For my entire childhood, my mother made sure our family had home-cooked meals. She investigated what was healthy, and the food on the table reflected her knowledge of what was best for our family. She also encouraged all of us to exercise, get outside, and have habits that promoted our overall well-being. Even as an adult, I joke to friends that I’m a bit of a health nut. When I was a kid, though, our conservative household seemed a bit like the liberals of the time in regard to diet and health.
But these days, it’s not uncommon to see conservatives noting the dangers of ultra-processed foods, seed oils, and pesticides. Meanwhile, the left is busy promoting fake meat, obesity, and big pharma. On the left, health is a word that has lost all meaning. Just take the promotion of obesity as healthy as an example. This is a far cry from the stereotypical health-conscious lefty of just 15 years ago.
Part of this is related to big pharma and the corruption we can see in the health care industry. There’s a lot of money to be made off of pushing pills (or vaccines) onto people rather than telling them to take a daily walk and eat more greens. One case of this is evident in the crumbling narrative around the COVID-19 vaccines. We were told these shots were safe and that we should take them to prevent getting sick, but there wasn’t much discussion of how comorbidities, like obesity, affected infection or death rates.
Mary Harrington in UnHerd examines why the left now disregards health. She makes the case that the origins of this are a result of the left no longer being opposed to industrial capitalism. She explains: “People in glass houses are famously advised not to throw stones. And as the progressive worldview has become more monolithically elite in class terms, it’s also lost its antagonism to Big Business.”
I don’t think that the right is anti-capitalist, but it is concerned with an overly mechanized society stripping away our humanity. Writing about education, Kerry McDonald says:
Today, we need more young people to grow up with the audacity to create the impossible things that will brighten our lives, enhance human flourishing, and improve our planet. We need more young people to nurture the qualities and characteristics that separate human intelligence from artificial intelligence.
Conservatism is interested in ways to improve people’s lives. It promotes traditional lifestyles, which value the family, Western Civilization, religion, and quality of life. And these traditions have survived through the annals of history for a reason: They help people flourish and find meaning.
Indeed, over the past decade, conservative commentators have become more intentional about addressing issues that expand beyond the purely political. Get married, have kids, homeschool, go to church, exercise—this advice fits naturally into a worldview promoting the traditions of the past that have built stable, free, and moral societies.
On the other hand, left-wing ideologies like critical race theory and radical gender theory reject those traditional values and institutions. Going a step further, climate ideology says that the world has too many humans on it, implying that people need to have fewer kids and perhaps that we have to get rid of some people.
Climate change is a particular point that is used as a justification for why we should eat certain foods and not others: We should eat fake meat because it’s better for the environment than its real food counterpart. More broadly speaking, the priority is no longer human well-being but the environment or supporting the right social causes.
As an outflowing of an extremely secular worldview, this ideology makes perfect sense: If you don’t believe that humans stand unique or are created in the image of God, then the human body is no longer sacred. Chopping off body parts to become the opposite gender, gluttony to the point of morbid obesity, and consuming manufactured “foods” are no longer desecration.
It’s a depressing way to live life, fighting against avoidable health problems, especially when so many who have unavoidable health problems would give anything to be healthy. But it is a message and reminder to the rest of us: We are created in the image of God, and we should treat our bodies as such.
Image credit: Flickr-Steve Baker, CC BY-ND 2.0