On Christmas, along with remembering how God came to earth, we might also read these words in Psalm 92: "How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep! The stupid man cannot know."
During three years of syndicated columnizing, many readers have asked why I'm a Christian conservative -- not the most likely outcome for a liberal Jewish boy from Massachusetts. Short answer: In my 20s, three decades ago, I realized I was stupid.
Oh, my intellectual credentials are OK. Sky-high SAT scores. A top chess player in high school. Graduated from Yale in three years. Ph.D. with super recommendations from impressed professors. Written lots of books. Yada yada.
But my brainy political ideas led me at age 22 to Marxism. Brainy ideas about marriage without fidelity led me to wed at age 21 and split at age 23. Brainy ideas about religion led me to atheism.
Happily, while in graduate school, as professors offered compliments, God showed how little I knew. For example: to satisfy a Ph.D. language requirement, I had to improve my Russian. One evening, just for reading practice, I plucked from my bookcase a copy of the New Testament in Russian given me two years before as a novelty item and never even opened. Surprise: The words had the ring of truth. (It helped that I had to read very slowly.)
Another time I was assigned to teach a course in early American literature, and my preparation involved reading ... Puritan sermons. Those very bright dead white males who fell on their knees before a far greater intelligence showed me I wasn't so smart. Later in my reading, books of C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer displayed Christian brains at work, but brains that understood the importance of respecting true wisdom.
Once I understood that God is smarter than me, it made sense to follow the Bible rather than my own playbook. It made sense that a civilization based essentially (although imperfectly and sinfully) on biblical teaching would have wisdom that deserves respect. True conservatism in this country means standing on the shoulders of earlier generations of Americans and the institutions that helped to mold their lives -- family, church, business -- instead of assuming that modernity knows best.
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