Monday, January 9, 2012

The Tragedy Of American Compassion & Misplaced Arrogance

Allthough Ron Paul's senior advisor Doug Wead might have been the first to use the phrase compassionate conservatism, it's the communitarian coalition behind George W. Bush that gave the phrase it's meaning. A quote by former Dutch prime-minister Jan-Peter Balkenende last october at Calvin Theological Seminary, where he received the Bavinck Prize(!) is a short definition of compassionate conservatism:
"Bitter experience has taught us how fundamental our values are and how great the mission they represent"
Bitter experience, really? Balkenende used 9/11 to lead his Christian democrats out of the political wilderness. A narrative that claimed superiority for western judeo-christian values was the basis for his electoral success. Rick Santorum's comments during the Republican debates betray the same strategy. Instead of denouncing this travesty of Christian political engagement, both Marvin Olasky and Michael Gerson focus all their energy on sinking the lone principled voice of reason and humility in this debate: Ron Paul.

The preaching and spreading of western values and the foreign policy it engenders has it's roots in the French revolution, as French President Nicholas Sarkozy reminded us on the anniversary of 9/11 last year. 

However the narrative of "fear God and honor the king" that summarizes calvinist political engagement places our values, our different cultures, our government and also the dangers we face in this world in a different context. A context compassionate conservatives fail to fully appreciate. To paraphrase St. Paul: You foolish compassionate conservatives! Who has bewitched you? After beginning with compassion, are you now trying to attain your goal by arrogance?

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