J Walking

J Walking

Dear Andrew (part one)

NOTE: Over the coming days Andrew Sullivan and I will be engaging in a dialogue/discussion/letter exchange regarding his new book, The Conservative Soul, and my book, Tempting Faith. For those who do not know him, Andrew is one of today’s most formidable and provocative social and political commentators. He also edits “The Daily Dish,” one of the most widely read political blogs on the Web.

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Dear Andrew,

Would that I knew where to start this discussion/letter/dialogue.

Truth be told, when we talked about this idea of a “blogalogue” I hadn’t read all of your book and therefore didn’t understand what a monumental work you had produced. In many ways, it is improperly titled. This isn’t just The Conservative Soul; it is really First Things (with all appropriate respect to the journal of the same name), because the driving narrative of the book seems to me to be understanding God, prioritizing God, and loving God. Everything else flows from that–for well or for ill.


But that doesn’t cover the political part of your book. A couple of years ago, a good friend–who is also a good conservative with a background in philosophy–exclaimed after flipping through one of the neo-conservative journals, “These guys have no clue why they are conservative…and neither do most conservatives. They have no philosophy.” Conservatives need to read your book to get a better understanding of that philosophy, no matter their definition of conservatism.

For me? Of course after reading your book, I think I am not so conservative as I once thought–after all, I am a compassionate conservative who would spend lavishly to help faith-based and non-faith-based groups care for the poor and do maintain a ridiculous optimism that such a thing would be transformative.


More than anything, though, I am struck by your willingness to lay your life bare in order to make an argument so important to you. We won’t and don’t agree on some things, but I so respect you and your candor. I hope my part of this dialogue will do justice to the significance of your book and your story.

Thanks for doing this, and I look forward to reading your response at “The Daily Dish.”

Read: “Dear Andrew: Part Two”

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posted October 30, 2006 at 8:22 pm

I wanted to laud you, David, for your courage in standing for sound Biblical principals of accountability. Thank you for adhering to truth first, rather than political pre-dispositions. I pray that God continues to use you in His work of revealing his true nature to a disenchanted populace. Question, though: have you ever considered the possibility that George W Bush is the Antichrist, or “Son of Perdition” that scriptures warns us about? Do you believe that Mark 13:22 “For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.” could apply to this present scenario? I know it’s a bitter pill to even considering swallowing, but I encourage you to search your heart, pray fervantly for the truth of this matter to be revealed unto you (whatever the outcome might be). I understand that you believe Bush to be sincere in his convictions, and yet you find yourself in the position of considering the fruit of his labor, and not merely the convictions of his words… I would love it if you responded back to me at, and once again, thank you for all you have done. God bless!

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posted October 30, 2006 at 8:38 pm

People in general, and certainly the average conservative, has nothing that rises to the level of a political philosophy. Your Limbaugh or Hannity listener has a trove of maxims or slogans they will regurgitate when certain stimuli are present, but most of this is of a negative and partisan (“liberals are deceivers”)character rather than of an ideological character. Barry Goldwater submitted the manuscript of “Conscience of a Conservative” to Ayn Rand for comments. In her letter of reply she was generally complimentary, but advised Goldwater to get rid of the extraneous religious bumpf. She said that conservatism doesn’t need phony supernaturalism to support it, and if it did it would be nothing but BS. Or words to that effect. Goldwater didn’t follow Rand’s advice though, religious bumpf being thought even at that early date to be essential to the conservative philosophy. When I was a young man, conservatism seemed clear-eyed and vibrant, and figures like Barry Goldwater and Wm F Buckley were in stark contrast to the mealy-mouthed establishment figures like Dean Rusk (say). You had a very good idea what they stood for because they would articulate it plainly. Nowadays the people in power who call themselves conservatives seem to me more or less corporatist authoritarians of some sort, a kinder gentler version of Italian fascism.The first thing conservative intellectuals have to do is to recapture their movement, and I think Ayn Rand’s advice is still good: get rid of the religious bumpf.

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posted October 31, 2006 at 12:00 am

Thank you David Kuo for continuing to speak truth to a culture that so often runs from it. Regarding the business of “conservative” philosophy, there’s certainly no fiscal conservativism in Bush’s multi-billion dollar War of choice, nor in Bush’s multi-billion dollar Corporate Welfare programs like the Pentagon & Department of Defense–not to mention a little something called the Department of Homeland Security. And of course there’s no “compassion” in BushCo’s well-documented pro-torture, pro-war gospel.Conservative philosophy? At best it’s a social disfunction steeped in fear, hatred, and hypocrisy.

