Conservatives have spent a great deal of time recently decrying the double standard we face over the appropriateness of our behavior.
The debate surrounding Roseanne Barr can be read elsewhere, but the basic complaint is this: Conservatives, and even those who half-heartedly support conservatives, are held accountable for things that progressives routinely get away with or are even encouraged to say or do.
But is there really a double standard?
Yes, and there should be. Here’s why:
Fundamentally, that double standard could be more accurately described as a different standard, and one we conservatives freely choose to accept. Sure, it can be infuriating when those with, shall we say alternative standards, use ours as weapons against us, but regardless, they are our standards. We either have them or we don’t.
That’s why during times like these it’s helpful to remind ourselves why we have these different standards, where they come from, and why we should keep them, especially when they become uncomfortable or unpopular.
One of the first steps someone takes toward authentic conservatism, even if somewhat unconsciously, is to realize there exists an enduring moral order of rights and wrongs, as Russell Kirk observed, that wasn’t devised by mankind.
Much like Neo saw after he swallowed the red pill, this underlying matrix of morality exists whether we like it or not (and we often don’t like it). It’s basic biology and psychology, bro, hardwired into our bodies by God or evolution or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Point is, it’s there … in the flesh.
Hormones, temperaments, instincts and our own mysterious neurological structures combine to partially urge us into certain behaviors, and those certain behaviors produce certain results time after time. This can be observed across demographics, cultures, and even time. It’s far from any sort of pure biological determinism, but near enough to warrant serious attention.
It works something like this: A plus B usually produces C, so if you don’t want C to happen, then you better devise a method to avoid producing and combining its antecedents.
Presto – a standard is born.
Conservatives don’t accept this reality with any more glee than Neo after learning he spent his best years as a Duracell battery. It’s often initially undesirable, especially if you enjoy A and B, but it is what it is.
That’s why we recognize certain uncomfortable standards of behavior – of morality – that keep us from suffering even more uncomfortable yet altogether predictable consequences. We can, and often do, overcome immoral urges with the greater power of moral ones. Virtue battles vice, and standards help us suppress one while promoting the other.
The key difference is that progressives believe many of these standards are arbitrary and unjust. They’ve forgotten why the standard was originally enacted and see them as relics of a patriarchal and superstitious past rather than an ancient railing that keeps us from stumbling blindly into the abyss.
Many conservatives are also Christians, or at least loosely share in the Judeo-Christian tradition. So, while this may be news to some – though it has been preached for 2,000 years – followers of Jesus are called not just to a different standard, but a radically different standard – to imitate Christ.
This extends far beyond the standards that we share with the secular world, like not committing murder and not stealing, but to those actions which the world happily embraces and even encourages, like gossip, rudeness, and yes, even foul language and speaking meanly.
Walk into any Christian church and you’ll likely hear a variation on the same theme – we’re different, so act like it.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,” Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans. “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
These new standards are high, some seemingly unattainable, and invite justifiable charges of hypocrisy because we usually fail to meet them. Yet hold them, we still.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus tells us, but then Paul writes that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I will not attempt an explanation of those apparently conflicting quotes except to say this: Believers get it, but skeptics never will.
Conservatives recognize reality and have adopted a set of standards to make life a little better, and some of us have accepted Jesus as our Lord and have extended those standards even further.
The world will deride us for adhering to old-fashioned and useless standards, ridicule us for striving to follow the commands of a make-believe god, and then use both to punish us for failing to meet them.
Being held to a double standard will happen, and often.
When it does, however, we mustn’t lash out angrily at those who are holding a mirror up to our faces, and we certainly shouldn’t lower our standards to avoid the reflection.
We should thank them for reminding us that we’re different, for reminding us that we’re fortunate to know something they don’t, and for reminding us that we’re blessed to have a relationship that they lack.
Take a good look into that mirror and allow what you see to sink in.
Then offer its holder a red pill, or perhaps a word of scripture, and then strive to do better next time.