The twelve Apostles receiving inspiration from the Holy Spirit and composing the Creed Illumination by Somme_le_Roy_f.10v – Date: 1295 ( Wikipedia)
William F Buckley, Jr. was the founding figure of modern conservatism in America. He wrote
God and Man at Yale when he was 25, and wrote many books afterward until he died in 2008.
But he had an extra dimension which seems to have been lost on the newer generations of conservatives, which I’ll discuss here.
In 1960, at age 35, in his home, WFB and several other “founders”, penned the Sharon Statement, which became the founding statement of the Young Americans for Freedom, (the YAF) which went on to become the central conservative campus organization for over 50 years.
I never joined, as I was not a conservative in my college days.
It was not until 1964, and the Goldwater campaign, that I became aware of Mr Buckley, who was then still not yet 40, 4 years younger than my dad, who subscribed to
National Review that year and sent back- issues to me every few weeks or so.
By the time Ronald Reagan was elected, and I was 35, I had been a conservative for only four years, but never disagreed with
National Review in all those earlier years about conservatism, just still holding onto my own brand of “Civil Rights liberalism”.
Like many liberals of my generation, my error was in believing government could do good things, which, later reading and real-life experience proved to me was wrong-headed and that the Founders knew exactly what they were doing when they designed government small, and left the people in charge.
In 1976 I had my Road to Damascus moment while in the Army, during the Ford-Carter campaign. I read a Mary McGrory column in the
Arizona Republic where she stated (and I paraphrase) that “ Modern Liberalism stands for the proposition that all human conduct should be subject to the political process.”
At that instant I ceased being a liberal, and never looked back.
The Sharon Statement, which I link here, while aimed at defining the YAF, is essentially the Canons of Conservatism. Virtually every conservative, including #NeverTrumpers, would agree with it, if they’d bother to read it.
So I recommend every millennial and Gen X’er to do just that.
But in 1960 it was written for college students who already possessed a core set of principles that inclined them to see threats to democracy, internal and external, and the freedom found in free markets and the uniqueness of America in the first place.
But today we cannot assume that millennials and Gen X’ers who have passed though our college system had any of those core principles imparted to them, at home or in public school. So, the Sharon Statement, and many of its founding principles are likely alien to them.
Easy to digest and similar to the Ten Commandments in structure, I liken the Sharon Statement more to the
Apostle’s Creed which most every Christian faith recites, for it is a statement of faith, not rules of conduct.
It is also a self-reminder of one’s faith. The Apostle’s Creed weighs on me every time I recite it, for while my faith never wavers, when I recite the Creed my shoulders become heavy with the reminder of my many weaknesses; the four deadly sins still with me, Vanity (Pride), Envy, Wrath, and Sloth, and the other three, Lust, Gluttony and Greed that I’m too old or poor to pursue anymore.
This self-awareness William Buckley did not teach me, especially of my shortcomings. There were other men, far less educated than he, who did. I was always lucky that way. It was because of them, when I recite the Creed, that I can notice others as they fumble through their purses looking for a stick of gum while saying it.
It’s the “vain repetitions” (Mt 6:7) of our conservative beliefs that have always concerned me[…]