Beyond Liberal, Conservative, Progressive: The Need for a Morally Coherent Politics
We are only days into 2014 and speculation over the outcome of the 2014 congressional elections in the United States is filling the airwaves.
It is the promotion of monogamous marriage, family, authentic human freedom, the dignity of every human person and the existence of objective moral truths which can be known by all - and unalienable rights endowed upon all - which has guided real progress in human history.These are not outdated ideas. Rather they pave the path to a future of freedom. We need to present a vision for a future of promise predicated upon a true humanism. We need to present a positive governing vision of hope, rooted in a true recognition of the human person, the family and the truly just society.
Though lending lip service to the standard line that it is too early to announce whether they will be candidates, many are assembling their teams and preparing for serious runs for the White House. There is no doubt; this will be a hotly contested Presidential race, at least for the Republican primary nomination.
The chatter coming from the mouths of the political prognosticators who inhabit what is left of network television is of little or no value in evaluating the current political climate. I know I am not alone in saying that that I am tired of reading, viewing or hearing about what divides the social conservatives and the fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party.
I do not consider myself a Republican or even a conservative these days. I am certainly not a liberal, in the modern meaning of the term. The word has undergone sweeping change in the last fifty years in America. The liberal political cause was stolen by those who promote abortion on demand, substitute libertine excess for ordered liberty, and promote governance which is top down, proposing increasingly federalized solutions to every social need, while failing to solve the root problems of poverty.
The positions called progressive by those using the term as a political label are anything but. The dictionary defines progressive as an adjective, meaning "Moving forward; advancing." The agenda calling itself progressive is not progressive - it is regressive. The misuse of the word progressive is an example of what the late great C.S. Lewis, in his "Studies in Words" called verbicide.
In "The Abolition of Man" he warned of "progressive" governing schemes wherein a collectivist ideology built upon moral relativism is unleashed. He properly claimed, "A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery."
One of his Essays in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics entitled Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State, warned, Let us not be deceived by phrases about 'Man taking charge of his own destiny.' All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of others. . . . The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be.
There is an effort underway to portray those who adhere to the Jewish and Christian vision of the dignity of the human person, the primacy of marriage and family and the moral foundation of a free and just civil society as backward. I reject it. In fact, we offer the Nation the path to true progress.
You cannot separate moral, social and economic issues in the body politic, just as you cannot separate the spirit, soul and body of a person. Human society is a form of corporate person. Political and economic concerns have a moral dimension because they concern the human person.
The reason we must care about expanding economic opportunity is because we respect the dignity of every human person. We want people to flourish and that means opening up the means for economic advance. The reason we should care for the poor is because they have human dignity. Both of these assertions demonstrate what I am calling moral coherence in our positions.
These are examples of where we need to learn to speak a language of moral coherence. Our opponents want to paint us into a corner by disparaging us with confining labels and turning us against some who should be our allies. We must confront their effort by developing a new language. Let me give a few examples.
I am an advocate for smaller government. However, I am not anti-government. I think we need to explain the principle of subsidiarity in proposing our approach to good government. That word subsidiarity is derived from a Latin word which means to give help. It stands for the principle that governing should first be done at the lowest level.
The first government is the family. It is the most vital cell of society. Not only is it the first government, it is the first church, first school, first economy and first mediating institution. All other governing should seek to assist and not usurp the family. Flowing out from that first government are the mediating associations, local governments, State and Federal Government. All of these forms of ordering our life together participate in governing. Each has their proper role.
The Dignity of Life
We need to use clear language for defending the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the Right to Life. There is no such thing as an abortion right, even if the positive law currently protects the act of choosing to abort a child through the police power of the State. Abortions have no rights, only human persons do. Every procured abortion takes that right away.
Though abortion is legal in the United States, that does not make it moral. While restrictions on the practice are being enacted in the States, the current state of the federal law has not changed, our youngest neighbors in the first home of the whole human race can be killed by surgical instruments, chemical weapons or suction, at any time, for any reason.
We all know what occurs in every procured abortion; an innocent human person is killed. Medical science has advanced and exposed the rhetoric of choice which was used to deceive people. We now routinely reach into the womb and offer surgery to these same children in order to help them live fuller lives after birth.
The contradiction is clear to any decent person. It is also clear to any political candidate who does not deaden their conscience and shut down their brain for the sake of being elected. The dignity of every human life is not about a single issue, it is a lens through which every issue must be viewed.
