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Pied Pipers on the Right?

© Third Millennium, LLC
By Deacon Keith A. Fournier


Has the "conservative right" lost sight of the obligation of solidarity?


Faith & Culture is a regularly featured column exploring the obligations of faithful citizenship and the implications of the teaching of the Church on Christian participation in public service, public life, and public policy.


It was 10 o'clock at night, and I was dreadfully tired. The fog and drizzle didn't help in my effort to keep my eyes on the road. So, I turned to talk radio. The newest "Rush wanna-be" was on a roll. Not only reflecting the trend in such shows toward the near idolatry of the autonomous self, this guy was rather flagrant about his complete libertarian convictions.

His topic was the legalization of prostitution and drugs. He made it clear--when it comes to "victimless crime" (his words), government should stay out and leave people "free."

Free for what?

Free to denigrate women and engage in a stream of commerce that has as its object the promotion of the human body as an object to be used? Free to entice children into a life of slavery to a substance as lethal as a bomb?

"What's next?" I shouted in the eerie silence of an empty car. "Slavery?"

Well, the answer is an inevitable yes--either literally or figuratively. These folks are pied pipers on the right. They are gaining ground, and they are luring lovers of authentic freedom into the camp.

This same counterfeit notion of freedom not only spawned the slave trade (which still continues unabated in the Sudan--while the regime watches), but also kept it out of the reach of sane legislation for decades. It currently promotes the arguments (right and left) supporting the horrible infanticide known as partial birth abortion. You know, "after all, it is a private decision."

Is it any surprise that the opponents of outlawing the partial delivery of a child in order to suction out her brains have successfully reframed their infamy under the banner of this understanding of a "freedom" to choose?

As I listened on, I found myself caught up in a flurry of emotions--ranging from anger to despair. Like most boomers, my relief from such intense moments is often drawn from my past saturation in the music of the sixties and seventies. Those who are already over forty-five know what I mean.

Instantly, the words of a song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young flooded my mind, and I began to sing: "Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground." The truth of the phrase helped me overcome the anger and rededicate myself to the cause of true freedom.

We still do find the cost of freedom buried in the ground. It is there in the blood of those who gave their lives for its flourishing.

They understood that authentic human freedom is both a "freedom for" and a "freedom from." It is not a "freedom" to do whatever we choose, but to do what is right. Freedom must be connected to truth. True freedom respects the authentic rights of others and the obligations of human solidarity.

We are free to choose--that is what makes us human persons--but we are not free to make the objects of our choice good or evil, right or wrong. Our freedom is patterned after the One who created us free.

The true definition and application of freedom is the great struggle of our age. In fact, it will define our future. Some of the great prophetic voices of our age are speaking to this issue with great clarity. One is John Paul II, whose prophetic writings have warned of "the death of true freedom" and of a "counterfeit notion of freedom" which misunderstands the principle of a rightful "independence" autonomy by failing to grasp the obligation of solidarity -our dependence. At root it "misses the mark" (which is the literal definition of sin) by denying the fundamental truth that we were made for family and for social community- we can only fully become "human" in what John Paul II regularly calls the "sincere gift of self" to others.

There is a real problem emerging? Too few people, particularly Christians, are reading or listening as the Church defends the truth in this absolutely essential area!

Instead, they listen to the pied pipers (like this radio personality) who seek to borrow authority through a lavish praise of Rush Limbaugh and an appeal to "conservatism."

How sad.

Like many Christians, I seem to have awakened one morning to be labeled a "conservative," because I believed in the dignity of all human life, the primacy of the family, and good government.

But I did not sign up for this ride!

Even sadder is the fact that many Christians--who, like me, because of their pro-life, pro-family, and small government convictions, have found themselves called "conservatives"--willingly follow this siren song. You have heard their justification--"after all we can't legislate morality."

We have a problem in the camp.

Many sincere Christians have no formed social conscience or base of teachings to appeal to in their efforts to exercise prudential judgments in their political participation. As a result, they are embracing political positions that are antithetical to the Christian view of the destiny of man.

One of the many unfortunate side effects of the Protestant Reformation was the discarding of much of the well-developed classical Christian teaching on such political issues as role and proper role of government, the nature of human freedom, and the proper relationship between Caesar and Christ.

Thus, too many, enlisted in political activism over the "final straw" issue of the dignity of all human life, are not able to discern the wolves in sheep's clothing. They begin to buy into misguided, enlightenment-based worldview notions, such as the radical autonomy of the individual.

Next, they accept the mistaken notion that the reference point for freedom is, in the first instance, this autonomous individual.

Finally, they accept the Hobbesian "social contract" theory notion of governance that sees any government as a restriction on "human freedom" and a compromise because of some "state of nature."

Classical Christian thinking was of a very different foundation. We are first "persons" and only become who we were created to be in our experience of community--the first of which is the family. We are "our brother's keeper," and we do have an obligation of solidarity with one another--and particularly with the poor.

And we are always involved in governing. It begins with self-governance and the government in the home.

Thus, when we do argue for the devolution of an ineffective, overly centralized approach to government, we do so because of a proper application of the governing principle of subsidiarity, which recognizes that good governance proceeds first from below.

It begins with the individual (self government), proceeds to the mediating institutions--such as the family, associations, and local government--and flows from there to higher forms of government--such as the state, which is always accountable to the governed.

In all my years of political participation and activism, I cannot count how many times I have heard good Christian citizens parrot the adage, "He who governs best governs least"--as if it were holy writ! It is not--especially without some clarification of what is meant when we use the expression.

God governs the entirety of the universe--while respecting true human freedom. There is nothing intrinsically evil about government. The real issue is who is doing the governing, and where is it best applied.

What is most desperately needed in this entire arena is a re-presentation of a classical Christian approach -which is Catholic social teaching- to public policy, political participation, governance, and responsible citizenship. This is particularly imperative as the so-called "religious right" comes of age in the current American experience, and moves from reacting to leading.

However, this task will require intelligent Christian thinkers who reject all the tired political labels, are ready to link arms across the political spectrum, and are willing to collaborate to recapture an understanding of authentic freedom.

That is the only antidote to the siren song of the libertarian error.

If we do not act soon, the nation we love so dearly will be the true victim of these pied pipers on the right.

It's time to turn off the radio and get to work.


Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier, the founder and president of "Common Good", is a constitutional lawyer. Long active in political participation, Fournier was a founder of Catholic Alliance and served as its first President. He is a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist. He was the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice). He also served as an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes. Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues. He is a features editor for Catholic Online and the Co-Director of "Your Catholic Voice"


Common Good VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Founder, President, 757 546-9580



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