music. Give me some hard-core country any day.

Those Evangelicals that everyone seems so afraid or ashamed of are every bit as serious as intellectuals about maintaining a grip on reality. They are just as committed to perfecting their world (as much as possible). They pray for peace, hope for love, and hold fast to the ways that worked for their grandfathers. They want clean air and water for their children, to preserve nature that their God made, healthy food, peace with liberty, and they want to send their children to a school that does not hate their faith. They don’t change at the drop of a hat, but they do think and reason. They are reviewing the posts made on this site, testing them for reason and logic.

It is popular to bash religion these days. Many students are taught the silly concept that religion is opposed to science and intellectualism. This ignorance leads to arrogance and arrogance is dangerous ground for intellectualism.

Even a deer knows not to run blindly; there is no reason to run from one danger into another. Deer have no intellectual capacity that would impress some of the people posting here, yet their system works. Evangelicals are American Christians. Their system of Christianity, the American one, has produced a great and free nation. It worked. In the era of evangelicals water and air became cleaner, more people are freer and life got better. Evangelicals have experience to prove that they have been right. When intellectualism produces the perfect world I am sure Evangelicals will adopt intellectualism.

Well, George, I think you go "over the top" when you attribute cleaner air and water to the evangelical movement. Lots of other folks working on those problems as well, and some were on the Left (maybe most). I think we should give evangelicals their due, but not more than that.

In my view their prime importance has been to serve as a counterweight to secular humanism, a philosophy that would have us follow Reason to our doom. America has succeeded because of our innate "horse sense" (evangelicals are indeed the cows under Burke’s English oaks). When I compare that contribution to the production of intellectuals like Sontag and Chomsky, I’d definitely take the evangelicals. As Gordon Lightfoot says in one of his songs, "It’s the holy rollers I trust."


You made some good points.

I would like to clear up one thing though. I wasn’t talking about an evangelical "movement". I was talking about voters that happen to be evangelicals.I don’t think very many evangelicals know much about a movement.

I am not an evangelical, but I know some of them. They read, they are intelligent, and they are tolerant and informed. They don’t wear a sign or club jackets, but they are everywhere. They have experienced the arrogance I have seen here and their reaction was to try to understand the reasons they are belittled, and then they prayed for the people who insulted them.

If the definition of evangelical keeps shifting I am sure history can be arranged to agree with the thought that evangelicals never contributed anything to humanity.

Dear Dain: Thanks for replying to my post at 40. I apologize if I appeared to be putting words in your mouth -- as I think I mentioned, I did not know if you made several of the assumptions I talked about, but I assumed you assumed them (my bad). I did assume them based on what it seemed to me like you had said, but I admit that I read too much into your words, and I know I should not have done that.
I will do my best to keep my putting-words-in-people’s-mouths to a minimum in the future; suffice to say, again, that I was extrapolating from what you had said to what you possibly could have meant, but did not necessarily mean.
That sincere apology being made, however. I still have a friendly bone to pick with you. Your reply to me makes a distinction between institutions being formed by design and institutions evolving by trial and error. I should have mentioned -- and again, I apologize -- that I consider trial and error to be a key component of human design. Trial and error is, of course, one of the foundations of science -- rational science, for all its limitations. That’s how we design things. We wonder, "Will X work? I reason that it will for such-and-such reasons." Then we put X into practice in our institutions, and if it does not work, we try something else -- using the same (imperfect) rational analysis of the institutional practice, its flaws, and its potential substitutes that we used to examine X in the first place. If we didn’t consciously design our ideas for institutional forms in the first place, it seems to me that we would have to resort to pure randomness in what we try.
The purpose of democracy, by the way, is to get as many of us as possible to put our input and consent into the options we try. It is the input of all of us through democracy that ultimately is the only way we can try to avoid the horrors of Stalinism, Maoism, Pol Pot, etc. That does not mean that if "the people" run the state that there would be no problems, only that those problems would hopefully be minimized to an extent that would keep us from the more outrageous human-rights abuses. I would say that Stalinism et al found their own purported legitimacy on the arational acceptance of their authority, as well as on their power to kill and hurt through the state. That is why I’m glad to know you distrust any group getting too much state power. In this, I am not criticizing you so much as clarifying my own position.
By the way, I apologize for Speller Man -- some friends of mine posted that comment that you spelled "intelligentsia" wrong because they were fooling around. Anyone can make a damn spelling error, and I would never take that as evidence of any lack of intelligence on your part.
Thank you again for your honest comments and constructive criticism. I’m glad to know we have some common ground to discuss -- this is, indeed, democracy.