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Tom Tomberg

posted October 31, 2006 at 4:13 am

I’d be interested in nailing down what you two might think a conservative viewpoint on the spending programs you allude to in this post, David. Would it really be somehow un-conservative if you could spend that money effectively, improve some people’s lives, ameliorate poverty, and still balance the budget (back in 2000, before Republican rule in DC, that was plausible)? I view myself as a conservative in some respects– an empiricist and and incrementalist. So I am reflexively skeptical of efforts to radically recast a program like Social Security that’s been so successful in reducing poverty among the elderly in this country. This runs up into the limitations of status-quo-rooted conservatism– I realize I may well have likely been reflexively opposed to the creation of Social Security, and desegregation, had I been the white middle-class person then that I am now. Desegregation is so obviously a Good Thing now that it’s hard to think of it as controversial, but the National Review wrote in support of the Southern segregationists in a 1957 editorial, “Why the South Must Prevail.” It wasn’t just hicks and rabble-rousers like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond who opposed segregation– the oracle of conservative respectability did too. And I might have at the time too– valuing stability and advancement by merit, I may have regarded uprooting traditional institutions and systems as a threat. So, how does a person, as a conservative, look beyond the status quo to identify policy issues and come up with effective responses? How can conservatism be more than reactive?

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posted October 31, 2006 at 5:11 am

Kevin, I find GWB as reprehensible as anyone, but to place a label of “anti-Christ” upon him is silly, (to me at least.) Why? It is the type of thing which leads to discounting a politician on grounds which are not related to their policies and what results from them. It takes a man and replaces him with a label to which a great many people have a viscerally aggressive reaction. Now GWB may warrant a viscerally aggressive reaction, and if he does give it to him straight rather than burden him with a label. Neither GWB or Bill Clinton warrant such treatment. Each are men, and each have their strengths (Clinton) and weaknesses (GWB). 😉 (Ok, so I am showing my political colours.)

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posted October 31, 2006 at 10:58 am

Anybody who believes in a god, especially fanatically like fundies, should have their heads eamined. Something’s wrong with you if you do. Seriously…

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posted October 31, 2006 at 4:39 pm

— check out this link– you can be skeptical about the supernatural without being a jerk. You’re welcome!

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posted October 31, 2006 at 11:28 pm

It seems to me that a lot of people self-identify as conservatives simply because they don’t like liberals. Perhaps they went to college and were appalled by all the political correctness, or somesuch. These people could really benefit from reflecting on first principles. It’s far better to be introspective and define your own philosophy of life, rather than simply adopting a label.

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posted November 1, 2006 at 2:41 am

Does anyone else find it ironic that Andrew Sullivan who has taken to criticizing social conservatives on a daily basis and has accused the Bush administration of capitulating to the religious right, now is suddenly engaging in a ‘blogalogue’ with David Kuo? In this blogalogue, Mr. Sullivan was very praiseworthy of Mr. Kuo. Mr. Kuo, was a former aide to William Bennett and John Ashcroft, two very prominent social conservatives and his main argument has been that the Bush administration mistreated and used social conservatives to win the election but did little for them once elected. It would seem that these two viewpoints are mutually exclusive as one cannot be using the religious right and then be simultaneously capitulating to them. Furthermore, David Kuo is “big-government social conservative” and it is likely that he is not pro gay marriage (although I could be wrong on that), the exact type of Republican that Mr. Sullivan claims to detest. It seems likely that Mr. Sullivan will cozy up to any self-described Conservative regardless of viewpoints who is willing to criticize the Bush administration. Sullivan appears to have a lost any sense of integrity and willing to praise anyone who will atack what he regards as his main enemy. He is also entirely disingenuous about his reasons for doing so as he seemed to have little criticism for government spending and little criticism for the war in Iraq until the gay marriage amendment was supported by the Bush administration.

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posted November 1, 2006 at 1:43 pm

Who does David Kuo and Andrew Sullivan thgink they are folling? Any Christian “worth their salt,” can see through deception as easily as stained glass. Quo’s timing is self-evident and Sullivan’s morality has nothing in common with the consistent message of the New Testament. “Love” cannot be as easily corrupted as the flesh. And love doesn’t mean “anything goes.”Not according to Christ Jesus anyway.

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posted November 1, 2006 at 1:53 pm

OK, OK . . . without typo’s . . . Do Andrew Sullivan and David Kuo really think they are fooling Christians? We follow the Gospel and not cleverly devised political propaganda. The GOP does not hide behind lies of giving civil rights by enslaving the poor to hedonism and debauchery, or taxing and redefining the life out of the American family. Conservative Leftist pundit, is like saying Pro-Life Planned Parenthood volunteer. Light and darkness cannot dwell in the same place. Give it up David and Andrew. Our children are too important to us. We study more than just the Bible now and know what you’re up to.

