Conversion: Political, Not Religious

Commentator Caroline Langston grew up as a conservative Christian, and while her faith hasn't changed, her political party has.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Now we're going to hear from another woman with strong political beliefs, though some of her convictions have changed over time. Here's commentator Caroline Langston.

CAROLINE LANGSTON: Here's a famous cliché you all have heard. If a man is not a liberal when he is young, he has no heart. And if he is not a conservative when he is old, he has no brain. My experience has been exactly the opposite. I started out as a passionate young conservative then woke up one day on the threshold of 40 to discover that I had in fact become part of the left wing.

I'm just as surprised as everybody else. My impulses toward conservatism were deep, regional and instinctive. I was a Southerner, religious at a very young age, I thought Ronald Reagan was okay. At 14 I went to a boarding school in New England where my fellow students - children of Cambridge and Ann Arbor - had no problem telling me what they thought I was. Why are Christians so stupid, they asked.

In the past few years it has been fashionable to dismiss the phrase liberal elitism as a piece of right wing propaganda, but I am here to report that the phenomenon is real. All those snide remarks did, though, was to send me into the arms of thinkers that could blow the preppy liberal bourgeoisie right out of the water. I drank port and talked about Allan Bloom with guys in $100 Paul Stuart ties and imagined that I was saved.

My transformation was a lot less dramatic. It started on a day in 1998 in South Carolina when I registered for unemployment and I realized that the New Deal was a good thing after all. It continued when my husband became a shop steward for his union and it occurred to me that despite what the globalists were saying, the labor movement is vitally important to ensure that working and middle class voices are heard, not just the shareholders and consultants.

My conversion was complete just a couple of weeks ago when I registered to vote as a Democrat because I wanted to vote in a local primary in which all the candidates were Democrats.

So what happened? I continued to believe in personal responsibility and individual initiative but discovered that legislation and regulation, all of that big government, can really help to protect the poor and the innocent.

I also learned that there were Christians who combined traditional faith with progressive politics, like Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day or in my own Greek Orthodox Church, the late Archbishop Iakavos, who marched in Selma with the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King.

But before anyone gets all excited about how I have finally seen the light, hear this - I'm still pro life, not because I am a tool of the patriarchy as some girl once accused me, but because it seems consistent with others who at risk, vulnerable and unwanted. I have grave concerns about stem cell research, not because I want to shove my religion on others but because I've learned to be suspicious of people who claim that philosophical objections are unimportant.

And my disenchantment with the current conservative movement rests on two concepts that the great cannon of Western literature gave me - hubris and sin.

So am I welcome at the liberal party? How about that cartoon from 2004 that derisively dismissed everything between New York and San Francisco as Jesusland. Is there a place for me at the table exactly as I am?

NORRIS: Caroline Langston, a grant writer, lives in Cheverly, Maryland.

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