(Centennial Fellow) Conservatives and libertarians fight about social issues so routinely that we assume the differences are insurmountable. Most everyone on the center-right is dubious of big government, but when it comes to protecting the unborn or preserving the traditional definition of marriage, we are divided as to government's proper role.
Yet when the threat of big government grows so ominous that it overshadows all else, a "freedom coalition" emerges, as is now happening in response to the reign of Obama, Reid and Pelosi. Inevitably, however, infighting resumes once the threat subsides.
If freedom truly is our unifying principle, then it alone is the non-negotiable standard that can build lasting bonds on the Right without asking anyone to forsake principle.
That's the message of the National Freedom Initiative, brain child of Kevin Miller, former dean of business at Colorado Christian University, now headed by former U.S. Senator William Armstrong. [Editor's note: Both Kevin Miller and Mark Hillman are also fellows at CCU's Centennial Institute.]
Miller is a committed social conservative who concludes that "virtue politics" not only has failed to achieve the goals of social conservatives but that it's been co-opted by the Left to expand intrusive government into micromanaging health care, energy and the environment - just for starters.
"Once you agree to virtue politics, then everyone can play," Miller says. "It's a matter of raw political power because (politicians) get to define virtue."
By advocating "freedom nationally, virtue locally," NFI challenges conservatives to apply their energies to social causes locally where they can change hearts and lives.
"Christians are extremely good at virtue locally," Miller says. Crisis pregnancy centers, family ministries, food drives and prison outreaches change hearts and lives regardless of who wins elections. By changing hearts, Christians can save unborn lives, strengthen families and change the culture.
Such a strategic shift challenges Christians to define ourselves by personal ministry more than by political activism. That's a shrewd maneuver to counter the tendency by liberals and media to claim Christian conservatives are more interested in power than in people.
More importantly, practicing virtue locally doesn't rely on or expand government and isn't undermined when the human frailties of politicians are exposed.
"Virtue and righteousness comes through a changed heart, not compliance with rules," Miller adds. "Christians know from the New Testament that virtue is not accomplished even by biblical law. How much more powerless is civil law?"
Practicing virtue locally doesn't imply surrendering to the liberal political agenda. Rather, it establishes a solid foundation of liberty that unites social and fiscal conservatives, as well as libertarians.
"I don't want to concede one bit of territory to liberal or progressive values," Miller says. "The goal here is that (we) band together to 'just say no' to all virtue politics enacted at the federal level."
Laws that define crimes against persons or property are necessary to preserve freedom, but not every biblical injunction against sin requires a corresponding law - much less a federal law.
NFI offers no Solomonic resolution for abortion policy because it turns on the unresolved question of when an unborn child's life merits basic constitutional protection.
Miller simply suggests that others in the freedom coalition respect the pro-life voters' belief that abortion constitutes a crime against a person. Meanwhile, pro-life voters must remain mindful that big government threatens freedom in ways that, to others, are more readily discernible than abortion.
"God intended for us to have free will; that's why Christianity isn't coercive," he adds. "Likewise, the Constitution is a freedom document. Preserving that freedom must be the highest priority of the national government."
Today, the threat to freedom is urgent and requires all hands on deck.
By promoting "freedom nationally and virtue locally," the National Freedom Initiative proposes a win-win strategy that responds to the current threat and could become the cornerstone for a "new birth of freedom."