By the way, Dain: As far as "time and human nature [being] the selection agents" of the evolution of social institutions, I’m sorry that I guess I neglected to take that explicitly into account. However, I believe my point still stands. You yourself have said that human nature is full of nasty stuff, as I agree. How can this nasty human nature -- without the use of admittedly amoral reason -- be used to make non-nasty institutions. I suppose part of it would be the old Adam Smith invisible hand of enlightened self-interest, which I believe in as far as it goes (though no farther). However, this sort of Adam Smith thing is exactly what I mean by people making rational decisions collectively through democratic discussion of options. Human nature and reason are both amoral and very flawed. You are correct to say that human nature plays a role -- as does reason -- in social evolution. However, I am sure you would probably agree -- and I hoep I’m not putting words in your mouth again -- that human nature is no more a perfect or even a basically "good" agent for social evolution than is reason. I assume this because Conservatives believe that human nature is fallible (one of the tenents of conservative that this liberal wholeheartedly agrees with -- that’s why we have to put in check the human-nature greed of rich businesspeople running corporations, for example -- preferrably through non-state solutions, like labor-union action).
As for time, that doesn’t prove much as an agent for social evolution other than that those who have taken power have been able to hold onto their power for a long period of time, which does nothing in itself to prove the justice of an institution without the actual consent of the people affected by those institutions -- as in democracy.
Thanks again, Dain. I appreciate your help in clarifying my own thinking.

You made some good points.

I would like to clear up one thing though. I wasn’t talking about an evangelical movement. I was talking about voters that happen to be evangelicals.

Clint: Thank you very much to responding to my post. I will respond here to your response at 43. You say that "marriage, the church, and our laws to protect life are ordained by God not created by man." I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that for the most part. I have a question on your wording, and this question should help keep us both from misunderstanding each other: I very much support, as you do, what I also consider to be a God-given or a priori right to life (including for unborn children); is that what you mean by "laws to protect life"? If so, then I would have no problem with your characterization of such a right to life as of divine origin. However, if you mean that the actual law -- in terms of the codes that American society organizes itself according to, I would have to say that all actual laws are of course from people. The political institution has to pass some kind of legislation in order to make any sin into an actual societal law. Maybe I’m just splitting hairs there, and if so, I apologize. As far as marriage and the church -- I would disagree that either of those two institutions could be said to come to us directly from God. You believe they do, I believe they don’t, and neither of us has any solid, scientific proof one way or the other, so no use arguing there. I hope that doesn’t sound too relativist, because I really believe in the idea of universal morality (although not being God, I do not know every single specific rule or principle which that morality would have, and can only make what I hope are educated guesses). I, too, would like to believe that at least the most foundational rights in the Declaration of Independence have the backing of God. However, if you expect me to believe that the Declaration of Independence was divinely inspired, I must respectfully inform you that you’re talking to the wrong person. You can believe that if you wish. You are probably saying now, "But if we don’t know the Declaration and etc. were from God, how can we be sure enough of our rights?" Well, we still can believe it, and we can still fight for those rights and argue for them, and agitate for them against anyone who’d take those rights away. We believe what we believe, and although I wish I knew the answers, I’m honest enough with myself to admit that I cannot know them. This has not paralyzed me yet, though I admit sometimes I am afraid of nihilism. However, for you to make the sweeping claim that many of our social institutions were founded by the evangelical Christian God is not something that flies with me. We could argue all day about it and wouldn’t convince each other. My point is that you cannot just say, "Well, this and this was founded by God because I say so or my preacher’s interpretation of the Bible says so, so therefore we have to preserve this institutions exactly the way I want them." That’s not proof, my friend. And that IS a fact.


