1 Peter 1:22 says, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” To me, this verse captures the ethos of true conservatism: obedience to the truth. Sincere love means truthful love that doesn’t sugarcoat or sell out to political correctness. I don’t always agree with conservatives about what constitutes obedience to the truth, but I very much respect this basic posture of integrity. Having said that, it would be disobedient to the truth not to name Ben Carson’s rhetoric at the Value Voters Summit this week as tremendously irresponsible and dangerous to genuine conservatism.
Here’s what Carson said:
I have to tell you, you know Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is slavery in a way because it is making all of us subservient to the government. It was never about health care, it was about control. That’s why when this administration took office it didn’t matter that the country was going off the cliff economically. All forces were directed toward getting this legislation passed… Vladimir Lenin, one of the fathers of Socialism and Communism, said that socialized medicine is the keystone to the establishment of the socialist state.
Whatever is wrong with Obamacare, it is disobedient to the truth to call it “socialized medicine” and insinuate that its purpose is to make America into a Communist state. The state-level health care exchanges give people choices between private health insurance options. There is no public option. The reason for making health insurance mandatory for everyone is so that sick people with preexisting conditions who hadn’t been able to get health insurance before won’t make the premiums skyrocket. The “individual mandate” idea was originally proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation in the late 1980’s.
It’s fine to have all sorts of criticisms about Obamacare, but comparing it to slavery is ridiculous and despicable. And just because Ben Carson is black doesn’t mean that he should get away with it. I wrote earlier this week how people in my generation are not even able to hear or consider rationally the actual ideas that conservatives are putting forward. It’s because of rhetoric like this.
It really is a sad thing because there are so many good people in our country who are real conservatives with ideas which aren’t scary crazy. I was having an email conversation with someone from my church who shared with me some ideas from a conservative politician about how to address issues of social inequity. And I actually agreed with a lot of them. Not all of them. But they certainly weren’t scary or crazy. I thought this guy is someone I could have a reasonable conversation with. And I was really surprised to learn that he had been the chief of staff for Rick Santorum.
When people like Ben Carson are making irrational hyperbolic comparisons between efforts to get health care for uninsured people and slavery, you can’t blame that on liberal media spin. Red meat may fire up an activist core who want to believe that the other side is utterly diabolical, but there’s nothing conservative about playing fast and loose with the truth. And it’s a huge turn-off to people who care about the truth whatever their political views are.
This is why I really appreciate people like my friend Alan Noble who edits the Christ and Pop Culture blog on Patheos. Alan is a true conservative and a very thoughtful and compassionate Christian. He’s willing to stick his neck out and take some flak for denouncing people who are supposedly on his side that are not being truthful. He runs a weekly column called Citizenship Confusion that raises importing challenging questions about some of the things that conservative Christians are being told they should support. I hope that more conservatives like Alan will be willing to take a stand, so that somehow someday our society might be able to have rational, respectful political conversation.