Heading into an election year, many feel the need to heighten the rhetoric, especially around those considered ideological conservative. The primary intentions with such a tactic seem twofold: 1) to demonize and 2) to insulate oneself by the demonization of others. Furthermore, by demonizing conservatives, some also feel a sense of validation as they “warn others” of the dangerous ideas such “evil” people spout.
Therefore, in order to bring “more light than heat,” and in a spirit of Christian charity, I offer an appeal to those who use such rhetorical methods against Christian conservatives to cease doing so. Now, let’s not confuse civility with relativity. Some situations call for rhetoric and hyperbole, but not all—and, especially when such extreme rhetoric proves absurd.
Allow me to provide some examples to strengthen my appeal.
Conservatives are “Christian Nationalists”
Some writers, Christian or not, on the more progressive side, tend to paint their more conservative opponents as “Christian Nationalists.” These “Christian Nationalists” will settle for nothing less than theocratic authoritarianism. Why? They seek to express their worldviews in the public square, a worldview that some on the progressive side see as “dangerous.” For example, opposing LGBTQ ideology, anti-racism, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and abortion. As I stated in my article, What Yields When Political And Religious Thought Converge And Conflict?, one’s worldview ought to effect one’s vote. To vote contrary to one’s worldview constitutes the definition of hypocrisy.
Faith transforms our lives. It changes the way we look at ourselves and “the world around us.” To express a political will contrary to one’s beliefs is by definition hypocrisy. If Catholics REALLY believe the Church teaches the truth about reality, they must engage the world accordingly.
The rhetorical label of “Christian Nationalist” reduces merely to a complaint that some Christians vote in accordance with their beliefs. Furthermore, one could also make the case that this sort of rhetorical attack justifies support for views and candidates diametrically opposed to Christianity. For example, supporting a pro-abortion politician because the pro-baby politicians get falsely labeled as “Christian Nationalists.”
Conservatives are ‘Fascists’
Another favorite example of extreme rhetoric is the ridiculously fallacious claim that conservatives are ‘fascists.’ Any student of history, sans ideology, knows full well the absurdity of this claim. Conservatives support less government control, not more. In 2018, future Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, released a “short summary” to explain in plain language the principles of modern American conservativism. He lists seven principles: individual freedom, limited government, rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and human dignity.
Moreover, compare these principles with the principles of fascism as defined by political scientist Robert Paxton in his essay, The Five Stages of Fascism, and the rhetorical absurdity become manifestly clear. According to Paxton, the below reflect the key aspects of fascism.
The primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether universal or individual.
The belief that one’s group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action against the group’s enemies, internal as well as external.
Dread of the group’s decadence under the corrosive effects of individualist and cosmopolitan liberalism.
Closer integration of the community within a brotherhood (fascio) whose unity and purity are forged by common conviction, if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary.
An enhanced sense of identity and belonging, in which the grandeur of the group reinforces individual self-esteem.
Authority of natural leaders (always male) throughout society, culminating in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s destiny.
The beauty of violence and of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success in a Darwinian struggle.
Clearly, with all the emphasis on “victimhood” and cancel culture from the Left, plus the use of violence to “sue for change,” these characteristics seem to align more with the modern Left than the Right. The claim of “fascism,” like the claim of “Christian Nationalism,” appears more of vapor than substance. Those on the Left may need to look into their own ideological mirror before they throw the “fascist” label around.
Conservatives are “(Insert Here)Phobic”
Conservatives, especially Christian ones, often get labeled as “(insert here)phobic.” We fear the other therefore we “hate” the other. Now, the emotional appeal of “hate” is powerful. So, too, the otherizing of those who think and act differently. Moreover, if they label conservatives as “phobic haters,” they feel justified in their actions, no matter how severe, to stop or silence them. Dialogue? Out of the question. How can dialogue occur with someone who “hates” and “fears” you or the ones you love? Some who use this sort of extreme rhetoric go so far as to absurdly claim some conservatives desire some sort of “Holocaust!” “Come on, man…”
In reality, what some progressives label as “(insert here)phobic” has nothing to do with “fear” or “hatred,” but everything to do with upholding and maintaining established Christian values. Progressives ought not expect conservative Christians to abandon their convictions concerning their values, nor should these values get absurdly interpreted as leading some kind of “Holocaust.”
Final Thoughts… And Appeal
I conclude with an appeal.
To all those who use extreme rhetoric to demonize conservatives: Please stop.
Deal with arguments, not absurd claims and personal attacks. Stop dismissing conservatives as “bigoted,” “phobic,” “fascistic,” and as “Christian Nationalists.” I understand the appeal of this sort of tactic, I do. In one fell swoop, conservatives get demonized, and some anti-Christian views you hold get justified. Such a tactic gives more heat than light. It also makes you look uninformed and opens you up to your own absurdity getting thrown back at you.
So, what do you say? Moving forward, can we just deal with the arguments and leave the extreme rhetoric alone? As an election year, 2024 will prove challenging. How about we make it less so?
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