I am a conservative. I am a conservative in religion, politics, family values, and even fashion. I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, prefer less government to more government, believe marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life, and believe men should never be allowed to wear open-toed sandals. I am by all accounts, a conservative. I don’t wear it is a badge of honor or as my identity. I am happy to move from any position I hold if convinced by a contrary argument, whether it is considered a liberal, moderate, or conservative position (though, you will never convince me that men should show their hairy toes in public). However, having said this, I find that I am usually one of the more conservative people in any given room. This has led me to watch and observe others who tend to lean conservative. There are two cautions that I would offer to myself and others who tend to be consistently conservative.
First, conservatives shouldn’t get nervous when someone is to their right in thought, ideology, or position. Young conservatives seem especially prone to this anxiety; as if there is something wrong with not holding the most extreme conservative position on any given issue. When some conservatives find a position to the right of their current conviction, they feel compelled to move with wild abandon to this more conservative belief. My friends, the furthest right position is not always the right position. This is true in theology, politics, family values, and “yes,” even fashion.
Second, conservatives have to work harder at getting their points across, because rightly or wrongly, we are often considered to be “cranks.” There is almost something natural in concluding that someone to the right of us is harsh, uncaring, and judgmental. Sometimes it is warranted, but often it isn’t. However, this perception is common.
Therefore, if I want my point of view to be heard as a conservative, I need to be more careful than others with how I express it. Now don’t get nervous! This isn’t motivated by “fear of man” or worry about offending. Rather, it is motivated by the goal we have in expressing that opinion. A good conservative shouldn’t want to express their view just to express their view. Rather, the goal is that others might hear the point and hopefully being convinced by it. Therefore, in most circumstances my conservative voice needs to be overly gracious, winsome, and careful. As the proverb says, “He who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as a friend” (Prov. 22:1). Or as the writer of Ecclesiastes stated, “The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor” (Ecc. 10:12). How do you speak the truth with grace and winsomeness? I don’t know that we can give a ten-step “how to” list, but we all know when we have seen it done well.
Having said all of this, it doesn’t mean we need to pander, shrink, flatter, or be apologetic. In no way does it mean that we shy away from our convictions, refrain from speaking, or pressing our beliefs in conversation, print, or meetings. It just means that we need to be careful and thoughtful about how we do it in order that the message itself is not lost by throwing unnecessary impediments into the way of its hearing.
At the very least, these cautions are what this lone conservative thinks are helpful considerations. But sometimes, I am just not very gracious or winsome. I can be a crank. At times, I gladly run to the most extreme conservative position and it is warranted. On that note, men, cover up those nasty, hairy, big, sweaty feet of yours. Socks were invented for a reason!