Monthly Archives: January 2014

Conservatism and the Enduring Moral Order

Every so often, I’ll hear someone (sometimes a liberal, but oftentimes a self-described “conservative”) express a nostalgic longing for some vague time in the mythic, mist-shrouded past (the ‘50s? the ‘80s?), back before conservatism had supposedly been “hijacked” by religious crazies (like us pro-lifers) with our childish and irrational moral concerns, and conservatives instead were concerned only with real issues such as the GDP . . . or something.  (As many “conservatives” today are increasingly unwilling to stand for principles of limited constitutional government, decrying those who do as “extremists” and such, so it’s becoming really unclear what such “conservatives” do stand for, or what exactly it is they wish to conserve.)

The trouble is, to start with, that this mythic golden age of amoral conservatism never actually existed.  While there have always been differing strains of conservative thought (traditionalists vs. libertarians, etc.), concern with moral issues was never alien to conservative thought.

The late great Russell Kirk was a philosophical founding father of the modern American conservative movement, helping launch conservatism as a national intellectual and political force in the 1950s, along with other pioneers such as William F. Buckley, Jr.

While, as Dr. Kirk admits, there is no single conservative creed or manifesto, he laid out a series of “Ten Conservative Principles,” which, in my humble opinion, is probably the best summation of conservative principle and philosophy anyone has ever made.  The first draft was published in the ‘50s, and he continued to hone it throughout his life. (I strongly recommend that everyone interested read the entire list.)

The first of these conservative principles is belief in an “enduring moral order.”

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

It’s worth noting that not only did Dr. Kirk include belief in an enduring moral order on his list of ten conservative principles, but it was number one on the list.

He concludes that section by saying:

It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society—whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society—no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.

The idea of the importance of morality and belief in a moral order to a just and functioning civil society was not a unique invention of Russell Kirk or the modern conservative movement, but was in fact a belief shared by the American founding fathers.

As John Adams famously said:

Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

All the founders, despite their varying religious views, agreed that morality (including “religious” morality) was essential to the health of the American republic.

(You can find a collection of quotes from various founding fathers here.)

One of the most pernicious lies popular today is the idea that “separation of Church and State” somehow forbids any and all moral considerations from entering into American law or issues of government, and that Christian citizens are somehow obligated to toss out any moral beliefs they might hold when walking into the voting booth.  If we allow any “religious” morality to creep into legal or political discourse, we are warned, we are in imminent danger of the establishment of a horrific and repressive “theocracy.”

I’ve seen this line not just from the atheists and militant secularists, but sadly from many supposedly religious Catholics, who insist we must “keep our morality out of politics.”

(Interestingly, we never seem to hear that line from when religious liberals give religious reasons for supporting more left-leaning policies, such as environmentalist measures.)

This idea, though, is absolute nonsense.  The “wall of separation” phrase is not in the Constitution, but a private letter of Thomas Jefferson to a member of the Danbury Baptists, assuring them that their sect would not face persecution .  The first amendment of the Constitution does not forbid morality,  but says that Congress shall not “make laws concerning an establishment of religion.”  An establishment of religion in the 18th century meant specifically a national church supported with tax dollars – such as the Church of England.

None of the current social conservative positions involve actually forcing religious doctrine or practice on people (as would laws requiring people to believe in the divinity of Christ or attend Sunday Mass).  They involve what is traditionally known as natural law – moral principles that can be known by man’s natural reason – and which were once almost universally accepted in our civilization, regardless of creed.

All laws “impose morality” – that is, an idea of what is right and wrong, what one ought or ought not do.

And when voting on legislation or choosing between candidates, everyone will bring their own moral judgments, whether influenced by religion or anything else.  It’s impossible to neatly separate “religious” ideas from “non-religious” when making such decisions.  For the believer, religious faith is an integral part of one’s entire philosophy of life, and will affect how I view things such as right and wrong, the meaning of marriage, and human life itself.

For example, as a Christian, I consider human life to have intrinsic worth and value, and thus it is always gravely wrong to deliberately take an innocent human life, as by abortion.  Others may believe human life has no intrinsic worth, and that others have a right to take it as they see fit.  However that’s also a different “moral” judgment, based on un-Christian principles.  Likewise, the idea that homosexual couples have an inherit right to be legally recognized as “married” is not based on objective science, but on an idea of morality – albeit one alien to orthodox Christianity.

The social left doesn’t want to merely keep church and state separate, but to ensure the law is based on a certain nihilistic and atheistic philosophical ideology, rather than traditional Judeo-Christian natural law morality.

But as all Christians should know – and history bears out – removing all morality from law and government doesn’t result in religious freedom, but godless government – and inevitably tyranny.

