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PO Box 80008, Athens GA 30608-0008 • 1-888-343-1776 • Fax 706-367-9767

Spring 2008
Dear Friends,
As I tell TeenPact students, politics is not the answer to America’s problems. Spiritual revival is what we
need in America. We work hard to see Christians elected, and yet often time they disappoint us. The GOP
seems to take Christians for granted treating us just like another constituency. I guess we are.
One label thrown around a lot is that of “conservative.” I hear candidates and elected officials use it all the
time—many times incorrectly. What does it really mean? That means looking to a guy named Russell Kirk
who really spelled it out better than just about anyone. This all-but-forgotten man laid out ten principles
of conservative thought many officials seem to have forgotten. See how many you recognize.
First, conservatives believe in an enduring moral order. Don’t confuse moral order with any particular
denominational leaning. This concept is much broader than that. Kirk said that human nature was a
constant, and moral truths were permanent. That’s not surprising considering that 94% of Americans
believe in God, according to pollster George Barna. Surprisingly, Kirk said that a society in which men and
women are governed by an enduring belief in moral order—by a strong sense of right and wrong—and by
personal convictions about justice and honor—that would be a good society, regardless of the political
machinery. Political parties do not determine the trajectory of a nation—the people do. Nancy Pearcy put
it well when she said that politics is downstream from culture.
Second, tradition in a culture is important and should not be tossed out on a whim. Kirk actually calls this
“continuity.” What he meant is that order and justice and freedom are the result of centuries of trials and
reflections and sacrifice. Change should be gradual and calculated—never undoing traditions as a knee-
jerk reaction. Tell that to a politician who gets a call from a constituent about some hot-button issue and
decides to author a bill to fix it. This election cycle the word “change” has been tossed around by most
candidates, but true conservatives should always be wary of change. Wary doesn’t mean completely closed
to some change though. It just means “slow change.” If you look at how our bi-cameral system of govern-
ment loaded with checks and balances was designed, clearly our founders thought “slow” was good.
Third, conservatives adhere to Edmund Burke’s mantra that the individual is foolish, but the species is wise.
Using that advice, real conservatives stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before them and look
to enduring wisdom. That means not only the Ronald Reagans, but other great thinkers and statesmen
beyond our lifetime like Edmund Burke, T.S. Eliot, Adam Smith, and Sir Walter Scott. Too bad folks are not
reading those authors any more though. So much for diversity.
Fourth, true conservatives look at the long-term consequences of laws and policies. I fear this principle
frequently gets tossed in favor of re-election. Kirk said that rushing into legislation or policies without
weighing the long-term consequences will actually create new abuses in the future. We should slow down
and look as far as we can into the future.
Fifth, conservatives know good and well that you can’t totally level the economic playing field, and in fact,
we should not aspire for it. Robbing Peter taxpayer to pay Paul truly violates conservative thought because
it is not a permanent solution. Even if you gave everyone in town a million dollars, inequity would surface
its head again within 24 hours. Some will have saved, some spent, some gambled on bad investments, and
some just gambled. Inequity is a part of life. That is not to say we should not be benevolent and urge our
churches and charities to give assistance. In fact, Christianity and even other religions have strong teaching
about caring for the poor, for widows and orphans. In our society, we have tried to make it the government’s
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job, and true conservatives have to take issue with that practice. Churches and non-profits should especially
tune in to this one.
Sixth, mankind is messed-up. Kirk didn’t exactly quote Romans 6:23, but conservatives believe that because
man is flawed from birth that no perfect social order can ever be created. Any one who promises such will
lie about other things. All that we can reasonably expect, Kirk said, is a tolerably ordered, just and free
society, in which evil and suffering continue to lurk. Can morality be legislated? Kirk would say that all laws
are an effort to legislate morality, and that is okay. Promising perfection, however, is the unpardonable sin.
Seventh, conservatives know that great societies are built upon the foundation of private property. We see
it in the Ten Commandments. Policies that seek to redistribute wealth and property should be an anathe-
ma to the real conservative. While getting rich should not be the conservative’s chief aim, the institution of
private property has been a powerful instrument for teaching responsibility, shaping integrity, creating
prosperity, and providing the opportunities for people to think and act. It is the opportunity to go from
rags to riches. This opportunity has given us the Truett Cathys (of Chick-fil-A fame) and others who
worked their way up from nothing.
Eighth, conservatives favor smaller government at a federal level, and champion small governments such as
county commissions and city councils. Decisions most affecting the lives of citizens should be made locally,
and as Kirk would say, voluntarily. That is how I got started. I ran a city council race for a friend. A strong,
centralized, and distant federal government tends to be more hostile to human freedom and dignity.
Ninth, the conservative believes in flattening the power—or limiting government. Real conservatives know
the danger of power being vested in just a few, even if it is called benevolent. Constitutional restrictions are
necessary, political checks and balance a must, and enforcement of the law a must—all the while balancing
the claims of authority with the claims of liberty. My good friend, Congressman Paul Broun, preaches this
message continually, and he has voted to limit the powers of the federal government—even at the criticism
of his own political party.
Finally, conservatives should be slow to change. Any thinking conservative would be resistant to hastily
throwing out the old way of doing something in favor of something completely new—even in the name of
“positive change.” Progress, or change, is important—for Kirk said a society would stagnate without it.
Change has to be reconciled with the permanent though, and both are important.
When Kirk revised these ten principles in 1993 before his death in 1994, he said that the word “conservative”
was being abused. If alive today, he probably wouldn’t be surprised that the distortion has not stopped. The
bottom line is that being “conservative” best describes how you feel about “truth,” and whether it is an old
thing or a new thing. “Conservative” means you see great value in permanent things. It sounds old-fash-
ioned, and I guess in a way it literally is.
As your family evaluates political candidates who use the word “conservative” to describe themselves, ask
them what it means and see how close they get to the real definition. I think you will be surprised.
Meanwhile, we will continue training the next generation of leaders across America hopefully instilling
within them a vision to see laws, policies and judicial decisions made that would please our Holy God.
Simultaneously, we are urging young people to be open to the Holy Spirit and his leadership, to share their
faith, to be generous, respectful, and grateful.
Please consider making TeenPact a matter of prayer for your family, and if God provides, we would appreciate
your financial support. Our classes cover about two-thirds of our operating expenses, and we rely on
donations to cover the rest.
Most sincerely,

Tim Echols, Founder and President