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posted November 1, 2006 at 3:52 pm

Uriah, I wonder why you think David and Andrew are trying to fool Christians. Not that it isn’t pretty easy to fool them, conditioned as they are to respond to various ‘hot-button’ issues and long accustomed to following shepherds and others whose symbol most fittingly is a crook. I really don’t think David and Andrew are out to deceive you, though of course in our great republic every patient is entitled to his own delusions. As to the following statement of yours, I couldn’t hake any sense of it, but hope the Republicans will adopted it as a slogan for 2008: “The GOP does not hide behind lies of giving civil rights by enslaving the poor to hedonism and debauchery”

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posted November 1, 2006 at 4:12 pm

I would share my own personal experience for a moment.I re-read my Bible with an empty head, and by that I mean putting aside any prejudices I had about political parties or my own opinion about issues; I found it very enlightening. Remember that while God’s word is infallible, and those interpreting it clearly are fallible. Godly men are still men, and as such they very often fall to sins of the world. They are just as likely to desire political power, greed, or sexual sin as you or I.When I read my Bible objectively I didn’t find the obsession with hot-button issues like gay marriage and abortion that my pastor seemed intent on talking about. I saw a God obsessed with the weakest among us: The alien, the fatherless, and the widowed. Then when I looked at my church I saw a flock obsessed with political power through the Moral Majority. I believe in sin as C.S. Lewis described it. Men are not evil, for they are made in God’s image, but they sometimes pursue good things (the ability to influence the nation and world for God) through bad means (political power). I believe Christ’s message to aide to the weakest among us is far more powerful than any White House office or Governorship. Who cares about the White House when we have the Prince of Peace

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posted November 1, 2006 at 5:28 pm

The quote that David uses in his book from CS Lewis’ Scewtape Letters is so good (and aptly summarizes David’s book) It is particularly relevant to our times because it was written during the German bombing of England during WW II when politics were put on hold and the country unified against a common enemy. The point being, during times of national crisis, God, country, and politics seem to merge (like post 9/11 days). This is when faith is most severely tempted to become temporally focused. It is when the secularist politician tastes real power. It s when politicians experience 90% approval ratings. It s when religion is viewed as a unifying force. But as Lewis points out throughout his book, it is just a distraction from the real issues at hand. The Christian Right involvement in politics in my opinion is a distraction, not a seduction. It is a distraction from what we should be doing, not a seduction into doing something we should not be doing.

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Mike McCartney

posted November 1, 2006 at 5:54 pm

David I applaud your book Tempting Faith. I read it this last week after catchinga glimpse of you on 60 Minutes. It was very enlightening. This last Sunday I preached a sermon from Acts Chapter 19 called Fly Hight Acts part 17 – the sermon is posted on under contributor Michael McCartney. I used some quotes from your book and challenged our congregation about making sure that we do not miss-use the name of the Lord for self-centered reasons. In Acts chapter 19 the Sons of Sceva tried to miss-use the name of the Lord and the end result was the enemy trashed them. the same lesson applies today to those who seek to miss-use the name of the Lord for political and personal gain. Thanks for you honesty in the book and for sharing the truth. I want to share a story with you: We started a 1/2 way home a few years back and had a man called BJ come through the home. He had gotten saved in jail and was discipled by this ministry. BJ has completely changed because of the Lord Jesus. He was introduced to Meth by his mother at a young age. He became a Meth addict and a dealer. He was married for a time but his addiction destroyed his marriage. But a few months ago i had the pleasure of reuniting these two. His wife also became believer and now the family has been put back together by the Lord. A few weeks before the wedding I also had the pleasure of baptizing BJ’s oldest daughter who is 12. When we were in the pool to Baptize her I asker her a question,:What has Jesus done for you?” Her response was “Jesus helped me to love my daddy again!” I wanted to share this story to say, “Jesus is transforming America one person and one family at a time – and this is where our hope for a better America will come from. Blessing Michael McCartney, Pastor of New Life Community, Amery Wi.

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posted November 1, 2006 at 6:00 pm

Give up your obsession with Andrew Sullivan already, Uriah_fan.

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posted November 1, 2006 at 7:49 pm

I can agree and support many of the true conservative principles, but the neo-conservatives are a different mater.

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peter brein

posted November 3, 2006 at 1:38 am

most ‘christians’ are not really conservatives in any sense of the word. the dominance of reich-wing talk radio in the last 15 years has made them to be of one mindset(gk. phronema)-HATERS!!!!!! that’s all they are: haters. pb

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