Thursday, December 14, 2006

Man and God in the Academy: Since at least World War II, conservatives in America have howled that there are no conservatives in academia, outside of economics departments and business schools. I can safely say that this isn’t true, since I recently matriculated from one of the more eminent institutions in America. But that didn’t stop William F. Buckley from writing God and Man at Yale, nor has it stopped the regular crusades from would-be Buckleys on campuses everywhere. Mark Bauerlein, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, says that this is to be expected:

How, then, has it prospered? That leads Sullivan to another fundamentalist weakness. Liberals tend to link conservatism to political and economic interests. Surprisingly, Sullivan does the same. The alignment shows up in his references to “the new conservatism,” “theoconservatives,” and “big-government conservatives.” In his view, “conservatism as a political movement has become, in many ways, a somewhat strained version of a religious revival.” That should disqualify the movement as a species of conservatism, but Sullivan nonetheless grants it the label. A big-government conservative is a contradiction in terms, but Sullivan lets it stand, presumably because big-government conservatives are in the Republican Party. So, instead of stating that a religious movement with conservative elements has emerged in American politics, Sullivan announces that conservatism itself has “lost its soul.” Apparently the conservative tradition can’t withstand the predations of contemporary pseudoconservatives. It, too, has become connected to political circumstance.

In [Michael Bérubé’s book] What’s Liberal … ?, conservatism suffers similarly from stigmatizing references. Bérubé focuses on the anti-academic conservatives and fills his descriptions with diagnostic asides. Gay-rights debates “transform otherwise reasonable cultural conservatives into fumbling, conspiracy-mongering fanatics.” The columnist George Will is “furious,” and the columnist Michelle Malkin writes “shameful” books pressing “‘interpretations’ that no sane person countenances,” while Horowitz exaggerates “hysterically.” Such psychic wants explain why, according to Bérubé, “we just don’t trust cultural conservatives’ track record over the long term, to be honest. We think they’re the heirs of the people who spent decades dehumanizing African-Americans and immigrants, arguing chapter and verse that the Bible endorses slavery and the subjection of women.”

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