Sean Edwards

The American Resurrection

Why Modern Conservatism Is Jihad In Disguise

muslim militants jihad

Modern conservatism says that it defends limited government and religious freedom. But modern conservative principles can resemble a jihad more than it realizes.

Some of the philosophical ideas behind modern conservatism are similar in structure to the Muslim countries that practice Sharia Law (that being the strict interpretation of Islam… stoning adulterers, for example).

They produce very different fruit, but they construct the same type of government.

And I think most conservatives don’t realize where their worldview leads (I know I didn’t!).

And if they did, they would abandon it immediately.

What Is Conservatism?

The Heritage Foundation – a conservative think tank – believes that conservatism values the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

It are those “traditional American values” that get us into trouble.

Conservatism believes that is in the best interest of our country to establish laws around traditional morals and values. This includes things like marriage, family, and faith. Most of the time, they are strictly Christian values.

Therefore, we have seen many states ban gay marriage. Some of them have even made constitutional amendments that keep it from ever becoming legal.

The federal government has outlawed most drug use.

And most states have outlawed prostitution and gambling.

Why? They violate our traditional values. They degrade the family. They are bad for you, and therefore the country.

But here’s the problem… if part of our definition of government is “protecting traditional values,” where do you draw the line? What morals from our faith do we codify into law? Should we also ban lying? Or cursing? Or gossip?

This exposes a very real problem in our country… Most people do not understand why our government exists.

Go ahead, write down your definition of government. Put it into one sentence. Why does our government exist? What is it’s purpose? What are its moral obligations and limits (this may require more than one sentence).

When you study the political ideas that influenced our founding fathers, it becomes clear that government can only have one purpose: to protect individual rights.

In fact, if it does more than that, then it becomes inherently tyrannical.

In order for government to go beyond those borders, it must adopt the same underlying philosophical principles as Sharia Law and Jihad.

The Reader’s Digest Version of 18th Century Political Philosophy

To understand why government exists, we must take a quick journey into political philosophy. I promise it is as truncated as I can make it. This will help us see how Conservatism and Sharia are similar:

  • God (or nature) created every person
  • Because of this, He alone has authority over our lives
  • Thus, in relationship to each other, we are utterly equal.

Since I did not create you, I have no authority over your life

  • That equality gives us certain rights in relationship to each other.
  1. You have the right to life (I cannot kill you).
  2. You have the right to live your life how you see fit (I cannot enslave you).
  3. You have the right to the fruit of your life and labor (I cannot steal from you).
  • But not everyone accepts this equality. Some people believe they have the right to steal from you… rape you… or kill you.
  • Therefore, for the sake of peace and tranquility, people give up some of their equality to establish the government as an objective third party to enforce these rights (the police, army, and justice system).
  • Government only exists because we want it to make our inherent rights as individuals a reality.

I just condensed thousands of pages and centuries of philosophy into a few bullet points. So please excuse my gross oversimplifications.

But here is an important take away: Without government, our inherent rights as equal individuals are not real. Anyone could come along and violate us. They could be thieves, thugs, or an invading army. In theory we may have equal rights, but not in practice.

We (the people) therefore empower the government to establish and protect those rights. This way we can be truly free.

Even though we have to give up a little bit of our theoretical freedom, we gain an immeasurable amount of practical freedom.

That is it. That is the sole purpose of our government (and any government that wants to be ethical).

You can go back and read the founding fathers all you want. If you understand the philosophers that influenced them, you will see that this what they were trying to do.

They disagreed a lot. But not on these principles. They fought on how they should implement these principles.

Conservatism and Jihad: 
Two Brothers of The Same Mother

Here’s the real kicker for us today as conservative Christians… this doesn’t allow us to push our morality on ANYONE.

It doesn’t matter if they want to have a same-sex marriage, marry a rock, or if one woman wants to have 5 husbands simultaneously. As long as all parties are consenting, then the government CAN’T GET INVOLVED.

