On the night Jesus was born, the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night. After the Lord’s birth, they were the first to get the news from the angel. They came and saw what they were told, and then told others what they had seen.
Keeping watch, a simple task, or so it would seem. While not an educated position, it required what most of us would likely not be able to do. It required presence. This is not a job that could be done from a distance. They had to actually lay eyes on the sheep and their surroundings to see that they were safe. It also required vigilance, so nothing foreign not belonging in the flock crept in. A quiet flock tended not to pay attention when danger was near. These men led their flocks from the front; they did not drive them from the rear, as cattle. They spent much of their lives in isolated places, looking for green grass, always for the sheep. It was their job, and often their life.
It seems conservatives are “watch-keepers” as well to a large degree. They realize that change is natural, but also are concerned that change comes naturally. If things move too quickly, the past gets left behind, and history is forgotten. The permanent things will be abandoned for the latest utopian idea of fixing all the problems of the world. Each new generation of “fixers” brings a reflexive experiment or two, or six that is supposed to make everything wonderful. It may look good on paper, but they tend to forget two important things: humans devised the plan and humans are expected to implement it as written. Both are fraught with error. Change comes as needed, not as forced. It takes a large entity (such as a powerful central organization) to force the change, immediately.
Looking back to history, we find that there is “nothing new under the sun” and that most quick fixes have been tried, many times. Stability has its advantages, and to throw it to the wind is to invite chaos. The French revolution is the classic example. The overthrow of the royalty resulted in thousands of deaths in the utter anarchy that resulted, and the effects are still being felt. The same thing happened in Russia with the overthrow and death of the czar and his family. While not the best ruler, the ones following conducted purges that killed millions of people and locked many countries into a slave-oriented lock-step existence. Those in power considered themselves to have the “best” answers.
Conservatives know that they do not have the best ideas over anyone else, but they also know that no one person or small group does either. As with the shepherds, we cannot keep watch from a distance, but can keep watch more effectively locally, where we can sit at tables and counters and talk. Thinking people need to communicate, and not throw phrases at each other from across the country.