by Brendan Beery
The most off-putting thing about modern conservatism, be it political or religious, is narcissism. Hard-right movements reek of self-absorption. Political conservatives are militantly against any impulse to help other people; other people, after all, are not, as conservatives define themselves, among them.
Many political conservatives — especially of the “establishment Republican” variety — have had easy lives. And it’s not that these conservatives have taken care of themselves, but rather that, in the worlds of these conservatives, everything has been taken care of. What is the conservative to make of lives where nobody has taken care of anything? Surely it can’t be that the conservative had nothing to do with his own ease of living; he must have earned it. What follows is this: surely it can’t be that the occupant of a chaotic life space had nothing to do with the chaos; that occupant, too, must have earned it. All that befalls is earned, you see. Such an easy deduction when the only thing around is good fortune.
Religious conservatives – in this country, that means evangelical Christians – march to a similar tune. They have invented an obscenity called “prosperity theology,” which posits that the vita sanctus is rewarded in this dimension, not the next one. The rich man will have no trouble passing through the eye of a needle since he is, with all his riches, already in Heaven. His lucre is not just figuratively a blessing; it is literally a reward for his ecclesiastical fabulousness. This postulate requires the demolition of every stanchion undergirding the teachings of Jesus Himself, but which such technicalities could block the prideful tenets of a sociopath?
Conservatism, at its core, is the celebration of the Id. The conservative thinks, All the world is about me, and I am worthy of the sum of all the world’s attention.
What practice could better illustrate this worldview than the practice of self-absolution?
Perhaps you’ve heard of a couple so taken with their own beauty that their first “viral video” was entitled (by them) “Good Looking Parents Sing Disney’s Frozen.” (It’s more than a little ironic to see these two mouthing the lyrics, “Love is an open door!”) Anyway, this couple became an internet sensation not just because of their looks, but because they sold themselves as perfect Christians.
Lo and behold, the male half of this circus act, a creature called Sam Rader, got caught with his pants down. He was among those whose email addresses were dumped by Ashley-Madison hackers.
But being a privileged, white, good-looking, entitled life skater, Rader imparted unto himself what most mortals assume only a deity could impart: absolution. He proclaimed without a trace of humility, “God has forgiven me.” And why not? As an evangelical Christian, he sees all creation as swirling about him. He is the prototypical conservative: the center of all that is.