Conservative evangelism

Order.  Men despise religion.  They hate it and are afraid it may be true.  The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect.  Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.  Worthy of reverence because it really understands human nature.  Attractive because it promises true good.

—Pascal, Pensee 12

Thus spoke the greatest of Christian apologists.  In his latest article, Alan Roebuck proposes that conservatives learn from the Christian evangelical/apologetic tradition on how to win over souls to the traditionalist cause.  Two main points in the article are 1) We must attack liberalism’s basic premises–which he identifies as the beliefs that God is unknowable and that that discrimination is always wrong–rather than just attacking specific liberal policies; 2) As in Pascal’s strategy, we was make potential converts want to believe that conservatism is true and liberalism is false before we will be able to convince them that this is the case.  They must come to see liberalism as bad news.  Liberalism maximizes human autonomy by positing a meaningless universe.  Roebuck points out that men have desires for other things besides freedom; most importantly, we have a desire for order and meaning.  It is to these that we should appeal.

Reading Mr. Roebuck’s essay, my first thought was “Why haven’t I written an essay on conservative evangelism?”  After all, from a conservative point of view, what could be more important?  Yet we have very little discussion of how, practically speaking, the people around us could ever be won over.

Myself, I tend to divide nontraditionalists into two classes:  Leftists and confused.  The latter category is divided into the non-political and the mainstream “conservative”.  Leftists I regard as the equivalent of reprobate souls; attempting to win them over is hopeless, and it’s a waste of very limited resources.  The nonpolitical can become effective conservatives if they are won over to a dogmatic form of religion–Catholicism or Calvinism, in the American context.  The easiest catches, I tend to think, are the mainstream “conservatives”, who are already somewhat detatched from the Leftist elite, and can possibly have their mental horizons expanded and become true conservatives.  Hopefully, this blog (which, to borrow the expression from Roger Scruton, is a work of conservative dogmatics rather than apologetics) will help some along this journey.

Roebuck is a mathematician, and I am a physicist, so I might be expected to take a more experimental approach.  Here goes:  Have any of you ever successfully brought someone over to conservatism?  If so, where were they starting from, and what was it that worked?  I personally have never succeeded in a conversion, so I don’t have any data to offer.

2 Responses

  1. Not me, but I wonder how much of that is due to personality. Someone I know once said that cholerics never convert anyone b/c they try to beat a person over the head with the Faith…I wouldn’t say I go that far, but I’m definitely not like another charismatic young man I know who somehow has managed to convert around 20 people. He is very knowledgeable, very likeable…perhaps being just a very intelligent, humble and nice person will convince a person more than all the intellectual debate? I don’t know. Interesting quote from Pascal though, thanks.

  2. Hi trent13,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m hoping that I’ll hear from at least one successful conservative evangelist, if nothing else than to know that it actually can be done.

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