We prosecute a criminal offender who, in the course of committing another felony, takes the life of a child in the womb as well as their mothers. We take 4D and 3D images of these children and send them to our friends. Yet, the same technology guides the abortionist in executing those who are unwanted.
We know the truth - that child in the womb is our neighbor. We all accept the existence of a Natural Moral Law written in every human heart which gives us the basis for our criminal codes. The real Right at issue in this entire discussion is the Right to Life. Without life there can be no other derivative rights. In fact, the entire infrastructure of human rights is placed in jeopardy.
Defending the intentional killing of children in the womb at any time and for any reason is grounded in a counterfeit notion of freedom as a power over those who are vulnerable and not wanted. Those who defend this practice are neither progressive nor liberal.
Marriage and Family
We must not back down in our defense of marriage as between one man and one woman - and the family and society founded upon the institution of marriage. Not only because it is rooted in the Natural Moral Law, but because the undermining of marriage and the family undermines the whole social order and thereby injures the common good. In our defense we must be clear that all men and women have a fundamental human dignity, including those with same sex attraction. However, that is not what is really at stake here.
I use the phrase homosexual equivalency movement to differentiate those within the homosexual and lesbian community who are politically committed to using the police power of the State to compel people to hold that homosexual sexual practices are morally equivalent to the sexual expression of marital love between a man and a woman. Some of the leaders of that homosexual equivalency movement use the label progressive for their movement.
The leaders of this homosexual equivalency movement demand that homosexual and lesbian relationships, which are ontologically incapable of achieving the ends of marriage, be given the same legal status as marriage. They further want the positive law of the Nation to force us all to call a marriage what can never be a marriage. Then, if we refuse, they will make us face the punitive police power of the State. There is nothing progressive against such an abuse of power.
Marriage is not simply a religious construct. The Natural Moral Law reveals - and the cross cultural history of civilization affirms - that marriage is between a man and a woman, open to children and intended for life. Marriage is the foundation for the family which is the privileged place for the formation of virtue and character in children, our future citizens.
The family is the first society, first economy, first school, first civilizing and mediating institution and first government. Defending marriage as between a man and a woman is defending the common good of society and promoting true progress.
There is nothing new about this social experiment being foisted upon us all by the homosexual equivalency movement. In a 2012 article in Catholic World Report entitled "Gay Marriage-Nothing New Under the Sun" Benjamin Wiker cited numerous sources which affirm that, Gay marriage was-surprise!-alive and well in Rome, celebrated even and especially by select emperors, a spin-off of the general cultural affirmation of Roman homosexuality. Gay marriage was, along with homosexuality, something the first Christians faced as part of the pagan moral darkness of their time.What Christians are fighting against today, then, is not yet another sexual innovation peculiar to our "enlightened age," but the return to pre-Christian, pagan sexual morality."
He is correct. Some contemporary progressives are actually regressive. They will lead the West backward to a sexual immorality which masquerades as freedom while leading to slavery.
It is the promotion of faithful, monogamous marriage, family, authentic human freedom, the dignity of every human person and the existence of objective moral truths which can be known by all - and unalienable rights that are endowed upon all - which has guided real progress in human history.These are not outdated ideas. Rather they pave the path to a future of freedom.
A true humanism
We need to present a vision for a future of promise predicated upon a true humanism. We need to present a positive governing vision of hope, rooted in a true recognition of the human person, the family and the truly just society. The Jewish and Christian vision of the human person, the family and the social order has helped to overcome the slaveries that emerged from flawed ideologies which treat people as property to be used and manipulated for centuries.It is the hope for the future.
It presents a moral vision and a path to real progress which has inspired leaders to speak truth to power, condemning the lies that elevate power and function over the primacy of the person, suppressing the values that civilize and set people and Nations free.The vision that every person is created in the Image of God and has an inherent dignity which must be recognized and respected. It has been the source of our understanding of what the American founders called ordered liberty. Human freedom must be exercised within a moral constitution, ordered toward what is good and true.
Otherwise, we do not progress in freedom. Instead, we succumb to new forms of slavery. This presupposes the existence of the good and the existence of truths which can be known. There is a moral basis to a truly free society. Freedom is not only about having a right to choose - but choosing the true and good. It must be exercised properly, and used to promote human flourishing, the family and the true common good. Freedom must acknowledge our obligations in solidarity to one another - because we are our brother and sisters keeper - and respect all. It must recognize the poor as another self and reach out to our neighbor.
