Andrew Schlafly ’81 learned conservatism as a boy in the 1970s, watching his mother, Phyllis Schlafly, lead the fight against passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Now Schlafly, a Harvard-trained lawyer, has tried to bring conservatism into the Internet age by launching two projects online: Conservapedia (www.conservapedia.com), a conservative alternative to Wikipedia, and the Conservative Bible project (www.conservapedia.com/ Conservative_Bible). What are people viewing on Conservapedia? The first five listings under “Popular Items” are: Evolution, Atheism, Bias in Wikipedia, Jesus Christ, and Bible. Schlafly spoke to PAW in December.
Where did you get the idea for Conservapedia?
I was teaching a world-history class to a group of home-schoolers, and one of them submitted answers that used B.C.E. and C.E. to describe dates instead of B.C. and A.D. I asked where she had gotten that, and she said she got it from Wikipedia. I realized that more and more people are getting their information from Wikipedia, which is an atheistic and very liberal resource. I decided that we needed an Internet encyclopedia that was free of liberal bias and also gave clear and concise answers.
If anyone can contribute to Wikipedia, what makes it liberal?
It’s the framework that makes it liberal. It’s the difference between a legal proceeding that uses a jury and a good set of rules, which is what Conservapedia is, compared to a mob, which is what Wikipedia is. Anyone can serve on a jury, and anyone can join a mob, but the outcomes are very different. A jury is guided by good rules to promote truth-finding. A mob is guided by the biggest bullies.
Is there such a thing as an objective encyclopedia?
In practice, the answer is no. I think we are better off if people disclose their approach, and then readers can make their own decisions accordingly.
Have there been calls for a conservative Bible?
There are other Bible translation projects going on, and they are getting increasingly distorted. For example, a group of professors at Wheaton College [in Illinois] have announced that they will come out with a translation to replace the New International Version. I don’t trust them. Translating the Bible is too important to be done behind closed doors by a profession that is predominantly liberal. I wanted to apply the same tools that we have developed on Conservapedia and open up the Bible to public review and editing as well as public scrutiny.
What makes this Bible conservative?
Conservatism is an approach that adheres to original intent in interpreting older documents. Many of the concepts in the Bible are also politically conservative, so the expectation is that the original intent of the Bible will express concepts that would be called conservative today.
Who makes the ultimate determination as to the best translation?
We have opened this up to the public in the hope that, over time, the best translation will become so obvious that all these members of the public, who are in a sense sitting on this jury, will reach a unanimous conclusion. If it’s not unanimous, you start the process again until there is unanimous agreement.
Aren’t you interpreting the Gospels through the lens of politics, rather than interpreting your politics through the lens of the Gospels?
The lens of politics can be a powerful and effective means of getting at the truth. It’s like solving a math problem. One approach may yield a result in a page of work. Take a different approach, and it may take you 20 pages. By looking at things through a political lens, it often becomes easier to see what should not be there and where the biases come in. A political analysis of the manuscripts is an easier way to identify passages that are not authentic to the true spirit of the Bible than other approaches.
Are you optimistic about conservative prospects today?
My view is that the 2008 election was an aberration, like Woodstock in 1969. It wasn’t the beginning of a liberal movement, but the end of it. The 2009 elections had stunningly conservative outcomes, and I think we are going to see the country continue to move in that direction. The reason is that conservatism is mostly logic, and ultimately logic prevails.
— Interview conducted and condensed by Mark F. Bernstein ’83