It is clear that Mario Cuomo and I agree on one thing, and that is that most political issues are moral issues. If taxes are a moral issue, then we have a pretty wide berth to include just about any public issue.
We are to many degrees products of our background. I would like to lay out a little bit of the background that might shape a conservative Christian's view on how to approach public life. I begin with a quotation from John Adams: "Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." That was once an uncontroversial statement. It is a little more controversial today.
Faith institutions are the key to developing a personal moral foundation. The government may foster these institutions, encourage them, nurture them; or it may discriminate against them, harass them, undermine them. But it is not the job of government to replace these institutions as the primary moral agents of society. The Founding Fathers clearly wanted no part of an official sectarian religion.
But a moment of silence in the classroom, the posting in the schoolroom of the Ten Commandments (as long as other expressions are also posted), and a Bible on a teacher's desk are not indications of statesponsored religion. Quite frankly, extrapolations from these practices to accusations of a government-sponsored religion are downright ridiculous, particularly when these accusations are anchored in the so-called wallof separation argument. This argument stems from a court opinion about evangelical revivalists who did not want to pay for Virginia's state church.
It is not an argument of the Founding Fathers, nor was the argument about religious views.
Conservative faiths, even sects within these faiths, differ on how involved the City of God should be with the City of Man. But this much is true: Conservative Christians as individuals do not separate their lives into a private sphere and a public sphere. Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey, in their important book "How Now Shall We Live," clarify a key basis of the Christian worldview: "Creation, Fall, Redemption. There is no Salvation if there is no Fall. There is no Fall if there is no intelligent design. Those who believe in intelligent design and order, rather than some sort of random chaos and the survival of the fittest, have a fundamentally different view of the world."
Let me give you another quotation: "Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life." That is what Lord Melbourne said in response to the efforts of William Wilberforce and others to abolish the slave trade in America. Melbourne was interpreting the efforts of Wilberforce as religious and was arguing that religion should not be part of public discussion. However, devoutly religious individuals like Wilberforce have led almost every major social reform.
Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well doing. Go on in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery, the vilest that ever saw the sun, shall vanish away before it, that He has created you from your youth that you may continue strengthening in this and all things.
If you believe you are specifically designed-if you believe in fact that you are not part of some random, inevitable progression of life-then you believe not only that you can change things, you believe also that you have an obligation to change things.
When you serve in government, as I do, every day, every hour you make moral decisions like making new laws to restrict cheaters like Enron executives. Why restrict cheating? Because it is a moral premise of society.
When we deal with rape, with child support enforcement, with juveniles it trouble with the law, why do we not let both sides fight it out and let the strongest win? Because of certain moral premises that society shares.
I serve on the National Parks Committee. If I should be asked, Why preserve the national parks? Why do we want to preserve our heritage? I might answer, Because there is a logical order and a moral order to what we are preserving. But I find that I am allowed to use these Christian values it speaking out for national parks and in speaking out against spouse abuse but not when I speak out against homosexual marriage, pornography, abortion, gambling, or evolution across species. Then, it seems, I am supposed to check my religious beliefs at the public door. In other words, some moral views seem to be okay in the public arena but other moral views, no matter how deeply held, are not okay.