The Christian Right’s New Face – It’s the Economy, Stupid!

Last night I attended the annual dinner of the Family Research Council, an event I served on the host committee for and helped to sponsor (full disclosure). Michelle Malkin was the keynote speaker, and FRC President, Tony Perkins, anecdotally addressed the crowd a few times. Tony has become a public leader in the “Christian Right”, appearing frequently on CNN and Fox News, consistently advocating the socially conservative message that FRC promotes. He is a fine man, a good leader, and I am fond of much of the work he and FRC are doing.

Tony said something last night that I found fascinating, and it inspired me to address one of the most important issues I spend time obsessing over. Tony said that it was “a mission of his” to “change the perception people have of the Christian Right.” I think this is a very good idea. And as you might have guessed, I believe I know how it ought to be done.

What Tony is likely referring to is the unfortunate stereotype placed upon the religious right which depicts them as a monolithic unit, only concerned with the moral issues of life and marriage. Now, I am a pro-lifer, and I fervently desire to see the overturning of Roe v. Wade so that states can individually address the issue (as the Constitution demands). And I am a traditional marriage advocate, finding the judicial activism of many state Supreme Courts today to be perversely offensive. I believe that marriage is a legal institution involving one man and one woman, and that regardless of one’s own religious and moral views, legal definitions and civilizational standards can not be completely discarded or re-drawn. I agree with FRC that there is a far broader agenda behind most of the same-sex marriage agenda, and I join them in repudiating it. But Tony identified a problem last night, and I agree with him that it is a problem. The issues of life and marriage ought not be the total extent of our political IQ, and Tony is right to not only change the impressions others have about the religious right, but he will be right to actually change the reality as well. The perception needs to be altered, but only to the extent that the reality itself is altered.

And the reality I am referring to is this: men and women of faith who have political instincts and inclinations must address the issues of economic freedom and fiscal responsibility in the coming decade, or they will not be, and should not be, taken seriously. The interference in the free marketplace Americans are tolerating today is wrecking havoc in our economy, and therefore in the lives of families. Our progressive tax code is oppressively punishing ambition, decimating the incentives that people of diligence and industriousness believe in. Government spending is burdening our children and our children’s children with a debt load that can only be described as indescribable. Attempts to expand the federal government’s role in health care threatens to permanently re-define the relationship the citizen has with the state. We have abandoned the limitations our Constitution puts on the jurisdiction of government, and are enabling a behemoth bureacracy that is good for nothing but alleviating the citizen of individual responsibility. Class warfare is the rhetoric of the day, and it is promoted inside church walls just as much as it is on the floor of Congress.

These are moral issues. Faith-based conservatives have absolutely no choice but to address these issues head on, or die the death of cultural irrelevance that will inevitably come to them. Secular progressives who resist the partnership of moral conservatives in conserving a free marketplace will also live to regret their decision. The Club for Growth and the Family Research Council may have different focuses, different tactics, and somewhat different agendas, but to the extent that there is overlap in their respective missions, and to the extent that they can sythesize much of what they are doing, conservatism and free market lovers of life and liberty will be the real winners. Our country was founded with the explicit purpose of facilitating the achievement of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No conservative group has a future if they ignore one of these purposes.

Medical technology has dramatically changed the conversation about abortion in our country. 31 out of 31 states have now held elections in which the traditional definition of marriage was upheld. There is no need to abandon these issues (or others that may be near and dear to social conservatives). But my plea to my friends in what used to be called the “religious right” is this: Pick up the sword on the issues pertaining to the economy. They are the huge moral issues of our day. Define yourself not just by your regard for the 6th and 7th commandments, but the 8th and 10th commandments as well. Defend the businessman who feeds his family at the same time you defend the institution of family. The free market and the institution of family are inseperable. We undermine the family when we undermine the free market.

The good fight today is one for economic freedom. As defenders of faith, family, and freedom, we all have work to do.