This kind of moral based claim is not liberal, conservative or progressive, it is human. Any definition of liberty which begins -and ends - with the isolated, atomistic, person as the measure of freedom is inadequate. Any political conservatism which rejects our obligation to the poor is wrong headed. We need a robust renewal of the moral basis of the social order, without apology or equivocation.We need candidates who can articulate such a message because it informs their life.
A relational economics
We are by nature and grace called to relationship. Only in communion can we become fully human. However, to acknowledge our obligation in solidarity to one another, and to the poor, is not to condone the modern approach to big, federalized government or improperly restricting a free economic order.
This is another reason why we must keep economic and social issues integrated. The free market is made for man and not man for the market. Economics is not as much about capital as it is about human flourishing and freedom. Expanding economic participation is among the most important goals of a truly human economic order. Markets can only be truly free when free people are engaged in them. Freedom is a good of the person.
A free economy should seek to continually expand by opening the way for the participation for as many people as possible, while promoting enterprise and awarding initiative. A free market must not be controlled by either a massive federal bureaucracy or a massive corporatist elitist class.
The West flirts with an instrumentalist materialism which can spill over into a mistaken approach to a free market economic order. That is most clear when the accumulation of capital comes to be viewed as prior to the flourishing of the person, the family and the common good. In its wake, the poor can be forgotten.
Yes, we do have an obligation to the poor and we must acknowledge our solidarity with them. However, this solidarity is to be applied through the application of the principle of subsidiarity, rejecting all forms of dehumanizing collectivism, either of the left or the right.
Subsidiarity in government - as well as in economic policy - rejects the usurping by a larger entity of participation which can be done at the lowest practicable level. Larger governing entities must never usurp the rightful role of families and the mediating structures of society such as religious institutions, associations, charities and small self governing structures between the family and the institutions of civil government.
A morally coherent politics
It is time to develop a new political language with which we articulate our social and political positions. It is time to reject the efforts by some, across the political spectrum, to force us to succumb to political dualism by rejecting the integral unity of moral, social, economic and international issues. We need a morally
When there is nothing objectively true - which can be known by all and form the basis of our common life - there is no basis for authentic freedom. Freedom can neither be realized, nor can it flourish, unless it is exercised in reference to choosing what is true and what is good. Our choices not only affect the world around us, they change us as individuals and as a people.
As a Nation we have lost our moral compass because we have made wrong choices. We have abused our freedom. As a direct result, we are losing genuine freedom. The idea that we can separate moral issues from political, fiscal or international issues is dangerous. There is a moral basis to every social concern - that includes economics and foreign policy - because they all involve human persons. We need a moral renewal.
Making this kind of moral claim is not reserved to those who are religious. Such a claim acknowledges the existence of a Natural Moral Law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason. That Natural Moral Law is the ground upon which every great civilization has been built.
This Natural Moral Law gives us norms we need to build just societies and govern ourselves. It must inform the positive law of a Nation or it becomes lawless and devolves into anarchy. We need men and women in to run for public office and govern who are unafraid to acknowledge this fact.
They need to be strong enough to withstand the incessant effort to caricature, label and disparage them because they openly espouse such views. Truth does not change, people and cultures do; sometimes for good and sometimes for evil.
A hierarchy of rights
There is a hierarchy of rights, which begins with the Right to Life. When there is no recognition of a preeminent right to life, there follows an erosion of the entire structure of all human rights. Human rights do not exist in a vacuum; they are goods of the human person.
When a society fails to recognize that persons are more important than things, when it loses sight of the primacy of the inviolable dignity of every single human person at every age, every stage and of every size, it embraces a form of practical materialism, worshipping a new golden calf.
Without the freedom to be born, all of the talk about compassion for the poor as well as the promise of economic freedom is hollow. Our failure as a Nation to recognize that our first neighbors in the womb have a right to be born and live a full life in our community is a foundational failure in our obligation in solidarity.
It is also an open rejection of the entire ethic of being our brothers (and sisters) keeper and its implications. There can be no enduring lasting solidarity upon which to build a secure future in a culture that kills its own children and actually calls it a right.
Freedom is much more than a freedom from; it is a freedom for responsible and virtuous living. The early American founders spoke of the pursuit of happiness with reference to just such an understanding of virtue as a key to living a happy life.
