Why I Left the Left: How Studying Theology Made Me a Conservative

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

Leading up to the 2008 presidential election, I let it be known to anyone who would listen that I was going to vote for Barack Obama. After years of leftist activism, it was exciting to be able to vote for a candidate who embodied much of what I believed to be true. For me, the previous eight years under President Bush had been a wasteland of oppression, war-mongering, and greed. Obama presented me with the voting opportunity to help usher in a new age of compassion, justice, and equality.

This is, in large part, why I read with interest the recent HuffPost Politics article by Susie Meister titled “Why I Left the Right: How Studying Religion Made Me a Liberal.” You see, my experience was the exact opposite of Susie Meister’s. Ideologically, my journey took me deep into liberalism before reversing course into conservatism. Similar to Dr. Meister, my journey was shaped by my faith in King Jesus.

My ideological journey to November 4, 2008, had been fairly streamlined, with the exception of an event three years prior that eventually turned into an ideological pivot. That pivot, which at that point was still to arrive, had been a long time coming – almost two decades, beginning in debate class my senior year of high school.

Bill Clinton had recently been sworn in as president, and in my hometown of Pensacola, Florida, the angry political buzz swarmed around President Clinton’s proposed military base closures. Considering that Pensacola is a military town, the angry concern made sense. In class, the teacher chose Clinton’s proposed base closings for a debate topic. I was tasked with arguing the affirmative. Prior to my debate prep, like basically everyone else around me, I was adamantly opposed to any military base closings. During my prep work, however, my mind was changed.

Entering class on the day of the debate, I was proud of my preparation, and anxious to convert others to my new position. I don’t remember much about the debate, but I do remember the anger I elicited. Afterward, I was shocked at the level of ire from my classmates and my teacher. One of my best friends, Bill (who is currently serving as a U.S. Marine), was livid. And probably justifiably so; his dad’s job was on Clinton’s chopping block that I had just adamantly defended. I do remember smugly chiding the opposition for not being willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. As I stated, Bill’s anger was probably justified.

Bill and I moved past that argument, and remain friends to this day. But, that debate is what dislodged me from the conservative moorings of my family, friends, and culture, and propelled me towards liberalism.