In my years of working with young conservatives, and trying to convey to them the principles and world view which makes me so proudly conservative, I've run across young people who aren't quite sure how they would label themselves politically. But despite being uncertain about what to call themselves they are confident of one thing -- they want nothing to do with the conservative "brand" so often represented by some of the biggest conservative icons of our time.
And that saddens me.
On a regular basis some well-known and some newly emerging conservatives act as though they are armed with a rhetorical flamethrower. They pull the trigger, scorch the surface of what they've aimed at, and then move on. Somehow they believe they've done the world a favor.
As far as I'm concerned their mindset could be described as "killing liberals is fun."
Again, that saddens me.
Why? Because if THAT's all there is, if conservatives are nothing more than angry liberal killers, then we've missed the point.
You see one of the purposes of taking conservative ideas to the airwaves or the public square is not to throw red meat to the home team, but to go out and make the team bigger. I think it is important that we seek to answer questions, win over the undecideds and yes, try to convince those who were not yet committed to the conservative cause, to give it a second look.
I have always thought that the reason we wished to publicly debate ideas was so that in the arena of ideas, the debate would bring enlightenment to those watching. Then, in the process, more Americans would be convinced of the truth. As a result, more Americans would take actions in their own cities, states, and indeed in their nation to bring about the best America possible.
I thought that the reason we conservatives thought it was ironic that liberals always seemed so angry was because we knew something about kindness.
About a year ago I had the chance to sit down privately with one of the most notoriously liberal personalities in America. This wasn't the first time we'd had a chance to chat. But still--because I am a well-known conservative with a large audience -- I'm sure the assumption was: "Kevin will probably be a jerk like the rest of them."
What unfolded was an ninety minute conversation about the upcoming elections (2010), the personalities involved, and some of the political controversies percolating at that moment.
Before the conversation was over this angry liberal actually cracked a smile. Something I consider a small breakthrough.
This wasn't the first time this had happened tome. A number of years ago I co-hosted a daily talk show in Chicago with a radio partner. Until she met me had fancied herself a liberal Democrat. Her reflexive dislike for conservatives was based on the personalities I've mentioned.
We shared an office and a studio but in doing so we also shared a lot of life. We prayed for each other's kids. We cheered one another's successes. A proud black woman, she discovered that the purpose of conservativism wasn't to destroy some of the very values that we both shared but to reinforce them.
When we parted after working together closely for that one year (in which we even enjoyed ratings success, I might add), she went to an even larger station and became a powerful voice for common sense advocacy--something you and I would recognize as... conservatism.
I tell these stories because it does the conservative cause no good to tout a superior way of thinking. What those of us who believe in the conservative cause need to do is to show a little respect for people who are genuinely curious about conservative ideas yet never feel comfortable asking the questions that burden them.
That my friends is counter-productive.
If a conservative pundit, host, columnist, author, or spokesperson isn't willing to be the bigger person, absorb the body blow from time to time, and be the better man (or woman) in the contest, then they have no business representing me or any other conservative thinker.
Let me say that I'm truly grateful for those who choose to aim the conversion of people's minds-- and don't aspire to insults that assault people's dignity.
Conservatives should have as part of our very mandate, the mission to win every heart and mind for the truth. We should not aim to rub the noses of those who disagree with us in our own misguided arrogance.
It simply does the broader conservative movement no good for those who are already in it to proceed with arrogance and hubris. Humility of spirit, kindness towards our fellow man, a desire to redeem people's thoughts and beliefs and reconcile them to the truth of the best ideas, these should be the stamp we conservatives use as our trademark.
The time is now for us to aim higher. We should seek to win new recruits to our cause and embrace those who might come to it. We should to aim single out those who might be drawn to the strength of our ideas if only some of the most prominent messengers weren't so mean spirited.
It's one thing to say, "Let not your heart be troubled," but its another thing all together to be able to live out the principles of the God who is the author of that idea.
Kevin McCullough is the nationally syndicated host of "The Kevin McCullough Show" weekdays (7-9am EST) & "Baldwin/McCullough Radio" Saturdays (9-11pm EST) on 265 stations. His newest hardcover from Thomas Nelson Publishers, "No He Can't: How Barack Obama is Dismantling Hope and Change" hits streets March 2011.