You hear it all the time: “I’m a fiscal conservative but a social moderate.”
I believe that statement is an oxymoron. It falls right in line with “jumbo shrimp,” “same difference,” “open secret” and “original copies.”
My values are in line with New Jersey Family Council’s philosophy in that when I believe in conservative values, I believe in the whole package. In other words, conservative values describe the best method for living a whole life. One cannot live half of a whole life, any more than one can choose principles as if they were clothes. A fiscal conservative outfit may attract a certain segment of voters, and a social moderate outfit may allow an expanded universe of voters, across the political spectrum for politics’ sake. But that is not integrity.
We can all agree that “Living Right, Voicing Values and Righting Wrong” are worthy goals. But what do these phrases mean in today’s world? I will discuss each one individually and then show why they are inextricable.
First, Living Right: I believe, as does a large and growing segment of our population, that ending a life through abortion is wrong. Others believe a woman should have unrestricted choice as to whether that new life conceived in her womb should be allowed to come to term and breathe its first breath. As King Solomon showed, we cannot compromise on the fates of children: we cannot chop a baby in two to satisfy both parties. This idea applies to all questions of taking, making and faking life — embryonic stem cell research, cloning, fertility technologies, gestational carrier contracts and so on.
Second, Voicing Values: If I believe with most Americans that the union of a man and a woman in marriage is unalterably special, and I say so, I am labeled a monger of “hate speech.” I do not hate anyone. I believe in people’s right to exist as they see fit, but those who would force me to recognize a radical redefinition of marriage don’t care what I believe.
Some states have extended benefits to same-sex relationships, like we have done in New Jersey, through civil unions or domestic partnerships. Many people accept this move. But if we voice our belief that natural marriage has a unique role to play in our culture, we are insistently called “bigots.”
Finally, Righting Wrong: I believe that government is not the be-all and end-all of things human. I believe the government is necessary for sustaining a just rule and economy, but its role is not primarily to confiscate goods. Predominately, it is to provide for a strong national defense and efficient markets that provide jobs, build wealth and contribute to the common good, without leaving the truly indigent unspoken for.
I also believe the church has been, is and ought to remain a very important institution in our culture. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “The church … is not the master or the servant of the state but rather the conscience of the state.”
If I want the church’s voice to be free and uninhibited despite the Johnson Amendment, which attacked preacher’s free speech in 1954, I am looked at as an oddity. And yet no one could argue in good faith that the church and its free expression of beliefs and credos has not been under intensified and growing assault by our government and other organizations in our nation with an agenda hostile to religion.
“Living Right, Voicing Values, and Righting Wrong” are all intimately connected. The beliefs above call for consistent action in everyday life. Actions require justifications or beliefs. The bridge that joins thought and action is speech, which is why finding one’s voice is one of our most powerful metaphors for taking one’s place in the world. Whether conservatives have a place in the world is the defining question of our time.
One of the most memorable quotes I have seen in my tenure as the founder and president of the Family Policy Council is from Rabbi Daniel Lapin in America’s Real War: “We are no longer one nation under God. We are two separate nations with two distinct and incompatible moral visions…Those two views can best be characterized as either support for or opposition to Judeo-Christian morality playing a role in American public life.”
My prayer for America is that more and more people will come to appreciate the whole, ethical life that Judeo-Christian principles describe, and that, as a country, we will be ever more faithful in upholding Judeo-Christian morality in questions of life and death, justice and mercy.
I pray more and more New Jerseyans will join the movement to reclaim our culture and build an enduring cultural transformation that preserves liberty and justice for our children and future generations.
Yours for the family,