Recovering the Soul of Conservatism

John ArmstrongPolitics

I saw the most fascinating and lively exchange between two political conservatives on C-Span Book TV last weekend. It featured Andrew Sullivan, the homosexual activist who is actually a libertarian politically, and David Brooks, the Jewish columnist for the New York Times. Brooks has an unusually keen insight into evangelicalism, as can be seen in his frequently thoughtful references to them. He is also a wonderfully nuanced political conservative of the very best sort. (He has a streak of libertarianism in his political theory thus he also wants to legalize homosexual unions!)

The televised event was sponsored by the famous Cato Institute. Brooks critiqued Andrew Sullivan’s reaction to religious conservatives and especially his new book, The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back (HarperCollins, 2006). The book addresses the recovering of the real heart and soul of conservatism, a misnamed book if there ever was one. Brooks did a masterful job of showing Andrew Sullivan why he failed to understand religious conservatism on the whole. He made several important points, especially regarding John R. Stott representing more of the deep and thoughtful evangelicalism of America than Sullivan realized.

There were three things David Brooks noted that will stand out for me for some time.

1. The conservative movement needs to leave a lot more room for honest doubt.
2. The core lesson of 9/11 was the deep impact that sin still has on human nature.
3. Conservatives need to embrace the truth of “epistemological humility” with greater undersstanding.