The only time the government should interfere is when someone’s rights are violated. Murder. Rape. Theft. Assault. These are things the government must stop, but not because they violate “traditional values.” Because they violate a person’s innate rights as a human being and child of God.

Until God says that we can order the lives of His children, we must play by these rules. Otherwise we become tyrants.

How does this make conservatism like Sharia Law?

When we decide that our government can fashion laws based on our morality, we are no different than Jihadists.

We are saying that our faith allows us to dictate the lives of others. And if they choose to disobey, we should punish them in order to bring them into line.

We may not be stoning people, but that is a difference in application, not the baseline political philosophy between our countries.

There are no safe guards in this form of government. As long as a majority of people believe something is right (or “traditional”), it can become legal. Anything.

This is not what our founders meant.

This is not what a moral government looks like.

And this is not what our faith demands.

In order to protect “traditional values” through social policy, we must adopt a philosophy that says we have the right to dictate the lives of others.

This is how modern conservatism is jihad in disguise.

Both systems believe they know best.

Both systems believe they are doing God’s work.

And both systems believe they have the right to force their morality onto those around them.

We may fear for our society if we don’t protect traditional values through law.

But I fear for it if we do.

Don’t be a Jihadist. Be a Libertarian.

About Sean Edwards

Sean Edwards is an author and a communication strategist. He graduated from the Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in history. Sean has a passion for discussing philosophy and American politics.

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12 Replies

  1. James Curtiss

    Well stated, Sean. and well thought out. The only problem I come across is your last statement…being a liberal Democrat for all my “thinking” life I cannot call myself a Libertarian, but I can go with “libertarian.” I dearly wish we had a government (federal, state, local) not owned by corporations or big donors, but responsive to their individual consciences. But just as I have always argued for a single-payer health care system, and wished for the repeal of the Second Amendment, I know my dreams are unlikely in my lifetime. What I do think possible, though less and less likely with each passing session, is a congress that works together, compromises, and puts their nation first.

    1. Sean Edwards

      Hello James! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      I wouldn’t praise me just yet… I have a blog post just about to come out that takes a similar tack on modern liberalism as well. You may find that one interesting 🙂 I would love to hear you thoughts on it as well!

      1. Brian Cananzey

        I’m not sure how to post anything here except replies but I have an issue with your piece. Conservatism is only like Jihad if you are referring to Evangelical ie. social conservatives. There are many like myself who do not fall into that category.
        If I argue against Gay Marriage I do it from a legal point not a religious one. It is my belief that all Marriage licences should be called Civil unions. People can refer to themselves as married all they like but in the eyes of the Government we all get civil licences. The government should not be recognizing Religious ceremonies. Marriage is for a Church and the legal Bonding to two people should be a civil union.
        Are you arguing that Conservatism is by nature only for Religious zealots? I do believe in the possibility of a creator and I am certainly no atheist. I believe in most Conservative views and some of the left. To be a libertarian don’t you have to believe in a creator? How are our rights worth anything if they are not divine?

      2. Sean Edwards

        Brian, great thoughts and questions! And, you are correct. I’m referring to evangelical, social conservatives. I agree with you, all marriages should be a civil union. The government should get out of the marriage business.

        I am not arguing that conservatism is only for religious zealots. In fact, I think true conservatism is very similar to classical liberalism. That’s one reason I’m a registered republican. At one time, our party was quite liberal! But, classically so… That’s why I said “modern conservatism.” If you look at a lot of modern conservative “core beliefs,” most of them included a section about “protecting conservative values.” That’s the problem. That’s where all the trouble starts. Who’s values? Where did they come from? By what standard did you measure them? And do you have the right to force others to live by them?

        The only value I want the government to protect is equality, and therefore individual rights.

        You can be a libertarian and believe whatever you want about God (or lack there of). Libertarianism is a big tent, and it is home to a lot of different people with different ideas. My definition of libertarianism is a political philosophy that strictly limits the government to the protection of individual rights.

