What a wonderful world indeed

By Christopher Cudworth

cropped-genesiscover1.jpgLiberals and conservatives struggle for control of the cultural narrative. Over the last 30 years or so the two sides have unfortunately found very little common ground.

Of particular note in this culture “war” as it is often characterized is the alliance between fiscal, political, social and religious conservatives. These four sub-groups all hold the reins on certain issues. Fiscal conservatives want less economic regulation. Political conservatives want less government. Social conservatives want less moral latitude and religious conservatives want less of everything that isn’t in line with a fundamental take on scriptural ethics.

Less is more seems to be the conservative mantra. For example, a conservative-led Supreme Court has delivered less controls on political contributions by corporations and less governmental control over birth control. On the conservative front it’s more and more about less and less. Less government spending. Less taxes. Less sexual freedrom. Less choice in reproductive rights. Less of a right to marry for gays.

Yet there are some categories where more is more for the conservative faction. One wing of the lobby wants more and more guns. More military spending too. More incursion against terror on the global and domestic front.

It starts to get complicated at some point. What do conservatives really want, more or less?

There are signs that the very complexity of the world is what vexes conservatism. Where liberals love a little free enterprise in terms of philosophy and thought, conservatives like to break it all down to black and white. Then they make choices.

It happens in education where conservatives tried to simplify the entire scholastic operation to a “teach to the test” method called No Child Left Behind. That initiative has had the ironic effect of killing initiative among teachers nationwide. Teaching to the test is quite restrictive. All those standards stifle creativity in the classroom for both teachers and students. And guess what, it hasn’t really produced a better grade of student.

In higher education the resistance to liberal thought is aimed at colleges where admittedly liberalism is the standard by which many schools operate. But that’s the point. Liberalism is the willingness to engage and study a broad range of ideas in order to come to a conclusion any issue.

That methodology seems to enrage conservatives who would rather see a foundational approach to education. That hasn’t happened except in schools where conservatism is the founding principle of the institution. One thinks of Bob Jones University, for example.

The lack of compliance with conservative principles overall has produced a brand of anti-intellectualism that reaches from the classroom all the way to halls of Congress. Conservatives who do not accept basic scientific principles such as the theory of evolution work hard to undermine its teaching in any academic setting. The same holds true for conservatives who refuse to accept the scientific opinion of 90% of the world’s climatologists telling us that the earth’s atmosphere is warming through anthropogenic influence. In other words, climate change is man made.

Such denial hearkens all the way back to the fundamental beliefs about the origins of the earth. Religious conservatives refuse to believe in evolution because they think it contradicts a literal interpretation of the Bible. Never mind that Jesus himself taught using organic metaphors to convey spiritual principles. Conservatives ignore the scientifically metaphorical teaching style of Jesus because it smacks of an intellectualism that contradicts the fundamentalist approach to all sorts of reductionist thought. In other words, if they follow the example of Jesus, who admonished his own disciples for failing to grasp his parables, it messes with the whole goal of simplifying your worldview to the basics.

But conservatives seem to prefer simplification over liberal engagement on any issue. One could argue that the entire worldview of the conservative movement is summed up in the happy but frighteningly dumb lyrics of the song What A Wonderful World, sung with ironic glee by musicians as diverse as Herman’s Hermits and David Bromberg. The song lyrics go like this:

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took
(But I do know)
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me, too
What a wonderful, wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra
I don’t know what a slide rule is for
(But I do know)
But I do know “one and one is two”
And if this one could be with you
(A wonderful world)
What a wonderful, wonderful world this would be
What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful world

Now I don’t claim to be an ‘A’ student,
But I’m tryin’ to be
I think that maybe by bein’ an ‘A’-student, baby-baby
I could win your love for me

Don’t know much about the Middle Ages
Looked at the pictures then I turned the pages
Don’t know nothin’ ’bout no “Rise and fall”
Don’t know nothin’ ’bout nothin’ at all
(But I do know)
Girl it’s you that I’ve been thinkin’ of
And if I could only win your love (oh girl)
What a wonderful, (what a) wonderful world this would be
What a wonderful, wonderful world this would be

What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful world
What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful world


It’s sad because conservatism does have so much to offer in terms of holding social standards of morals, ethics and behavior. There is a little bit of conservative in almost all of us. There certainly is in me.

But the close-mindedness of the movement is what causes such resistance on the liberal front, where civil rights, human equality and economic justice are the priorities. Those happen to align with what we learn in the Bible as well. And that’s why some of us think the conservative version of a wonderful world would not be so wonderful at all.


3 thoughts on “What a wonderful world indeed

  1. Brother you don’t know much about conservatism unless it’s viewed through a liberal prism. What you write sounds awesome, from a particular bent but that bent requires one to disassociate from reality.

    For instance, if NCLB is so bad, why didn’t liberals fix or do away with it when they controlled the White House and both houses of Congress? Oops.

    Conservatives don’t want more guns. They don’t want to have to carry a cop to defend themselves while liberals would have “the little people” be at the mercy of criminals. You know what police call gun-free zones? Criminal enterprise zones. Police officers don’t stop crime unless they’re very lucky. They clean up afterwards and HOPE to catch those responsible. That’s no protection at all. But I promise not to use my pistol to defend you.

