Marvin Olasky

Bible-based beneficence. Bootstrap benevolence. Dignity-nurturing conservatism. Empowered emancipation. Civic compassion. God-grounded giving. Grassroot economics enhancement. Purposeful poverty prevention.

I’ll explain momentarily what those phrases signify, but let me first establish the context.

Once more the hills are alive with the sound of musings. Maybe that’s because so many Republicans have fled the plains since the November drubbing and sought solace from political oracles: National Review recently had in its pages one of the greatest gatherings since Delphi.

I enjoyed their suggestions for reviving conservatism, but here’s what’s weird: We already have an approach that’s proven historically (generations of Americans prospered by it) and politically (the only Republican elected president since 1988 ran on it). For Christians, here’s the most important attribute of all: That approach is biblical. Its name: compassionate conservatism, understood as a government decentralizing device and not the expansionary Bush administration mutation.

Communities of caring. Stronger cities through compassionate communities. Neighbor-to-neighbor nexus. Home-based solutions. Community care. Opportunity conservatism.

Those names in italics are suggestions from WORLD readers on how to rebrand the concept of compassionate conservatism. Happily, George W. Bush’s team passed out bags of buttons at the 2000 GOP convention announcing, “I’m a compassionate conservative.” Sadly, the Bush administration then tarnished the brand by making it seem like “big-government conservatism.” True, soaring domestic spending came as part of a deal whereby Democrats approved war spending requests, but that’s one more reason why Iraq is now, within American politics, a four-letter word.

So, I believe we have the approach that can resurrect Republicans. Compassionate conservatism is the way to go for the health of the country, since it allows most of us to help the poor without falling into entitlement bankruptcy. It’s the way for small-government advocates to have political success: The 2012 election showed once again that when voters see only two choices, getting help from government or getting help from no one, government wins. We need a third choice called “civil society,” the things we can do together without growing government.

Why not keep it simple and call effective poverty fighting “Effective Compassion?” Make an acrostic with terms that show what makes it effective: Elevating, Freeing, Formative, Empowering, Challenging, Transforming, Inspiring, Vital, Encouraging.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of the national news magazine World. For additional commentary by Marvin Olasky, visit
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