Last week I received a letter from a long-time Republican Party activist who professes to be "fed up" with the turncoat "Republicrats" of our state. His passion is no doubt genuine and well directed, but I cannot buy into his remedy. In my letter to Bill, I explain why:
Thank you for including me in your Conservative Council mailing. I'm flattered that you consider me a potential supporter of your new organization. It's true that I support genuinely conservative political causes and candidates. Still, I must decline your offer to join your movement.
It's not that I disagree with you about the despicable duplicity of so many spineless Republican candidates and office holders. Au contraire, I'm at least as fed up as you are with "Republicrats" who run toward us for the party endorsement, then away from us once in office. They've left us at the altar so many times that Yellow Cab has set up a permanent bullpen in the church parking lot.
Nor do I disagree with your desire to see government shrunk down, marriage protected from the relentless assaults of various "alternative" lifestyles, babies spared the tender touch of mercenary abortionists, and children taught how to read and cipher rather than indoctrinated into the latest social fads of the Loony Left. These are all noble goals that true conservatives ought to support.
The reason I'm off this bandwagon before the horses are all hitched lies at the very starting point of the parade. You declare, "Conservatives support traditional family values." That's where you lose me.
The problem, Bill, is that the concept of traditional family values has no objective content. Families do not dictate the values of a culture, they merely reflect them. As cultures go, so go families. Witness American culture in the last 50 years.
Traditions suffer from three fatal flaws that make them a shaky foundation on which to build cultural values. The first and most critical flaw is that traditions carry no moral authority. They're just widespread behavioral habits that people engage in mostly because nearly everyone around them is doing the same thing. People can, and frequently do, follow traditions without knowing either the source of, or the reason for, the tradition.
The second fatal flaw is that traditions change over time. For example, it used to be traditional for one man and one woman to stay married to each other their whole lives. It used to be traditional for Dad to work to support the family while Mom stayed home with the kids. It used to be traditional for men to stand when a lady entered the room, for children to address adults as "sir" and "ma'am," and for businesses to close their doors on Sunday. Of course, it also used to be traditional for everyone to go to church on Sunday, instead of gathering in front of the boob tube to worship the prancing-peacock assortment of overgrown adolescents who make up our new national religion, professional sports.
The third fatal flaw of traditions is that they're not all good. In fact, they can be downright evil. For example, it used to be traditional in this country for men to own other men, and to buy and sell them like so much chattel. In some cultures, including those we venerate as "classical," it was traditional to expose unwanted babies to the natural elements while nature took its slow, painful course. Such traditional family values are not the sort we want to return to.
For tradition to have any value it must be based on something more substantive, enduring, and morally upright than habitual behavior. Indeed, it must be based on God's own revelation of right and wrong. That seems to be the sticking point for us true conservatives in America. You see, Bill, conservatives are, in many ways, every bit as captive to the wave of cultural relativism as are liberals and moderates. Certainly we don't relish it as liberals and moderates do, but we seem not to have the stomach for fighting it.
Fighting cultural relativism means standing for the five pillars of true political and social conservatism: objective truth, absolute morality, individual responsibility, limited government, and the rule of law. These pillars cannot stand by themselves; they must be planted firmly in the foundation of Biblical law. That means forthrightly declaring ourselves proponents of Christian republicanism and Christian civilization. Mention that inescapable truth to most conservatives, and they will run like mustang horses fleeing a prairie fire.
The enemies of Biblical Christianity in this country have succeeded in scaring the ignorant masses by associating Biblical law with the brutal intolerance of Islamic Sharia law. People have forgotten, if they ever knew, that it was the Christian concept of individual self-government under God that made American liberty possible in the first place. For several generations we've been taught that it was the bright light of Reason that spawned our liberty, the same bright light that spawned the French Revolution, Marxist Russia, and Nazi Germany. Most conservatives, including most professing Christians, would rather drink molten lava laced with cyanide than defend Biblical law in a public forum. Thus we float down the river of cultural relativism toward the waterfall of cultural oblivion and think we can reverse the current by re-inserting "traditional family values" into the public schools. It ain't going to happen.
If you want to make a real difference, Bill, you'll have to dump the traditional-family-values mantra and join the battle at the front. This war is between the God of the Bible and the politically correct gods of relentless cultural drift. If you refuse to stand for the God of the Bible, you stand on the same side as those you purport to oppose. In the end, your Conservative Council will become just another vehicle your enemies use to bring down the traditional culture you so sincerely want to uphold.
Yours for firmly grounded traditions,
- Doug Dahl