    And then the biggest whopper of all, the open minded liberal – liberals are the most closed minded people on the planet. Next to Islamic Fundamentalists. This post is a perfect example. Your ideology has led you to be incorrect about everything that conservatism is.

    • I agree with you on conservatives. Except, in practice, this is what conservatism as a movement has become. Just watch the news. Every day there is a new headline about some conservative making statements about women and their reproductive systems that is so ignorant and shortsighted it beggars the imagination. And the NRA holds the reins for hundreds of Congressman who’ll suffer if they don’t vote for liberal gun laws. You read that right. And the anti-intellectualism is real. There are states all over the Bible belt trying to rule out teaching of evolution. And trying to impose prayer in public schools in defiance of the Constitution’s natural law that we should have freedom of religion and freedom from religion. I attended a very conservative church for 25 years. I love the people there. But listening to the preacher yammer from the pulpit that believing in evolution would send you to hell and that gay people are an expression of evil…well, that is all ridiculous. So it’s not conservatives per se with whom I take issue, it is the expression of the movement, which I’m sure does not, as you express, represent the view of everyone under that warped tent of the movement.

      But let’s take a look at the guns issue, and the contention that conservatives don’t want more guns. The logic you’ve expressed shows both frustration and contradiction. If you state that conservatives don’t want more guns, what about the NRA? What about the many Congressman who, even in the face of multiple mass shootings, children included, refuse to control the types of weapons that produce those crimes. And what about the fact that there have been more Americans die by gun violence than all the soldiers ever killed in all our foreign wars. Yet when we say, from the Left, “Maybe we should do something about that,” the conservative lobby says, in defiance of a Constitution stipulated a “well-regulated militia” we cannot regulate guns at all.

      The police in fact are sick of having to confront military grade weapons on the streets. But even handguns are now so efficiently designed as killing machines the cops can hardly protect themselves. So what does the conservative lobby say? “Everyone should have a gun! Everyone needs to protect themselves!” I once heard a conservative on a talk show state that he thought it should be a law that everyone has to own a gun.

      So in practice, not in theory, conservatives are at odds with their own beliefs. They’re smart people who honestly can’t figure out how to square, for example on the religious front, their fundamentalist beliefs with everyday science.

      The same goes for fiscal conservatives who consider themselves religious. They know that Jesus says to help the poor but can’t stand the idea of their tax dollars, however many are collected, being used to help such losers.

      The conservative response to these challenges is that every day becomes a battle. Every new headline a confrontation. It’s impossible to accept even a modicum of criticism because the modern conservative movement, not conservatives themselves, is a house of cards propping each other up. The fiscal conservatives can’t really justify their position with the religious conservatives if the Christian viewpoint is taken into account. The social conservatives align pretty well with religious conservatives until some Mexican (who happens to be Catholic) cross the border illegally.

      Meanwhile us so-called close-minded liberals advocate tolerance for immigrants, reproductive choice and rights for women, protection of the environment including prudence on global warming, teaching of real science (not creationism) in public schools, gun control, fair tax rates for corporations and people (as managed under Clinton) regulation of financial transactions of all types, tolerance for all faiths as prescribed by the Constitution, and so on.

      Yet when we defend these liberal premises you call us close-minded. So we’re supposed to believe in what we believe and not do anything about it. Just roll over and watch civil rights for gays be denied again and again. And to let big corporations sully the environment and socialize the costs of cleanup. And watch hundreds of kids each year get gunned down?

      Yes, we’re so close-minded. We want people to be able to choose their religion, have decent health care without exclusion on pre-existing conditions, and try not to ruin the planet, because it’s the only one we’ve got.

      Conservatism as a movement has gotten extreme. Conservatives as people maybe not so much. But you have to hold your movement accountable. All the arguments about our current President Obama fail because there is no accountability for the egregious behavior of Bush and Cheney. There’s no credibility when there’s no accountability.

      So if I’m “close-minded” as you say, it’s because there’s a logic to my principles that squares clearly with my faith, a liberal faith indeed, in the tradition of one Jesus Christ (or, the liberal version, Yeshua, because he was a Jew.)

      I understand you’ve probably had arguments with liberals who are irrational. But the truth sometimes hurts, and that little song I quoted is a bit of parody on the fact (not the supposition) that the conservative movement has gotten desperate for control and become arch in its contentions. I stand by that idea because in practice, it’s true.

      • Yeah, you and I are going to have to disagree on darn near everything except those silly preachers who deny evolution. I understand why they do, but we can all find common ground if we accept that evolution and creation go hand in hand.

        There is a common thread to why we disagree as well. You accept the narrative and I don’t. Every one of your statements, especially about guns, cherry pick from a perceived reality fabricated by the media and liberal colleges neat little talking points that sound great but don’t stand up to the world as it is.

        I could go on but I’ve got a ton of work to do in a very short amount of time so I have to get at that. It’s all good brother. We can talk about it over a bike ride one day… Maybe a 300 miler or something. Chuckle.

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