Written by Stephen Halley
A few weeks ago, my twin brother, girlfriend and I went to a cookout and meeting with one of the many campus ministry groups. We didn’t know anybody there, so our conversations stayed between the three of us. My brother and I talked about many things, all related to religion and politics. We discussed the future of this movement we were a part of, how it was, at best, fractured and stagnant. We took solace in the idea that, while small, this movement has dedicants able to carry forward, long after we had a place inside of it. Throughout this conversation, my brother kept mentioning this mission he was on. I inquired on it and he grew soft spoken and unwilling to share. After pressing him further, I would see a view of our movement unlike any I had seen before. His mission was a mission from God, a purpose which breathes life into every action, decision, and thought he makes on a day to day basis. I believe that our movement must take a few pages from this book and grow to embody this mission through three simple virtues: faithfulness, goodness, and gentleness.
In Victory or Defeat
When it comes to winning, conservatives don’t exactly have the best track record. We have given up academia, Hollywood, medicine, science, corporations, etc. all to the left over the past fifty years. The only major American institutions that still hold to conservatism are religious institutions, and even in those we are starting to lose ground. Many of us look at the situation hopelessly. When every weapon of power from every institution is aimed at your ideology in particular, despair really is the only rational response. Any effort to route this course by our Republican politicians or pundits on TV has been half-hearted, unsuccessful, or incompetent. I think that the greatest encapsulation of mainstream conservatism came from commentator Michael Knowles, “‘If the roles were reversed’ will be the epitaph on the grave of conservatism.” He’s right, the only attack that our politicians seem to make are vague slogans calling the left out on hypocrisy, and that’s about it. Why this happened and how we got here are other topics I have rather strong opinions on, but they are not what I want to talk about here. I want to tell you how we are going to get out of this.
In my mind, the strongest motivator for any movement is the faith that adherents have for their movement. I describe this as a religious faith in which there is no other alternative than the ends the adherent wishes to see. If adherents have perfect faith, they will never waver nor falter and the movement will continue to live on. If the adherent has a half-hearted or misplaced faith, the movement will die just as soon as the faith runs out. This is why I can’t say that climate activists don’t believe what they are saying and just want to see us suffer. If this were the case, the movement would have died, because nobody can commit to something they don’t truly believe in. It is no surprise that the conservative movement is starting to have these issues with faith. We see a continuous loss of conservative values as debauchery and liberalism takes over every institution of this great country. When the losses are so great, how can we ever see victory? The truth of the matter is that this narrative is false. While it is so easy to feel defeated, you couldn’t possibly be further from defeat. This movement is specifically a Christian movement. It is one founded on principles of faith, derived from the Word of God, and exists due to good, God-fearing men and women, and we cannot take this lightly. If we believe in the truths of the Word that breathes life into our movement, we cannot lose. That’s how the Bible ends after all: the Beast, the Serpent, and the Deceiver are all cast into the lake of fire, Christ comes back, and the new kingdom of God is born. Victory is foretold and there is no way around that. Whether we win or lose on x, y, or z issue today, doesn’t matter because we can take heart in the knowledge that the day is already won, and there is nothing that will change that. My call to all Conservative students is that we can take perfect faith in the Word that breathes our movement. That the ideals espoused by this Word are perfect in every way and need no debate, defense, or demonstration to be accepted as true. That in the end, they will win out in the coming age of the Kingdom of God. And lastly, that in this day, we can take heart in this knowledge and move forward knowing that our opponents can do nothing to hurt us in the eyes of the One who sent us. Let us fight with the fervor and certainty of the Israelites marching on Jericho. Yesterday’s battle may be lost and today’s still to be won, but take heart, for tomorrow’s is already guaranteed.
The Devil’s Cocaine
This last idea relates to something I know we have all felt for the state of the Conservative movement: anger. It is so easy to become enraged with the way things are. Trust me; I know. In every single class I have taken as a part of my majors, there has been some comment or idea made specifically against my religion or ideology that simply wouldn’t have been made about another. Sometimes it goes so bad that professors reluctantly give in to my request that another assignment be given to me, because the one assigned would force me to betray my religious beliefs. This always happens after a good deal of questioning someone from another faith wouldn’t have had. I’ve been angry with these professors, and I can tell you, it’s not good.
Being angry takes away from our faculties to reason with what is going on around us. It causes our view to become distorted. Frankly, it makes us believe that the only way forward is a giant middle finger in the other direction. To be clear, giant middle fingers are not the most effective way to lead a movement. I can’t stress enough just how dangerous this is. Conservative commentator and personal hero of mine, Andrew Klavan, refers to anger as “the Devil’s Cocaine,” because of its ability to take over our minds. The Devil doesn’t care who we are angry at or what we are angry about, he just wants us angry. Because when we are angry, we do stupid stuff.
Look, you have every right to be angry. Our enemies want to mutilate children, kill babies, let murderers and rapists out of prison, and destroy American supremacy, and somehow, I got through that entire sentence without a hint of hyperbole. You have every right to be upset. But you can’t. If you do, the rashness of your emotions will take over and you will do something stupid. And I don’t mean angry as having some outburst in front of the class, nobody does that. I mean letting those words settle in and distract you from the greater point of what’s going on. When a professor or classmate says something demeaning or incorrect about your beliefs, you can bite your tongue or hold your breath, but you can’t get angry. You can talk it out later—hell, come write an article for the Carolina Review about it, but no matter what you do, don’t get angry. If we want this movement to grow and expand, we cannot give the Devil a foothold he so desperately needs. If we want to properly and effectively lead this movement, we must be of sound mind and not allow the troubles of this world distract us from what needs to be done.
As this movement grows, I want us to be aware of these two virtues: faith and patience. I want us to look at how we are representing ourselves and the decisions we are making, to take stock of our faith in the movement and our emotions from the world. Maintaining a level head is key to the success of this work and we have such a great opportunity to form it. We will not be perfect at either of these, but with time, we can develop the mental skills needed to maintain the faith and clarity required for the success of our movement. This is what our mission should be. God placed us here for a reason and to fulfill that we need to maintain these ideas
And to the quiet Conservative who may be stumbling into this magazine for the first time. I implore you to keep these ideas in mind. The professors and students of this university and the rest of the world will mock, deride, and marginalize you. Do not lose heart at this reality, and keep your head on straight. You believe in and follow a movement which will not fail so long as God resides at the heart of it. There is no need to fear the future nor get angry with the present.