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Wolf, Burke, and Us

Returning to Conservative Principles



Our leaders can break the ideological gridlock on Capitol Hill. But it’s going to take a lot of courage -- and prudence.

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Chuck  Colson

As I told you last week on BreakPoint, Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia, in an act of uncommon political courage, took to the floor of the House and openly exposed and denounced the special interests that have been holding Congress — and all of Washington — hostage.

And he named names. Unafraid to take on his own Republican party, he decried its blind obedience to ueber-lobbyist Grover Norquist, a man who represents an array of special interests, but who has worked his way into the inner councils of the Republican party.

Norquist and pledge supporters consider closing ridiculous tax loopholes to be the same thing as raising taxes. They will seek to block any effort to reform the tax code that will harm their clients: mega corporations and other moneyed interests. And they will seek to punish any politician who has the guts to try to close those loopholes. It’s outrageous, it’s destructive, and it’s preventing Congress from putting our fiscal house in order.

But Wolf also made another argument in his bold speech that I think is important for every Christian to understand.

Wolf warned his colleagues that taking such a pledge violates the principles of true conservatism. He points out that the father of modern conservatism, 18th century British parliamentarian Edmund Burke, refused to take political pledges and denounced their “coercive authority” over elected officials.

Burke said that leaders must be free to employ their “unbiased opinion . . . mature judgment . . . [and] enlightened conscience.” They must not be held captive to any ideology or pledge.

Wolf also pointed out that the great American conservative thinker, Russell Kirk, held high among virtues for a true conservative leader, the virtue of prudence. Kirk wrote that “to be ‘prudent’ means to be judicious, cautious, sagacious. . . A prudent statesman is one who looks before he leaps; who takes long view; who knows that politics is the art of the possible.”

Let me quote from Wolf’s magnificent speech:
“Conservatives of all people should not be locked into any ideological position.  We are bearers of a conservative tradition.  Conservatism is not an ideology; it’s not doctrine or dogma.  It is a way of seeing life.  It draws on the wisdom of the past to view events of the present.  We all stand on the shoulders of the great people who have gone before us.  That is why G. K. Chesterton described our experiment as “democracy of the dead” because we care about the foundation laid by our forefathers.”

And I would add: Christians of all people should understand this, because all true Christians are, in a sense, conservative. We rely on revealed truth, we stand on the shoulders of that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.  Today on my “Two-Minute Warning” video commentary, I talk more about the biblical understanding of taxes and justice — and how they apply to the issue of tax reform. Please go to ColsonCenter.org to watch it.

And listen to the words of Edmund Burke and to Frank Wolf.  I truly believe if we would return to conservative principles, stand on the shoulders of giants, and be guided by prudence, we’d quickly see our way out of the ideological gridlock that is endangering our economy and our Republic.

Further Reading and Information
Wolf: Grover Norquist’s Relationships Should Give People Pause

Frank Wolf | C-SPAN | October 4, 2011

Speech to the Electors of Bristol
Edmund Burke | 1774

Politics of Prudence

Russell Kirk | ISI Books | 2004



Comments:

Wolf, Burke and us
Thank you Mr. Colson for a great article. It's a daunting task to be a conservative and try to escape being caricatured as a Republican idealogue (which I'm not). I'm very thankful for Frank Wolf, Jeff Flake and maybe a handful of others who stand unapologetically and courageously in the midst of the cadre of self-serving cowardice and greed known as the U.S. Congress.