Which Approach is Best: Conservatives, Culture, and a Lesson from Lincoln

by Micah Vandenboom

There is a constant question among current conservative circles about what approach to take with regard to a hostile culture. Between leftist activists and the media, it sometimes feels like we are in a no-win situation. As society at large seems to be shifting more and more away from where we want it to be, conservatives have to wrestle with how to approach the situation. 

Maybe culture isn’t worth saving. Maybe all we can hope for is to do damage control and plow ahead, matching hostility with hostility. Or, maybe we should just hunker down and live our lives insulated as best we can from influences increasingly opposed to conservative values. But perhaps there’s another option.

The polarization of today’s political and social atmosphere is evident, but this is not the first time America has undergone deep division. Notably, the American Civil War caused violent strife among Americans, to a degree far beyond what we see now.

It is possible to be uncompromising where it counts and not harbor animosity.

 
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Decades of ignoring the deep divisions over the issue of slavery had caused the problem to explode into open, armed conflict between Americans in the North and South. The moral disagreement had led to a body count of 620,000 and many more maimed and severely wounded on both sides. Needless to say, the country was polarized.

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Out of this crisis, President Abraham Lincoln gave his Second Inaugural Address to a nation in dire distress. His famous words, which are inscribed on the interior of the Lincoln Memorial, are relevant even to this day: you don’t have to sacrifice charity for boldness. He states, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…” It is possible to be uncompromising where it counts and not harbor animosity.

In today’s context, that idea can be easier said than done. The political division and antagonism in our country is getting more intense and everyone can sense it. But it is important to keep in mind our goal.

We advocate for conservative values and policies because they work. Strong families mean strong communities. The free market helps pull people out of poverty. Less government and a strong civil society gives communities room to thrive.

However much opposition we get from society or culture, we can’t allow the vitriol to rob us of our hope. A hope for a better future, thriving communities, and flourishing individuals.

At the end of Lincoln’s Address, he calls for his fellow citizens to join him in mending the war-battered nation, to care for those most affected in order to secure a “just and lasting peace.” In times of great upheaval, it is daunting to think of building, but that is what we need to do. It is part of “finishing the work we are in.” The culture may be breaking down, but that’s part of the problem we need to fix.

Rather than abandoning culture, we should be active. We should build, create, and innovate and work to “bind up the nation’s wounds,” changing the narrative by refusing to be passive.

 
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Conservatives have so much to offer. Rather than abandoning culture, we should be active. We should build, create, and innovate and work to “bind up the nation’s wounds,” changing the narrative by refusing to be passive.

We don’t have to choose between one or the other. We can stand firm for truth and make an impact all while conveying hope.

 
 
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Micah Vandenboom is an Associate at The Resolute Group. She is a recent political science graduate from Arizona Christian University.

 
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