Two Republican Movements:
In decades past the Republican Party used to be home to both social and fiscal conservatism. However, during the most recent decade there has been a movement by establishment Republicans away from Christian values such as the sanctity of marriage and drawing closer towards Secular-liberal values. It is important to note that with each step away from socially conservative values there has been, at the same time, a step towards Big Government programs. Both of these movements are not only concurrent but they are inseparably related. Historically, as Christian morality waned, the State waxed strong! Perhaps this accounts for the concerns the Tea Party has with the direction the Republican Party has taken. And no doubt, these concerns have given rise to a tension between the Tea Party Republicans and the establishment Republicans.
Establishment Republicans are politicians that are deferential to the mainstream media and are less socially conservative than traditional Christians are. They care about what Democrats, the media, academia and even Hollywood think of them. This is why when they are interviewed by David Gregory at Meet the Press, Bob Schieffer at Face the Nation or Matt Lauer at Today, they act like polite and docile candidates at a job interview. These establishment-types rarely take the media to task face to face. More often than not, they cower from challenging the news anchors and the ideology they operate under.
These Republicans also hold on to some semblance of conservatism but what drives them more than principle is political expediency. As I understand it, the question they ask themselves is not what is right or wrong, but what will work politically and what will advance the team. For them, not being a team player is a mortal sin. In other words, principles can be compromised but the will of the Republican establishment is inviolable. However, what is most disturbing about the Republican establishment is that they are being absorbed by Secular-liberalism. As rivers follow the path of least resistance so too do political currents; it is always shifting to the Left because it is the easier course.
Tea Party Agenda:
The Tea Party, on the other hand, did not originate in the political world of Washington, D.C. And to be sure, it does not breathe the same air as these career politicians. To make a long story short, what the Tea Party wants to do is bring a little bit of American pie to Washington; that is to say, their agenda is to bring the very principles which made the United States of America to Capitol Hill and if possible, to the White House as well. They are not concerned with the Republican Party per say. What they are attempted to do is to use the Republican Party to advance both social and fiscal conservative values and principles. The ever increasing movement towards Big Government program is an abomination to them.
Political Movements Favor the Left:
In order to slow down the Republican Establishment’s propensity to the Left, that is, to Secular-liberalism, it is important to know why this tendency exists to begin with and what had been found to stop it in the past. Secular-liberalism can be rightly characterized as a way of life which, like a river, follows the course of least resistance. This, no doubt, is a tendency of fallen human nature. Anything having anything to do with sacrifice, suffering or pain for the supporter of liberalism is, generally speaking, worthy of condemnation. Take your pick: abstinence, just war, corporeal punishment, keeping a baby conceived out-of-wedlock, stay-at-home motherhood, the uncertainty of a free market and moral absolutes in general are discouraged if not condemned.
Another offense to this ideology is inequality or the hierarchy of social status, religious truth or moral values. From this comes an aversion to any distinction between what is superior to that which is inferior. For instance, the Holy Trinity over false gods, truth over error, good over evil, friend over foe, success over failure, privilege over loss and merit over blame are contrasts which are deeply offensive to the Secular-liberal worldview.
In the end, if this political current is left unchecked, the ideals of sacrifice and suffering as well as the distinction between winners and losers will be seriously compromised.
Liberalism and Fallen Human Nature:
You see, while the Christian religion has grace on its side, Secular-liberalism has fallen human nature on theirs. But what does Conservatism have on its side? It relies principally on ideas. But ideas, more often than not, end up being shaped by desires, habits, lifestyles and bias. As such, ideas, without the support of religion, are rarely fixed or permanent. Indeed, it is the weakness of human nature to adapt our beliefs according to our ever changing habits rather than to conform our behaviors to absolute truths. This is why there have been many Conservatives lamenting that Conservatism is being redefined. It is said that its core beliefs are gradually being pushed to the Left. For that reason alone, conservative ideas are not enough to save America.
If you peel back the political layers, what we find is the rarely mentioned doctrine of Original Sin at work. You can say that the pleasures of the flesh, the love for convenience and subtle forms of narcissism are products of fallen human nature and that these natural inclinations keep the political currents moving “leftward.” This is why Secular-liberalism has the advantage over Conservatism; the strong tendency of fallen human nature favors it.
These leftward currents will continue to flow if there is not some kind of outside intervention to arrest and redirect it. In times past that outside intervention has been Christianity. Even if the Tea Party were to assume power in Washington, D.C., it too would eventually move towards the principles of Secular-liberalism if it did not invoke divine grace as a kind of anchor. Indeed, the preservation of liberty, progress and political prosperity is a stern discipline. It is based on the truth about God and human nature, but it also requires God’s grace to compensate for human weakness. It is important to remember that these blessings do not come naturally. They don’t just happen. Man must cooperate with God through the obedience of faith.
Diametrically Opposed Principles:
Alexis de Tocqueville said that the value of religion lies in its ability to offer diametrically opposed principles to any given nation. Without a check and balance and without an outside standard to gauge that which is good and evil, a nation will inevitably get lost because of its own biases and blind spots. G.K. Chesterton once said that the world needs the Church the most, not when it is right but when it is wrong! Just as an undisciplined child inevitably becomes intolerable, so too does a people become intolerable when it ceases to be corrected by a standard outside of itself.
Christ said without me you can do nothing. Many Conservatives and many Republicans may give some credence to our Lord’s claim as private citizens, but in so far as it pertains to the world of politics, most of them disregard it entirely. Yet, when Jesus said “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what if God’s,” what many politicians fail to take into consideration is that Caesar belongs to God too. This is why in the first millennium of the Christian era Catholic missionaries (i.e. bishops, priests and monks) would preach the Gospel to kings, princes and leaders of nations before they preached the Gospel to the people. With this strategy, not only did the light of Christ diffuse more rapidly throughout the land, their citizens benefited from a political rule which was tempered by God’s law.
The annals of world history tell us that freedom was the exception, not the rule. Political tyranny, instead, was the norm until Christianity came along. Therefore, liberty and progress will be better guaranteed when rulers and citizens embrace the Gospel.
In the meantime, the Republican Establishment will continue to gravitate to the political Left while the Tea Party continues to hang to whatever traditional values it can. As the two factions scrimmage over political territory, perhaps the Catholic Church should revisit an ancient missionary practice: Preach the Gospel directly to the politicians and call on them to accept Christ! After all, it is his life, his grace and his law that is the remedy to our political malaise.