        I, for one, am a Christian. But I know many libertarians who are not. And that’s the beautiful thing about libertarianism. As long as you don’t try to control my life, we can get a long. No matter your skin color, gender, or religion. Its the great equalizer.

        And, getting to your core question… “How are our rights worth anything if they are not divine?” Great question.

        Since I’m a Christian, I can argue the divine perspective. But you can do it without faith as well.

        When you look a grove of Douglas Fur trees, you are seeing different trees. Some are bigger, some are smaller, some are bushier, and some are thinner. But, they are Douglas furs. When you look at their DNA, none of those trees can say, “I am more Douglas fur than you.” In relationship to each other, they are equal.

        The same thing happens for humans. Every human is equal by default. In relationship to each other, no one can say, “I am more human than you.” That utter equality secures for us basic individual rights.

        Whether you believe God created humans, or that nature created humans, we can agree that humans did not create humans. We are the beneficiaries of production, either God’s, or nature’s. That means we cannot interfere with the creation of another.

        I know that was broad, but I go into a more depth in book, American Resurrection, which you can download for free here.

        Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

    2. Sergio

      Why the heck would you wish for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment? Are you against freedom?

    3. Brian Cananzey

      James Curtis The second Amendment is not about Guns it is about the individual’s right to protect his Person Property and effects. There is a reason it is the Second amendment and not the 12th or the 15th. Without the right to defend your own rights you fall at the mercy of the Government. The Amendments tell a story. It is a Narration based on the Declaration of independence. The Declaration was a list of Grievances against the King. First the King made it punishable by death to speak out against the King then he sent soldiers to confiscate our weapons so on and so fourth.

  2. I just found your blog through you article about the election response, which has been one of the most thoughtful, intelligent and respectful things I’ve seen written after Nov. 8. So thank you for that! I appreciate your thoughts on this as well. I’m not sure where I land on the political checkerboard – my Christian faith places me on the conservative side about as often as on the liberal side. I don’t think abortion should be legal (yes, even in instances of rape or incest), but I don’t support the death penalty either. I’m strongly pro-immigration – and I think affirmative action is degrading, inefficient and immoral. Anyways. I do agree with your post in large parts. Except for this paragraph:

    “It doesn’t matter if they want to have a same-sex marriage, marry a rock, or if one woman wants to have 5 husbands simultaneously. As long as all parties are consenting, then the government CAN’T GET INVOLVED.”

    Hmmm, yes. But marriage does not only involve the persons (or things, in your example) getting married. Marriage involves any potential children born in the union, and also the families of each spouse. It has huge implications on individual rights, especially of children’s f these type of unions (lineage, inheritance, parental rights, etc.)

    I just wanted to throw that in there. I really, really enjoy your blog and what you have to say. I also enjoy discussing these sorts of things so forgive me if it seems like I’m popping up just for the sake of arguing.

    Also, (and I need to read your other post on modern liberalism and fascism), you are leaving out religious liberty. As a Christian, I am not opposed to a civil union for homosexual couples granting them certain rights that are reserved to married couples. But I do consider it to be government overreach when businesses are being forced to help celebrate “homosexual marriages” (yes I am thinking of the Oregon bakery and the wedding cake). And unfortunately I am not articulate enough or knowledgeable enough to explain why it upsets me so much. Could you help me with that Mr Edwards?

    1. Sean Edwards

      Louise, great thoughts and questions!

      You make some excellent points. Here are some of my thoughts.

      Regarding children and alternative forms marriage: I have not studied the psycology of this very much, but what little I do know, I believe children have a better chance of good psychological development in a “traditional marriage.” But, there are a lot of problems with that in practice.

      And, I don’t want the government to get involved in that decision.

      If we start telling people who can and cannot have kids (or who can adopt kids) based on gender identity, where do we draw the line? If the argument is: “It isn’t good for the psychological health of the children,” then what about kids who grow in a “traditional” family, but are verbally and physically abused? That isn’t good for their psychological health either. So, if we are going to control who can have kids in non-traditional marriages, based on psychological concerns, then EVERY couple should have to go through some sort governmental licensing process. And that just screams big brother! Nobody wants that. Its better to just let sleeping dogs lie.

