Jan 18, 2007

A Convert's Lament

I just finished Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" and feel compelled to write about the painful consequence of my political and religious conversion. I feel I have discovered some great truths – and having done so, I have joined a group for whom many feel contempt, if not hatred.

To quote Chesterton:

"All those vague theosophical minds for whom the universe is an immense melting-pot are exactly the minds which shrink instinctively from that earthquake saying of our Gospels, which declare that the Son of God came not with peace but with a sundering sword. The saying rings entirely true even considered as what it obviously is; the statement that any man who preaches real-love is bound to beget hate. It is as true of democratic fraternity as a divine love; sham love ends in compromise and common philosophy; but real love has always ended in bloodshed."

That pretty well sums up the current state of our nation's politics and our world's values, doesn't it? Sundered.

The split is painfully apparent every time I pick up the newspaper or listen to talk radio; it is even more acute at social occasions and discussions with friends. So, here is my post-mortem on a recent conversation.

I have a friend who is searching and feels she must abandon the Democrat party over its hostility to family values. She says she can't be a Republican because of the environmental issues. But, our conversation leads me to believe it is much more than that. I was sharing with her that I was very much to the left politically until recently, at which point our discussion was joined by another women with whom I was unfamiliar. She was obviously hostile to conservatives as she asked me "how conservative are you?" To which I answered, "I'm a committed conservative." I don't know how it even came up but the both of them turned to me and said "There were no WMDs." They said this with an absolutism that was frankly shocking. I turned to address my friend and said "What about the photos of the gassed villages in Kurdistan?" She responded "Those photos were doctored". I said, "But those photos were from long before the Iraq war and that gas was a WMD". To which the other woman responded "That was mustard gas that lots of people have and we don't go after them."

Where to begin?! Let me first say, I was cynical enough about our government that I claimed from the very start of the war that we would "find" WMDs! I honestly thought that the Bush administration had emphasized the WMD issue enough that the CIA would plant the WMDs in Iraq if none were found so that America's image would be salvaged. The fact that we haven’t found any (not entirely an accurate statement) has been evidence to me of the Bush administration's honesty and integrity. But, not evidence enough to my friend and clearly not to anyone to the left of her. If the government could (and would dare) doctor photos of mass killings, why would it not plant WMDs to save itself from such enormous controversy at a historic moment?

It became apparent to me that we weren't talking about WMD and the Iraq war. Why are we still debating what got us into the war in the first place? My friend and the other woman were telling me what they think of Republicans and conservatives in general and what they believe about the Bush administration in particular. This will be a familiar litany to most of us who have any exposure to the mainstream culture. Republicans are liars, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic, racist, and religious zealots. Ouch.

That hurts personally, not because it is true, but because I just finished telling my friend that I used to be on the left. I was one of you. That buys you nothing with the dogmatic left. Repeat the litany and you don't have to debate the issues. I've decided the next time I get into one of these senseless debates, my response is going to be "If we can't agree on the facts, we have nothing to discuss." In other words, you're calling me a liar and I can't get past that with you.

Here's one more name that the left would like to attribute to us conservatives. We're "close-minded". I find that one really laughable, given my complete conversion. Who is more open-minded, the one who has been a lifelong Democrat or the one who changed from a leftist ideology to a conservative one?

I have been seeking the truth and found it only after considering that I might have been wrong and that people of the past and present might have something to teach me. I've learned that I don't have to follow others off the cliff to find wisdom, but I also don't have to start with only my own ideas. I don't feel that my liberal friends are evil – just wrong. I wish they could say the same of me, but I am unwilling to deny the truth to rejoin the immense melting-pot to which Chesterton refers.