How one becomes a traditionalist conservative through Christianity
When I became a Christian believer 24 years ago, it changed many things about me. One of the first and most significant changes was that I began to understand the principle of self-limitation, of placing boundaries on the self, on what the 1920s literary critic Irving Babbitt (in his seminal book Democracy and Leadership) called our expansive, self-aggrandizing appetites.
When I began to believe in Jesus Christ and, to the limited degree I was able and ready to do it, tried to follow him in my inner life, I began to experience practically a principle, a force, an intelligence, a being, that was outside and higher than my personal self and its desires. Not that I became a particularly good person, or a good Christian, but I did experience this and practice it to some extent, and that made all the difference. Understanding the principle of self-limitation, and understanding that it was both good and practicable, made me understand traditionalist conservatism. Prior to this, I really did not grasp traditional morality, which is the center of traditionalist conservatism. Now I at least understood it and its importance, notwithstanding how incomplete my own practice of it was. Before that, I did not have a grasp of traditional morality, and therefore had no ability to critique the liberal morality of the free self, including my own free self.
How many times have I said that liberalism at its core is the belief that the human self is the highest reality, with no truth or standard outside or higher than the self and its desires? That insight came from my experience of Christ and Christianity.
Babbitt, who was not a Christian, wrote that the higher, guiding principle does not have to come from Christianity; it can come from various other traditions, including philosophical teachings such as Aristotle’s. But it was through the living Jesus Christ that I discovered it.