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A Day That Lives in Infamy

Tomorrow, as you’re probably aware, we commemorate the 41st anniversary of the abominable Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade which (absurdly) declared killing one’s unborn child a “Constitutional Right,” and in effect made abortion-on-demand the law of the land.   The Bishops have declared this a day of prayer and fasting.  (And no, again, the Pope has not told Catholics to shut up about abortion, all liberal lies to the contrary.)

People (including now , sadly, many “Catholics”) try to pigeonhole or dismiss the abortion issue and the right to life as simply another “rightwing” political issue, invented by conservative Republican politicians to divide the country – or something.  However, the right to life should not be a “conservative” or a “liberal” issue, but is in fact a fundamental human value, which should transcend politics.

The right to life is the most fundamental human right the law can guarantee; without the right to life, all other human rights are rendered void.  If the law does nothing to protect the lives of innocent human beings at their most vulnerable, it is worthless.

And, yes, unborn babies (or “fetuses” or “embryos,” or whatever you want to call them) are in fact human beings from conception.  From conception the human embryo/fetus/child is a living being, genetically and biologically distinct from both parents.  And it is human; it does not change at some point from a non-human species.  Yes, the human being in its very early stages of life is undeveloped compared to more mature stages, but so is a newborn infant, or a toddler, compared to an adult.

Growth and development is a continuous, gradual process from conception to adulthood.  This is confirmed by modern biology.  While pro-aborts love to accuse pro-lifers of wishing to impose unscientific religious dogmas on everyone, it is the idea that a human baby suddenly, magically, changes from dead to living, or from non-human to human at birth or some other point that is superstitious and unscientific.

It used to be that advocates of legal abortion typically denied that an unborn child is a human being, calling it a mere “clump of tissue” and such.  But ultrasounds and other modern technology are helping expose that lie.

However, there’s a truly disturbing trend of more and more people who are willing to admit that the unborn child is in fact a human being, but say that it’s okay to kill it anyway.

These folks, following the godless philosophies of Dr. Peter Singer and his ilk, seek to separate the concept of legal “personhood” from an individual being a human being.  According to Singer, not all human beings are “persons,” and “personhood” should be based on various extrinsic factors such as cognitive development and such.  (Using such standards, most liberals should be excluded from “personhood,” but I digress.)

Of course, once we base legal personhood and the right to life on anything other than the fact of being a human being, the standards of “personhood” become ultimately completely arbitrary.  Thus, Singer uses the fact that there is little real difference between an unborn fetus and a newborn infant, to argue not that abortion should be illegal, but for legalizing infanticide.  According to Singer, killing the severely disabled is also acceptable.  In this brave new world, courts and panels of “experts” determine who is and is not a legally-protected “person” – and there’s always room to move the lines.

Ultimately, the fight over abortion is between those who believe human life is itself intrinsically sacred, against those who see human life as in itself worth, and only given worth to others on subjective extrinsic criteria.

Some people (pro-abortion liberals, as well as some “conservatives”) accuse pro-life conservatives such as myself of hypocrisy.  How can we claim to be for small limited constitutional government, while at the same time support the power of the government to take away the individual’s choice to have an abortion?

The truth is that the Roe v. Wade decision was hardly a victory for limited, constitutional government, but trampled the rights of states and the peoples, granted god-like powers to the federal judiciary, and made hash of the Constitution.  Before Roe, per the Tenth Amendment, laws concerning abortion belonged to the individual states.  Roe v. Wade took this power from the respective states and granted it to the federal government, smashing any state restrictions on abortion.  The SCOTUS justices justified their decision by citing unstated “rights” supposedly hiding deep in the dark “emanations of the penumbra” (literally, “emissions from a shadow”) of the fourteenth and other amendments.

Thus, in one blow, on no solid basis in the Constitution whatever, killing the unborn child was declared a universal “constitutional right,” and the Supreme Court granted itself the power to declare which human beings are and are not legal “persons” having a right to live.

Legal protection of the life of all innocent human beings (including the unborn) is simple justice.  Every law puts some restriction on human choice (or rather puts legal consequences on certain choices).  No one talks about being “pro-choice” in matters such as theft or rape (or the murder of persons already born).  So unless you’re an absolute anarchist, “pro-choice” arguments are utterly bogus.

Ironically, many liberals and leftists arguing that an all-powerful “right to choose” trumps the baby’s right to life, oppose the right to choose in countless other areas.  I’ve argued with many a liberal who adamantly argues for the right to choose to kill an unborn child, while equally adamantly arguing against the right of individuals to choose certain health insurance plans, or weapons for personal defense (to use just two examples.)  For the liberal, many things in fact trump absolute human choice, but human life itself is not one of them.

“Pro-choice” was never anything more than a dishonest and sophistical propaganda slogan.

And speaking of abortion, Phil Lawler of Catholic Culture beat me to this one last week, but his piece, “Pope Decries Abortion; Sun Expected To Rise in East,” confirms some points I’ve been making here regarding the shallowness of the “mainstream” media in reporting on Pope Francis and abortion.  Apparently, according to the AP, the only reason the Vicar of Christ could possibly have for upholding the Church’s two-millennia-old teachings against abortion is to throw a bone to us disgruntled conservatives.  Sigh.