      And, as a dear friend once said to me, “Don’t you think being raised by gay parents is better for the child than being raised in a orphanage?” Given the options, I’d say we’re best off keeping the government out of this issue as much as possible. Now, if children are being abused, obviously the state needs to step in.

      Regarding religious liberty. I 100% agree. Individual rights go both ways. I can’t tell you who you can marry, and you can’t force me to bake you a cake. It’s called basic human respect. Unfortunately, due to the philosophical climate of our time, many people who identify as LGBTQ feel very victimized, and for good reason. And because of this, forcing other people to bake them cakes seems fair. I obviously disagree. But I can understand why they feel marginalized. And it explains their actions, though it doesn’t excuse them. You cannot fix one error by replacing it with another.

      Thank you for reading, and thank you for sharing!

      1. Yes- I absolutely agree with you that it’s better for kids to be raised by a nurturing homosexual couple than by an abusive heterosexual couple (although being homosexual is no guarantee against being abusive!). I think as long as there is affectionate love and authoritative love, kids will thrive. And I would argue that two adults who love each other, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender, are better for kids than one single adult (it feels unfair to me to generalize that way – just trying to say that parenting is a hard job and it’s best not having to do it alone).
        But the key word here is raised. What I have an issue with is the desire of homosexual couples not to raise children but to conceive them. It opens up a series of huge issues: who are the kids’ biological parents? Who has what rights regarding decisions being made during pregnancy? Not to mention all the controversial “choices” that spring up during IVF about which embryos are allowed to live, etc. It’s not a problem that arises only in homosexual marriages. And it would be a far more complicated problem with the other examples you mentioned (a man marrying a rock- do his adopted kids must call her mom? the wife with 5 husbands – when she is pregnant, who has parental rights?)… All I’m trying to say is mutual consent is not good enough of a criteria for a union to be valid in a society. There are reasons why the government can’t get behind all unions as long as they’re consenting (what about incest, for instance?). Marriage is more than mutual consent of x number of parties. It’s really meant to be a societal “starting unit”- with specific responsibilities towards society as a whole, not just between spouses.
        And I do wholly agree that part of what we are seeing now is simply a defensive response from people who have been bullied, harassed, and sometimes even assaulted for their lifestyle. Which doesn’t excuse it, but definitely explains it.
        I hope it’s okay for me to keep discussing this – I really enjoy exchanging views on that subject.

  3. Sean Edwards

    Chris, thanks for writing.

    How do you define “Natural Law”?

    If you’re referring to Natural Rights, then I’d agree with you… in part. Natural rights are limited to 3 realms: Your life, your freedom, and your property. Our natural rights are: 1. The right to live. Meaning no one can take our life. 2. The right to freedom. Meaning no one can force us to do anything. 3. The right to the fruits of your labor. Since your time and energy went into its creation, the fruits of your labor only exists because of you, and therefore they are an extension of your person and protected by your rights. I.e., no one can steal from you.

    With that understanding of natural rights, the government cannot criminalize gay marriage. There are no individual rights being violated.

    “Traditional Values” (as I understand them) do not mean natural rights. They generally mean… traditional values. They are values that people have believed for a long time. And we probably haven’t questioned their morality (whether they’re right or wrong) because they’re often accepted by default.

    This is a problem with conservatism. There is an innate desire to resist change. Most likely because most of that proposed change comes from their political enemies, the left. But, none-the-less, what I’ve found amongst my conservative circles is a default acceptance of long-held party positions without any analysis of their validity. I think this happens on the left as well. People accept certain ideas because they’ve always been here (and we kind of like them!). But we never actually take the time to see if those values line up with natural rights. And with the GOP, those values usually come from Biblical or traditional morals that often violate the principles of a government founded on individual rights.

    But, I may not have been addressing your point. If I have not, please let me know.