(CCU Student) Yesterday I took part in a meeting with John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, and others for a planning and update session on the direction of the Centennial Institute and our effectiveness of spreading the principles of freedom and the values of 1776. In my time at CCU, I have had the privilege of watching the Centennial Institute act as a beacon of truth and a forum for healthy debate and political discourse that is gaining popularity in Colorado and is growing on the radar screen of the Conservative movement. In our session, we had a preview of things to come such as policy briefs, guest speakers, and our capstone event of the year: Western Conservative Summit. I cannot divulge much but I will say that it looks like we are in for a treat this July.
Sitting in on the meeting was a Fellow of the Centennial Institute, Kevin Miller. Formerly dean of the CCU Business School, he is the author of the recently published Freedom Nationally, Virtue Locally—or Socialism. In his book, Miller proposes that for too long the Conservative movement has focused entirely on instilling virtue on a federal level. What is really needed is virtue on a local level and freedom on a national level. Looking at Miller’s argument, I could not agree more with his thesis.
Even since the Great Society of LBJ, the conservative movement has attempted to instill virtue into the national government. Because the Progressives have done it for so long, we now believe we have to take the virtuous Conservative agenda to courts and to congress. However, they have failed to recognize a very critical truth, that without local virtue, we cannot hope to initiate a virtuous government. If the government is a reflection of the people and the society, then create a virtuous society at the local level. The federal government will follow. The American system as the founders intended is a two way street of freedom and virtue that begins with the individual.
It would seem that in recent history that the Socially Conservative movement has been on a crusade to such proposals as gay marriage. As long as these pillars of the Liberal agenda remain, nothing else matters. However, what these well–meaning individuals fail to recognize is that you cannot put a virtuous law into place without a virtuous society to hold it up. Any engineer will tell you that this method could never work in setting upon a structure, so why on earth will it ever work in the structure of the American legal system? We cannot make government the champion of a moral cause because government was never meant to be a judge of morality. Morality can only be left to God and his relationship with an individual.
When written into law, virtue is no longer virtuous. Compliance with a law and doing the right thing are totally different things. Do I follow the speed limit out of the goodness of my heart and concern for the safety of others? No. I don’t speed because I don’t want to pay a ticket. The same goes for trying to instill virtues into the government. Are we going to get rid of homosexuality in America by banning same–sex marriage? Are we going to eradicate abortion (which some call murder) and broken families by repealing Roe v Wade? To think so would be foolish. Where many in the Conservative movement are missing their mark is thinking that stopping symptoms cures the disease.
What is needed in the United States is true freedom on the national level. Only in this environment can true virtue exist. If Conservatives and Christians want their government to reflect their virtues, then they need to get society to reflect those virtues first. So rather than waste time at a protest of an abortion clinic, perhaps I should simply witness to others and attempt to win them into the kingdom of God. History has proven the effectiveness of God’s word on a society. But such occurrences as the Great Awakening or the Enlightenment occurred within societies and on an individual basis before they impacted nation–states in a political manner. It is when Christians try to make theology political and cultural that counter movements arise and take the government in a different direction.
If our desire is for America to be a great nation, we first need to make Americans great people. When our society is great, the government will be forced to follow. But unfortunately there is a massive moral deficit in this country that is far more dangerous than the economic deficit. By and large, Americans have allowed themselves to become materialistic and shallow. Our society operates in the realm of instant gratification and entitlement. We allow our role models to be upstanding individuals like Tiger Woods, Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber, and the cast of Jersey Shore. Rather than study men like John Locke and Jesus Christ, we study the latest scandal coming out of the NFL or the latest news from the stock market. And yet Americans are surprised when individuals in government and power behave in a base and immoral manner. Why are we surprised when politicians are found to be living in infidelity when many American families are falling victim to unfaithful spouses? When many American citizens are guilty of frivolous spending and accruing debt, we should not be shocked to find our government in a similar state.
What is needed is a return to virtue on the part of the average American. Without such action, we can never hope to recover our government and restore our nation. Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this about America; that our government fostered the freedom to choose virtue and virtue allowed for a free people because virtue restrained the desires of the flesh. Without this unique relationship, neither virtue nor freedom can ultimately succeed. Without it, America cannot hope to succeed.