On the Issues: Matters of Conscience

Do conservative Republicans have a conscience? Progressive Democrats seem to think not. They accuse conservative Republicans who question the status quo about illegal immigration of being all sorts of things: heartless, callow, dispassionate, greedy, selfish, inconsiderate, and unfeeling. The list of words used in ad hominem attacks goes on and on.

This sort of behavior was demonstrated at the January 11th McLean County Board meeting when a resolution to prevent the use of McLean County taxpayer funds to support undocumented immigrants (who might be dumped in our county by passing buses) was brought up by Republican Chuck Erickson. (Click on the title above to continue reading if necessary.)

During public comment, Mr. Erickson was viciously accused by the progressive Left of being racist, xenophobic, and unchristian. Chuck was not allowed to defend his proposal, which was not read aloud before the vote. The resolution was summarily voted down 13 to 7 in a Board equally split 50/50 Republican-to-Democrat. Three “moderate” Republicans joined ten progressive Democrats in voting against Erickson’s proposal.

I assure you that Chuck Erickson has a conscience. I disagree with any characterization that suggests otherwise. It’s just that conservative Republicans have a different understanding of what conscience is and how it operates. Conservatives also hold to different values in relation to perceived duties to God, country, families, and our fellow man. We see things quite differently from our progressive peers when it comes to matters of public schools, immigration, crime, gun control, the economy, social welfare, transgendersim, abortion, gay marriage, schools, and a myriad of other issues.

Conscience is an internal forum that allows individuals to distinguish right from wrong and good from evil. An informed conscience makes decisions based on fact and reason rather than emotion or appeals to authority. The conservative conscience is the antithesis of progressive groupthink, in which distinctions are based on an idea relative to society rather than the individual.

A well-informed and properly utilized conscience is essential to human morality. To the extent that we as a community fail to inform and use our consciences and rely on emotions, both individuals and society suffer. A conscientious citizen observes the world, judges right from wrong based on objective standards, and acts accordingly. This is what conservative Republicans try to do.

In recent times, progressives have expended considerable effort trying to promote the belief that conservatives are the enemies of conscience and little more than selfish, self-absorbed fools who are greedy and hard of heart – modern-day Scrooges. They would have others believe that conservatives are morally impure despite a veneer of compassion. I beg to point out that conservative behavior should not be confused with mere enlightened selfishness. Additionally, it’s not to be confused with some nebulous concept of social responsibility unrelated to personal integrity and duty.

Conservatives credit the proper use of conscience for the good that has come down to us from traditional institutions such as the Church and the state. This entails appropriately understanding religious duty and reliance on legitimate government – where rights are enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As a result, progressives sometimes speak about conservatives as “clinging to their Bibles and their guns.” Does this sound familiar?

Progressives believe that everyone should be subject to some sort of collective social conscience, which, in reality, does not exist. The progressive Left often denies moral obligations to God while professing a nebulous collective responsibility to our fellow man. In addition, some of the progressive Left who quote Sacred Scripture to make a political point are also the first to cry, “My body, my choice,” and promote the LGBTQ+ agenda – both of which are condemned in the Bible. They sometimes twist the words and meaning of Scripture for virtue signaling when they do little more than demonstrate false compassion. Conservatives should be wary of such arguments and be careful not to take lessons in morality from progressives.

Society can be no better than the private convictions of those who make it up. Those without private convictions are unlikely to adhere to social obligations, regardless of the source. Progressives often place on government and their fellow citizens the things that the Bible prescribes for the individual. We saw all this at the January 11th meeting of the McLean County Board.

Several opponents quoted from the Bible to score political points, citing quotes I addressed in my earlier On the Issues column, Illegal Immigration. With the ad hominem attacks targeting Mr. Erickson, it was almost as though the complainants’ eyes were opened, and they alone could distinguish good from evil. Somehow, these people purported to “know the truth” without citing the facts in the case. This seems virtually biblical (c.f., Genesis 3:5).

Both sides of the political divide can quote the Bible to their political ends, but I don’t recommend it. For instance, “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left” (Ecclesiastes 10:2, NIV). Also, these following words by the Apostle Paul have an ominously familiar ring, “…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15, NASB).

There are not two consciences: one for dealing with individuals we know and interact with, and another for use with society, which is a collection of individuals. Thinking conservatives believe that when one’s conscience becomes impersonalized, institutionalized, or the product of a government entity, behaviors based on the obligations of conscience fall flat.

Radicals who deny the role of private conscience will often rely on the concept of social conscience, suggesting that somehow individuals will feel morally obligated to comply with groupthink that obliges us, the advantaged, to help the disadvantaged, but this is no improvement over the concept of a private and personal conscious.  Concepts of social conscience inspire; they do not compel.

Many who speak vaingloriously of social conscience often exempt themselves from personal duties and responsibilities concerning their fellow man. They point to the role of collective responsibility managed by the government rather than the private conscience and the individual. When conscience becomes depersonalized, it ceases to be conscience at all. We must overcome this depersonalization of conscience by returning to the belief that we are responsible to God and our fellow humans rather than some abstract societal obligation.

Thinking conservatives have and employ consciences because they place God and persons above ideals. Conservative Republicans are charitable and just because they know they have moral obligations to God and our fellow man. We will hold ourselves personally accountable to the dictates of conscience. The way to a guilt-free conscience is through personal acts of charity, not through some impersonalized function related to government through taxation, social services, and profligate welfare.

While there are selfish and heartless conservatives, just like there are selfish and heartless progressives – all of whom value self over others – the vast majority of thinking conservatives see duties toward God and responsibilities for their fellow man as the basis of proper value and action. We are not like those who operate under a social umbrella and say, “Rules for thee but not for me.”

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