Single-Issue vs. Comprehensive Conservatism

December 14, 2007

Since its emergence as a dominant political force in the ’80s, the religious right has been a favorite whipping boy of the mainstream media and political left and a sometimes embarrassment to certain conservative elitists. Yet neither group of critics can deny the electoral power Christian conservatives have wielded.

The group’s uncompromising commitment to protecting life and defending America’s traditional institutions has been instrumental in beating back the left’s relentless assault on our culture. Without its grassroots contributions, we’d be seeing a lot more Ruth Bader Ginsbergs and a lot fewer Antonin Scalias.

But this primary campaign season, because of the competing resumes and platforms of various Republican presidential candidates and the complex interplay of religion and politics that has emerged, I am concerned that Christian conservatives could lose sight of the big picture of conservatism, all of whose principles are vitally important for this nation.

In my view, there’s no perfect GOP candidate, but all of the viable Republican candidates are immeasurably preferable to their Democratic counterparts, and we should all support the eventual Republican nominee. But not all Christian conservatives agree.

The venerable Dr. James Dobson, for example, has said he couldn’t support Rudy Giuliani. Rudy is not my first choice either, but he’s a strong, capable leader who will fervently protect our national security. I pray he’ll honor his pledge to appoint constitutionalist judges. Rudy is a far safer bet on life than any Democratic candidate.

Next, speculation exists that some evangelicals wouldn’t support Mitt Romney because of his Mormonism. While I believe there are greater differences between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity than some assume, I will certainly support Romney if he is nominated. Again, my reservations concern his recent flips on social issues and how they bear on his authenticity. But if Mitt is the man he presents himself to be, he could make an extraordinary president. If not, he’ll still be head and shoulders above the unapologetic socialists on the other ticket.

Some Christian conservatives have criticized Fred Thompson for refusing to endorse a federal ban on abortion. I understand the concern but believe a legitimate conservative (and pro-life) case can be made for Fred’s position. Thompson is an inveterate advocate of federalism and state’s rights, and his view that the abortion issue should be left to the states as before Roe squares with conservative principles.

But I confess, my main anxiety about Christian conservatives is their seeming willingness to turn a blind eye to Christian pastor Mike Huckabee’s decidedly liberal instincts and either his acceptance of or desire to pander to politically correct conventional wisdom.

We get mixed signals on his tax policy, with critics saying he was a big taxer in Arkansas and defenders pointing to his support of the Fair Tax. He has exhibited a Jimmy Carteresque naivete on foreign policy issues, suggesting we can solve our problems with other nations solely with better diplomacy — as if tyrants and terrorist regimes respond to Golden Rule treatment.

He parrots the Democrat propaganda that President Bush did not extend a hand of bipartisanship to Democrats in his first term or since. He has boarded the left’s global-warming train. He’s an economic populist who seems to favor yet more state involvement in health care. His record on clemencies is troubling. And, he has nanny-state tendencies, from federal smoking bans to advocating a federal clearinghouse to promote the arts in education. Big government conservatism is oxymoronic.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Huckabee is a genuine Christian leader and a decent man whom I’ll support, if he’s nominated. But I think that on many political issues, he sounds a lot more like a liberal theologian and politician than a conservative one.

Liberal ones invariably translate Jesus’s heart for the poor as a mandate for massive wealth redistribution, as if state-coerced transfers of other people’s money are acts of Christian compassion. There is nothing compassionate about sapping the human spirit to the detriment of all.

Let’s remember that Reagan conservatism, from start to finish, is consonant with Christian values. Abortion may well be the most important issue, but it is not the only one.

Christian conservatives must promote other conservative principles, without which this nation would never have flourished, much less been the freest, strongest and noblest nation in world history.

We must redouble our commitment to free enterprise and fierce opposition to statism, which will destroy the spirit and reality of liberty as surely as abortion destroys babies in the womb. We must defend our borders, safeguard our national security, promote the unique American culture, shrink government spending and regulation, and reduce the federal tax burden.

Finally, as Christian conservatives, let’s remember that politics is not the only avenue for championing our values and positively affecting the culture.

I know purists will disagree, but it won’t serve our cause to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.