Marriage and family is the classroom of social and personal virtue. Marriage is the first society into which children are to be born, learn to be fully human, grow in virtue, flourish and take their role in families and communities. The effort to redefine marriage out of existence threatens our future as a free, virtuous and healthy people.
Marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of creation and relation. We can only be fully human - and experience human flourishing and freedom - in relationship with one another. We are by nature - and by grace - social creatures.
In the words of the first book of the Bible we read "it is not good for man to be alone". It all begins with the family. We can only be fully human - and experience human flourishing and freedom - in relationship with one another. We are by nature - and by grace - social creatures.
Children have a right to a mother and a father. Of course we must care about the single parent family and the many broken homes. However, their existence does not change the norm necessary for grounding a stable and healthy society. In tact marriages and families are the glue of a healthy and happy social order.
A future of hope
I intend to develop many of the thoughts I have set forth in this article future articles as the 2014 and 2016 elections unfold. I hope to be actively involved in both campaigns. I believe these two elections rank among the most important in American history. It is time to move beyond the liberal, conservative and progressive labels and proclaim the need for a Morally Coherent Politics.
There is a moral basis to a free society. We may be free to choose, but some choices are always and everywhere wrong. We know this because it is written on the human heart. It does not require religion to reveal it or to make it obligatory. It is a part of our common morality. It must also inform our politics and economics. We should be unashamed about asserting such moral claims.
Freedom brings with it obligations to do what is right and to care for others. We have an obligation in solidarity to one another and, in particular, to the poor. We are our brother/sister´s keeper. The division between social thought and economic application is a false dichotomy. The market was made for man and not man for the market. Only a moral people can ensure that a market economy remains free.
We should not be anti-government. The question we should ask in evaluating governance is whether that governing is good, including whether it is efficient and effective as well as healthy and moral. That can best be assessed by considering who does the governing, where it happens and whether such governing reflects truly moral values. We need to apply the social ordering principle of subsidiarity in implementing both governing structures and the economic order. This principle insists that governance should be exercised at the lowest practicable level - first - beginning with the family.
Collectivism never works, whether it is of the rightist or the leftist political version. It squelches freedom, creativity, initiative and genuine human compassion. Big, federalized, impersonal government often devolves into tyranny. Not because government itself is somehow intrinsically evil, but because it loses its relational and moral foundations. History has shown that it also begins to suppress religious faith which questions its authority.
I can hear the response of some who read this article. They will accuse me of somehow suggesting a form of theocracy. That is simply not true. In fact, it is one of the worst weapons of the secularist left these days. Particularly as a Catholic, whose ancestors most certainly did not come over on the Mayflower, I have a deep appreciation for many of the principles of polity which came out of the American founding. For example, the rejection of a National Church and the protection, in the Bill of Rights, of the Free Exercise of religion.
However, there is a huge difference between a secular state, a state which welcomes all religious expressions or none at all, and secularism, an oppressive anti-religious regime which seeks to censor out of the public forum the wonderful contributions of the Church, people of faith, and the great ideas informed by faith which have shaped the West. The American founders carried a vision of authentic freedom into the experiment in ordered liberty called the United States of America. However, they did not come up with this ennobling and enabling vision on their own. They received it from the treasury of Western civilization which is found in Christendom.
It is the Jewish and Christian vision of the human person, marriage - and the family and society founded upon it - and the existence of normative, fundamental moral truths - which must inform our politics and economics once again. Only that kind of moral vision will guarantee a future of hope. It is time to reassert this claim without equivocation or apology and choose candidates for office who can inspire us and help us lead a national renewal.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
Keywords: campaign 2014, presidential campaign 2016, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, progressive, Deacon Keith FournierMorality, religious right, activism,
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Politics & Policy News
- Russia seeks access to new facilities for navy: Is a new Cold War ahead?
- Bill that would allow surprise inspections at abortion clinics close to approval in Arizona
- UN: Almost 10,000 incidents of school violence from 2009-2013
- Syria, Venezuela, North Korea and Uganda called out by U.S. State Department for human rights abuses
- Citing 'negative consequences,' Arizona Governor vetoes anti-gay bill
- 'Shared responsibility payment' in Obamacare tax hides veiled threat
- California Senator faces 400 years in prison on corruption charges
- Leaked document shows NSA spied on trade talks, U.S. lawyers
- First medical doctor in Texas suspended under new abortion law
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?