Yes kids, the Pope is Catholic, and abortion is still very, very bad.

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Cold, Hard Facts & the Hot Air of Lefty Moralism

Here, I am, sitting here freezing my royal right-wing rear end off in sunny Texas, reading about the heroic rescue mission of the rescue mission of the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy, which had been trapped in unusually heavy ice off the Antarctic coast.   The ship was on an “eco-tourism” mission, led by an Australian “climate-change professor,” to explore the effects of global warming.  The irony of this incident, while largely ignored by the “mainstream” media (newsflashes generally said nothing of the purpose of the ship’s voyage), was quickly picked up by conservative media, sparking more of the usual quarrelling over “global warming.”

At the same time, much of the U.S. is in the grip of an exceptional cold front, and last summer, a satellite measured the coldest temperature ever recorded on earth

It’s true that individual cold fronts and satellite temperature recordings don’t in themselves disprove the existence of man-made global warming (though, as others have pointed out, imagine the massive media hoopla that would result if that satellite had recorded, rather than the coldest temp, the hottest temperature ever on earth!).

However , the common leftist creed of imminent secular apocalypse –in which our only hope for salvation lies in massive government taxation, spending, and regulation– is looking nowadays increasingly less like proven, scientific fact, and more like ideologically-driven hysterical hot air.

After all, not long ago, Al Gore and other climate-change evangelists solemnly assured us that polar ice would soon be completely gone, and after centuries of fluctuations, global temperature would perpetually sky-rocket ever-upward, per the infamous “hockey-stick” graph.

Some scientists believe that, due to natural fluctuations in the solar activity, the earth is set to enter a period of cooling, perhaps even another ice age.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m no climate change Denier (the ultimate modern heresy, next to “homophobia”).  Climate change is very real – centuries ago, glaciers extended clear into Ohio.  However, the climate appears to be affected by many unpredictable factors, of which man-made “greenhouse gasses” may be only a comparatively small component.

For a long time, folks on the left used the allegedly dire threat of global warming as a means of claiming the moral high ground.  See, according to the lefties, if I was really, truly pro-life (instead of a phony right-wing wannabe), I would put aside my childish obsession with abortion, and focus instead on the graver evil of Global Warming, which, unless massive government action was taken NOW, would kill nearly everyone on the planet.

We pro-lifers (so they told us) were faced with a thorny and fiendish moral dilemma straight out of a Chris Nolan Bat-flick.  Unless we supported  the blatantly pro-abortion liberal politicians who alone could save us, BILLIONS WOULD DIE from the ravages of Man-made Global Warming . . . and WE would be morally responsible!

We pro-lifers (so they told us) were faced with a thorny and fiendish moral dilemma straight out of a Chris Nolan Bat-flick.  Unless we supported  the blatantly pro-abortion liberal politicians who alone could save us, BILLIONS WOULD DIE from the ravages of Man-made Global Warming . . . and WE would be morally responsible!

But, hey, much as it sucks, better for the government to increase its support of the slaughter of the unborn than to allow everyone to roast like marshmallows from conservative-caused global warming (CCGW).

See, not only was I an idiot for clinging to my guns and religion and failing to jump aboard the Hope’n’Change bandwagon, but leftists even insinuated that I was a horrible parent and outright monster, willing to sacrifice the future of my own children (and all life on earth) for the sake of right-wing ideology and the Evil Oil Barons (maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh).

(Call me a heartless cynic, but I remain of the belief that the weather will be just the same whether Elephants or Jackasses are elected to high office.  Enviro measures such as cap’n’trade will only increase energy prices, hurting the poor most, and push yet more polluting industry to unregulated places like China.)

The other great moral claim of the Left (especially the Catholic Left) was, of course, Obamacare.  If we were “truly pro-life” (in the beautiful Seamless Garment tradition), we must support Obama and socialized medicine, or else millions of poor folks would die in the streets.

All us right-wingers were really mean cold-hearted bastards for opposing it.

(Those righteous and dutiful defenders of the Almighty Welfare State, the U.S. Bishops, were shocked –shocked! – when the law enforcing the socialized medicine they had so piously pushed for turned around to bite them in their collective holy ass by forcing businesses and organizations to buy insurance plans covering contraception and abortifacients.   I don’t think it paranoia to surmise that coverage of surgical abortions will be next.)

Of course, Obamacare has already proven itself be just as much of a fraud as the “global warming” racket will no doubt prove to be, and now only the most die-hard lefties and Obamaites still support it.  The only ones to gain from either are the politicians and bureaucrats running the ever-more-rapidly growing Leviathon state.

It’s past time men of good will, especially Catholics, wise up and stop falling for such stupendous statist scams.

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