True Progressives Driven By Love
Social conservatives are afraid of change. Indeed, it is fear that drives them, or so Zach Wahls would have us believe.
On Thursday, the Campus Progress National Convention only gave him five minutes. But the speech he delivered in this five minutes proved both moving and powerful.
He set out to prove that “our values are, in some ways, objectively superior to those of the Right.” Raised by “two mothers,” Zach Wahls is an Eagle Scout, and aims to “end the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policies.”
He argued that “there are, and always have been, two views – competing views – about the future of this country. One vision is rooted in our Puritan past, among those for whom the fear of God was supreme and the state only allowed to exist with the blessings of that all-powerful creator.” He went on to describe this view as “suspicious of freedom, skeptical of reason, and hostile to change.”
The other vision, he explained, “is rooted in our founding revolution, among those for whom logic and courage prevail. The state, informed and defined by the consent of the governed.” This view, in clear contrast to Puritanism, “celebrates freedom, embraces reason, and welcomes change.”
While Puritans stand “rooted inseparably in fear, the other vision is rooted inseparably in progress.” Wahls listed the elements of this progress:
“For centuries, the Left slowly toiled to deliver this vision, secure the blessings of liberty, extending suffrage to non-landowners, the eradication of slavery, the empowerment of women, the recognition of LGBTQ identities, among many other victories.” Inspired, I expected him to add the eradication of serfdom, the defeat of Nazism, Communism, and infanticide.
He finished his speech with a great rallying statement: “The values of the socially liberal are respect, courtesy, thoughtfulness, discipline, and awareness beyond self. In loving thy neighbor and taking people at their word at what their identities are.”
Standing for admirable values and proclaiming his scouting heritage, Wahls pulled on my heart-strings. I was highly tempted to rise up with the crowd, cheer, and clap my hands.
There was but one problem: his statements weren’t true.
Yes, many have feared progress. Yes, some opposed the eradication of slavery. Yes, some conservatives have judged first and helped later. But I have to admit, I really want some of what Zach Wahls was smoking- it must give a delicious high!
Was George Washington a man of fear when he said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens.”
The Northwest Ordinance, one of the first laws passed under the new Constitution, states, “”Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Is this uniting of faith and reason due to fear? Was Thomas Jefferson surrendering to this all-powerful fear of God when he attended church services as President? Did James Madison only praise God with his lips, secretly writing a document of progress that was rooted in opposition to the fear of God?
This is a pleasing vision for social liberals, but that does not make it true, any more than the vision of my kingship of America is true. History is more complicated, no matter how tempting it is to see a spirit of Progress weaving throughout it.
Which party stood against slavery in the mid-1800s? Was it the Progressive Democrats, or the Reactionary Republicans? The Democratic Party stood for expansion, free trade, and popular sovereignty- the idea that new states should determine whether they would be free or slave by popular vote.
It was the reactionary Republicans, who opposed bills like the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Supreme Court decisions like Dred Scott, who couldn’t support slavery, even though it had the legitimacy of law. Lincoln stood for the difficult, moral course, allowing men to keep the bread which they won with the sweat of their brows, regardless of the color of their skin or their socio-economic status.
Indeed, even today, the conservatives call for people to be judged by the “content of their character,” while liberals want them judged “by the labels of our identities.” From Affirmative Action to Gay Rights to the War on Women, Democrats support specific interests, while Republicans want general laws, aimed to apply to all of society.
Yes, the Founders stood by reason and fought for change. But it would be just as foolhardy to say that they supported change for its own sake as it would be to say that Zach Wahls is a sissy girl. To say that the Puritans, fleeing England for religious – preference? – were suspicious of freedom is outright insanity. Many of them died for freedom because they wanted to worship God according to the dictates of conscience, not the opinions of men.
They were true progressives, because they held a standard of morality, as opposed to an amorphous desire for liberation, as their goal. When you have a standard, you can progress towards it. If you reject all standards, you can go nowhere. You can accept everyone for “their identity,” but why accept gays and not pederasts?
Why support law-abiding citizens over those who break the law? Hence Occupy Wall Street and illegal immigrants are hailed as progressive, even while they spit on social standards which promote peace and order. Lest you fear, I support looser immigration laws (some of my immigrant friends had to wait ten years to become citizens- that’s wrong.). But the solution is to amend the law, not let it be disregarded.
For this reason, both the Puritans and the Founders never stood for license, like the Liberal “Progressives” do today. Their freedom rested in the ability to do what is right. Yes, it is right to fear God, but that’s only half of what He asks of us. What God really wants, as Zach Wahls pointed out so well, is love.
Liberals seem to think that they enjoy a monopoly on love. But they only understand the grandfatherly love that says, “I love you, now go do what you want.” This is not love, but languor. Love wants the best for its object. It spurs you on to greatness when you think you want to sit around and feel sorry for yourself.
Yes, some conservatives are quick to judge. But the family values we support call people to a higher status. We tell women that they are worth more than the whims of any passing boy- that they should hold out for a knight in shining armor. We tell men to be those knights, honoring women by restraining their desire, and standing with the families they create.
Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it means that those who do not restrain themselves are not as good. But not only does it have societal advantages- it’s also right.
Indiscriminate sex hurts women and men- that’s why few choose it. Accidents happen, and conservatives stand by to help women who have unwanted pregnancies. Those who choose to abort normally regret it afterwards, as do the men who fathered their dead children.
Pro-life activists like Monica Miller, who bury the children killed in abortion, provide an act of love and mercy.
This is love – to help the helpless. Yes, pregnant women are helpless. But so are their children, especially if they’re unwanted. Crisis pregnancy centers give love to both injured parties- abortion clinics kill one and offer empty words to the other.
Helping widows and orphans is true religion, but stealing from some to give to others is not. That is called “legalized plunder,” and Frederic Bastiat was right to oppose it.
Charity, both monetary and otherwise, is tremendously important, and the duty of every man. The rich must help the poor, but to have the government do it is to force a man to marry a woman, regardless of their wills in the matter. because their genes would make good offspring. It is fundamentally wrong.
Social conservatism is morally superior, not because it is judgmental, but because it presents a standard to judge by, and because it is more loving.
Abortion, Gay marriage, and forced generosity evoke the historical examples of Carthage and Philistia (offering dead children to gods like Moloch), the ancient Greek practice of pederasty (men sleeping with boys in exchange for knowledge), and the tyranny of medieval kings, who spoiled their defeated foes to feed their armies.
It is not skeptical but wise, not reactionary but progressive, not fearful but courageous, to oppose such practices. If you want to return to the ignorant past, join Zach Wahls.