Pretentious Conservative

I am a long-time Republican; I consider myself to belong to the libertarian end of the party spectrum and I’m very disappointed, lately, in our party leadership. I used to consider myself a conservative, but I wonder sometimes if I fit there anymore. I am a strong proponent of individual liberty and subscribe to the notion that people should mostly be left alone to do as they please so long as they aren’t hurting anyone else. If consenting adults want to get it on, more power to them as long as you don’t make me watch.

I am a Christian, an ordained deacon, and I teach an adult Sunday School class. I’m also a trained theologian with advanced degrees from UCLA in Ancient Near Eastern languages (like Hebrew and some related dead languages: Akkadian, Aramaic, Ugaritic and the like). I’ve taught Bible and theology on the college level and I’m the author of multiple books on the Bible. I also write science fiction.

My wife is a public school teacher—third grade—and she loves Common Core. I’m puzzled by the widespread opposition to it among other members of my political party. I don’t think a lot of the critics really know what they’re talking about. But then, politicians and pundits rarely seem to really know anything about education and mostly they seem to do their best to screw things up and make life difficult for talented and dedicated teachers. No Child Left Behind was an utter disaster; but politicians love to micromanage things they don’t understand, especially when they find political advantage in it and criticizing teachers seem to be a current fad among the punditry and political classes.

I write a weekly newspaper column for a small northern California newspaper: The Ridge Rider News. I also write a blog—mostly every day—for the Jerusalem Post. I’m a strong supporter of the modern state of Israel; I worked there on a kibbutz two consecutive summers while I was an undergraduate in college.

I also have turned into something of a Green proponent, not so much because I worry about snail darters or owls (though I like owls and they use some of the trees at our church to nest and every year we have baby owls at our church; they are cute), but because I find that it saves me lots of money and I really appreciate saving money. That it is also good for the environment is a nice plus, of course. And the environmental movement has been good for us. When I moved to California, the air quality was bad—this was back in the 1970s. Now, despite huge increases in population and an economy that is much larger and more prosperous, despite huge increases in the number of automobiles and miles driven, the skies above us are mostly clear and blue; we haven’t had any first stage smog alerts in this century, now fifteen years into it. This is good: the smog checks and other controls have really worked and I find that delightful. The improvements in our nations water and air are thanks to the concerns of environmentalists and the legislation they worked to pass. And it needs to be celebrated and appreciated. People should recognize just how much progress has been made and how much better things are now than they used to be.

And concern about the environment is something that conservatives and libertarians should have, since dirty water, dirty air—these are things that hurt other people around us. If I pollute, if I waste water, I am harming other people. For instance, on a very micro-scale, since I have severe asthma, if someone smokes around me that is harming my health in a very direct, and very immediate way. Same with a car that belches pollutants: I’m causing harm to my neighbor: this is inconsistent with my political beliefs as a conservative and libertarian, and it also violates my faith since, as a Christian, I claim to believe that the most important commandment is to love others as myself. Doing harm to my neighbor, as Paul would say, is violating the core of my beliefs (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14).

The assumption, and perhaps it is a reasonable one, is that most conservatives would be the last people you would expect to see embracing solar power, electric cars, and recycling. Me, I think this is wrong headed. And yet, I must admit I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the green movement among those—conservatives—who I think should really embrace it.

So, this blog will now also include my journey of embracing being green and how much it has benefited me personally. Very Ayn Rand of me, I suppose: I’m green because, selfishly, it benefits me. Perhaps most conservatives haven’t noticed that they can save boatloads of cash by going green? I’ll be talking about some of the things my wife and I have done that have been very beneficial to our budget now and then in future posts.

Update: corrected the typo that Eric Miller pointed out in the comment. 🙂

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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