Comment 43 by Clint

Justin: Many of these conservative institutions you refer to are not created by man. Institutions like marriage, the church, and our laws to protect life are ordained by God not created by man. God is the solidest foundation of any state. For example the God given rights in the Declaration of Independence. Institutions created by mans intellect, even "tried and true" ones, can be wrong. As an evangelical conservative, the intitutions that I want to save were generally founded by God.

Justin...want are you trying to do, wear us down with the sheer weight of your posts? Shorter is better.

I don’t think institutions like "the family" come from God, but from the logic of human life. Some family forms (e.g., patriarchy with multiple wives) work best in pastoral settings, whereas others (e.g., the nuclear family) work best in dynamic market economies where geographic mobility is important. My complaint against liberal "innovation" is that it is generally so dumb.

By dumb I mean that liberal interventions so often view human beings as infinitely malleable and perfectable. They see the individual as needing to be "freed" from the family, from religion, from the economy, from anything that appears old and oppressive. But old and oppressive institutions aren’t always wrong or unnecessary. And "liberated" people tend to create new institutions based on "reason" that have generally proven to be doubly oppressive and ultimately unsustainable. Why? Because the ape in use longs for status and power, and we will recreate structures that service that need over and over again. The newer and untested the structure, the more likely the disaster.

The liberal view of human nature, which has been that of the "blank slate," is wrong, and attempts to redesign society that simply assume that change in social environments can perfect us have been wrongheaded. On average, women are not men, the poor are not poor simply because of evil greedy people, and religious control of sexual behavior is not "old fashioned" and "debilitating." These are necessary differences in society that accurately reflect the human condition. Liberal attempts to redesign society will recreate these controls, but without the charm (or often, the checks and balances).

Justin: Good refinement of my point. You clearly stated what i left shady. Of course the laws are man made, but the laws serve and uphold God ordained institutions. I’m glad we agree that life is God given. Biblically marriage also comes from God "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife..." (Gen 2:24). Or see Hebrews 13:4 on marriage.

The Bible calls Christ the head of the Church in Ephesians 5:23 when the Bible is comparing the Church and God to marriage. Biblically there is little doubt that these two institutions come direct from God. You do not have to accept this as truth, and then we just have to agree to disagree.

I am not conservative with laws, but i am with institutions that I believe are God ordained.

Justin: I mostly neglected your comments on the Declaration. I of course your discussion is very adequate as the question is unanswerable. For me the last sentence of the Declaration sheds a little light on the Founders’ God. Asking for his protection indicates that perhaps their God was active and maybe even revelational. But who knows, there are a lot of ways to view it.

Clint (from 43):

You said, "Clearly you have jumped off the wagon and left the evangelical movement in spirit if not in where you go to church... We don’t dismiss intellectual life, but we realize that it is not man’s highest purpose."

No, I have not jumped off the wagon. Sometimes we criticize those things we love or care about the most. When Thomas Jefferson spoke vehemently against the evils of slavery, I don’t think he was jumping off the America "wagon"; he wanted to see America live up to its potential.

In the same way (except for all of the genius that was Jefferson), I am critical of Evangelicals. I see eye-to-eye in many ways: the simplicity of the Gospel, emphasis on the person of Christ rather than mere form, etc. At the same time, I believe Evangelicals (as a whole, not speaking of individual cases) fail to love the Love the Lord with all their "mind." We are so afraid of the "wisdom of the world" (i.e. a bad interpretation of the Apostle Paul), that we close our eyes and ears to the Truth, which God has revealed all around us.

I don’t think I am anti-Christian or anti-Evangelical because I believe that the intellectual life should be pursued. I don’t think it’s the highest end, but it’s up there.

On a lighter note, you also said, "Give me some hard-core country [music] any day."

I’m sorry to hear that. I will pray for you:-)

I don’t think I am anti-Christian or anti-Evangelical because I believe that the intellectual life should be pursued. I don’t think it’s the highest end, but it’s up there.

I never meant to imply that you were. What I meant is that clearly you are not the typical evangelical. It seems to be a different type of Christianity than evangelical that you espouse, or at least something different from mainstream evangelical Christianity.

For fun, you are correct: Nothing short of a miracle will keep me from listening to country music.

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