Certainty in Uncertain Times

By Erick-Woods Erickson

I had planned to take off today and tomorrow. I am off on radio, but y’all know I write to think, etc. Sometimes it is cathartic getting stuff out of my head.

In any event, I was having a conversation the other day with a group of friends and one suggested I am less conservative now than I was. We went through all the issues. There really aren’t any issues on which I am now to the left of where I was five years ago. In fact, in a lot of cases I’m more to the right. I’m just not as partisan about it all now.

I told the friend who was pushing me particularly that it is not that I am less conservative these days. Instead, it is that I am less certain.

Perhaps had we not been through the last few years, things would be different. Today, I see a subset of conservatives pushing unionization. They think they are championing worker rights when really they’re championing higher costs, greater inefficiencies, and funding for the left. But the national populists, as they call themselves, think the best way to stick it to corporations is unionization. They haven’t put too much thought into it. But it sounds good. Unionization is a bad idea for a variety of reasons, including the anti-competitive nature of unions. Right now, we have a supply chain problem in part because the union in charge of the port of Los Angeles refuses to implement 24 hour logistics.

Then there is the free market. It has been remarkable watching pro-free market Republicans turn on a dime because Donald Trump was not. I still think free markets and free people are good things. Many of the people I long respected suddenly abandoned their convictions to get a seat at Donald Trump’s table.

Frankly, that is why some people think I’m not a conservative right now. They and their institutions abandoned long held ideas to get seats at the table. I still believe small and limited government, free markets, right-to-work, pro-life, pro-family policies are the best policies. Disappointingly, many of them do too, but now prefer not to say so.

So I’m as conservative as I’ve always been, but less certain of the convictions of those around me who so easily have turned based on prevailing power structures. It isn’t just those who gave up to get a seat at Trump’s table. There are plenty of people who are diametrically opposed to positions they had for years all because Donald Trump shared the positions.

The media treats us daily to a parade of Republicans who now tell us we must vote Democrat. In fact, did you know if you do not now abandon your convictions and support Democrats that you are complicit in undermining American democracy? It should be possible to not be keen on Trump, but also take a Let’s Go Brandon position. In the real world it is, but in the media world it is not.

Seeing people I’ve known a long time go all in for Democrats because they want access to TV or just plain old hate their old side is as disappointing as seeing people redefine what it means to be conservative because they’re now not, but have made too much money off the conservative movement to give up the label “conservative.” I has presumed a large array of these people were less shallow and less bitter than they actually are.

I’m still here where I was. That, I suppose, makes me supremely conservative. I’m just not willing to change my convictions because of prevailing power structures or the needs for media access.

It does, however, require me to listen more to others and to presume that I can learn from and be persuaded by others. Earlier this year, I talked to Tim Keller, the theologian. He made a great point. He said because everyone is made in God’s image, we should be able to listen to people and gain some insight. We may not agree with those people, but we should not be dismissive.

Over the past decade, I can think of only a small handful of issues on which I am truly different now from where I was ten years ago. None are really big issues related to philosophy, conservatism, or the way the world works. In some, I’m more strident than I was, i.e. Biblical sexual ethics.

But I also now am more and more certain of only one thing — Christ’s resurrection. Friends drift all over in ideas and values and lives. I think I have to be far more gracious to be friends with those who, in these turbulent times, arrive at different conclusions than me. It would speak poorly of me and of you if we abandoned friendships because our friends, in these extraordinary times, arrived at different conclusions. None of us have lived through such discombobulating times.

I dare say the certainty of the cross should make us less certain in these other areas. We’re all sinners. We’re all going to screw up. That doesn’t require a change in political philosophy. It just requires us all to exercise more grace and more humility that maybe we don’t have all the answers, but Jesus does.

Also, Columbus is worth celebrating, so Happy Columbus Day.

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