Sunday, February 10, 2008

Irreduceable Simplicity

“We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you.”
II Corinthians 1:12 (New Living Translation)

There’s been much talk about the impact “values voters” have had in Mike Huckabee’s success in these presidential primaries. Most media experts who dissect the Huckabee phenomenon assume that his appeal is to a small band of narrow minded religious fanatics. It’s been a consistent anti-Huckabee bias ever since he launched his campaign.

Nowhere is this bias more evident than in the line of questioning the governor has been subjected to – his skepticism about the scientific mantra of our time: evolution. He’s been asked to clarify his beliefs in this area more often than he has been asked his views about taxes, the War on Terror, or national defense. His answer has been as consistent as the question has been persistent. God created the heavens and the earth. He could have done it six billion years ago. He could have used whatever process He cared to. But, whatever the process, the governor is convinced that everything we see in creation is not a matter of time and blind chance.

So do I!

Like many of Mike Huckabee’s supporters I’ve been called a “values voter.” While I should be flattered by the designation, I’ve come to see that the term has become a 21sst century euphemism masking the vitriol behind the words. When the term is used these days the inner image being conveyed is all too often that of an unenlightened, uneducated buffoon. I think you understand what I’m trying to say. The current, trendy image of the “values voter” is the guy who believes the world is flat, was created six thousand years ago, eats squirrels for dinner, and walks around like a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal.

There was a time when I winced every time I heard the term, knowing the venom behind the words. But I don’t any more. I’ve been proven a fool by far better than my political and philosophical critics. Many times in my life I’ve had to utter these words in silence - “O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you.” I’ve lived long enough to accept the fact that I have from time to time played the fool. I suspect that many of Governor Huckabee’s critics, and mine, are young and haven’t had the time to explore their own foolishness and vanity. Perhaps experience, and a reading or two of the second chapter of Ecclesiastes, might change that.

One of the things the pundits and critics fail to see is that we are all “values voters” at heart. Barack Obama supporters are “values voters.” So are Hillary Clinton’s. They tend to believe that we need a social order in which wealth is redistributed and class distinctions are broken down. That’s what makes issues like government funded health care and re-instituting higher tax rates on the wealthy so important to them. They believe we should be pulling our troops out of Iraq, not because they have no values, but precisely because they believe in the idea that America has become an international pariah because of our misadventures since the 2003 invasion.

I don’t share many of the values of the Democratic Party, but it would be foolish for me to believe that their views are value neutral.

The same holds true for John McCain, Mitt Romney, or Ron Paul supporters. They send money, make appeals to their friends and neighbors, or conduct water cooler debates on the merits of their candidate versus those of their work mates. They do so because they share common windows on the world.

These values, when calculated by individual, constitute a worldview, a prism through which we all view the world. Mike Huckabee’s prism is his Christian faith. So is mine. It is my window on the world. As C.S. Lewis, the Christian apologist and “apostle to the skeptics once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

How does my worldview play itself out in practical terms? It begins, and ends, with my faith in God. So, for example, when a Darwinist tells me that everything I believe in is nothing more than blind chance plus time I look at the world around me. Each year, in the early fall for example, hundreds of monarch butterflies begin to congregate on the butterfly bush that clings to my back porch. They stay for a while, and my wife and I are treated to days and days of beauty floating around. The colors, the patterns, the delicate, gossamer wings are all cause for amazement. Then, at the appointed time, these wispy visitors take wing, traveling over a thousand miles to Mexico. Once their journeys are completed they congregate by the millions, casting a scene of incredible beauty across a grove of trees, lighting up the Mexican landscape. Each time I see the process begin to unfold as they depart from the Flint Hills of Kansas, I find it impossible to believe that their pilgrimages are just matters of time and chance. The Darwinists can explain it however they wish. I see it all as the hand of God, filled with beauty and mystery, revealing to me that neither I, nor the butterflies, are products of time plus chance. What possible survival instinct would be satisfied with such a long and arduous flight? Why would something so delicate do something so counter-intuitive? When did the first journey take place, and how many undertook it? I ask the questions and there are no scientific answers that satisfy.

Almost always when I consider the mysteries unfolding around me I’m also reminded of my own humanity and frailty. I am not the sum off all things, as humanists would have me believe. I see the mysteries and, like Job, I must conclude that the workings of this world are not dependent on my superior wisdom:

“Is it your wisdom that makes the hawk soar and spread its wings toward the south?Is it at your command that the eagle rises to the heights to make its nest?”

As I consider these things I also consider my place in the world. Where do I fit? What do I believe? What role should I play in this great drama?

I’ve answered that question in part at the introduction to this post. I am compelled by faith to conduct myself honorably in this world. I am, as much as is possible, to live in peace and harmony with all men. This is the core of who I am.

How does this faith play itself out in terms of political philosophy? I am a conservative.

In his masterwork, The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk outlined six basic tenants of conservative belief. There are two that are noteworthy for me as I consider how my religious faith works itself out in political terms. The first canon is “Belief in a transcendent order, or a body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.” The second canon is “Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.”

My thinking has changed over the years. I’ve had a long time to consider my life and what I believe. In my formative years I considered myself a New England liberal. While the roots of altruism still remain, my worldview has evolved over time. I am, today, a Kansas Flint Hills conservative. Winston Churchill once observed that if “you’re young and not liberal you have no heart; if you’re older and not conservative you have no mind.” I am living proof to the truth of that statement.

Do I live my faith out as consistently as I, or my critics, would like? No! Are there blind spots in my political philosophy? Without a doubt! I share these frailties with friend a foe alike.

It would do well for those who debase the public square with epithets and labels to examine their own lives and worldviews. Perhaps they’d discover that folks like Mike Huckabee and supporters like me are not as foolish as they’ve led others to believe.


Darren said...

Best column I've read in a long while. Keep up the good work!

StormWarning said...

Unquestionably irreducible, or irreducibly, and I might add, amazingly simple.