Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Tomorrow's Republicans

Just read an article in an older copy of the New Yorker. And I realized how dramatically the political landscape was changing. It seemed to me that these young men and women (mainly men) were the future of the Republican party--and that their prominence is something that George Bush will come to regret.

First of all, I have never bought Bush as a religious conservative--despite the Left's attempts to smear him as one and the Right's attempts to claim him as one. He just doesn't have the right profile. I do believe that he has been significantly influenced by his adulthood conversion--and that he believes God has played an important part in his life. More importantly, it seems Bush has accepted most of the "founding myths" of the evangelical movement in America. He believes in a very personal God who acts directly in the world and in his life. He believes that his faith (understood practically to mean his intention) is more important than his works. He believes that evil is plain, and that God directs him to see it. He believes that we all participate in a great battle between Good and Evil. In general, with regard to the more specific aspects of mainstream evangelical beliefs, it seems to me that he accepts them and does not seek to contradict them, though he does not especially believe them. Following that, it seems there are a number of areas in which Bush consistently overlooks or disagrees with aspects of evangelicalism: homosexuality, divorce, the duty to evangelize, and perhaps abortion. Most significantly, the one belief that I see as at the heart of many of the religiously conservative movements of modern times is the belief that we are in the End Times. It does not seem to me that Bush accepts this. All of this is my conjecture, based on reading several biographies of Bush and, by this point, tens of thousands of articles. I think it would prove rather accurate.

At the same time as Bush does not seem especially religious, he has certainly empowered a number of people who are. Though he may not be one himself, he is held up as an example of a "true believer". And his politics have moved politics to favor the true believers over their doubting colleagues. The heart of the modern world is skepticism; and evangelicals are part of a growing worldwide movement to answer skepticism with unyielding belief. When liberal critics equate Islamic extremists to Christian evangelicals, they go too far. But both movements share a common rejection of modern skepticism. And more a rejection of the general ordering of the world today--neither are truly conservative; instead they are radical. They are also the future--not the entire future, but an increasing part of it. Alternatives to accepting uncertainty as a part of life will continue to grow in prominence until a new understanding of human existence and meaning is proposed. Instead, the reaction of those too afraid of uncertainty to try to understand their existence as it is will embrace a radical rejection of it--building elaborate mythologies to explain their particular dilemma.

These believers are of the left and of the right. Sartre once explained that in order to create meaning in one's life, one needed to dedicate one's self to a project. He chose Communism. The evangelical and Islamist movements both grasped this essential truth about the search for meaning in a world founded on skepticism. They chose their religions. And refuse to acknowledge the void which drives them to blind belief exists. But like the desert that the young Kafka must cross in Haruki Murakami's recent novel, Kafka on the Shore, it does exist, even if only in our minds.

These men and women are the new Republicans--who reject progress because progress would indicate that they do not know everything. They are the "true believers".

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