But there’s more to it than that. As I’ve noted before, many pro-lifers admire William Wilberforce, the British Parliamentarian who led the fight to ban the British slave trade. As such, many pro-lifers see the right to life cause as being analogous to the abolitionist cause. But defenders of traditional marriage — even as they firmly believe they are on the side of the angels — have a harder time finding heroic parallels. Fair or not, they are more likely to be compared to segregationists than to abolitionists. This is a problem. This is also consistent with something else I’ve been writing about lately — the tension between what social conservatives call virtue and what liberals and libertarians call liberty — and about how our modern individualistic society has tilted greatly toward the latter.
This is from the Coffee and Markets podcast (free subscription). “Brad Jackson and Allysen Efferson are joined by Mary Eberstadt to discuss her book How the West Really Lost God, the decline of the American family unit and how birth control and divorce have led to the declining influence of religion.”
But her words are much more than just an exhortation to neighborliness or volunteerism. They reflect the troubling but not uncommon view that the education of children, particularly their formal education, is first and foremost the task of the state rather than parents, and that the state has primary educational authority over children, at least once they are old enough to attend school. This is effectively the position that political theorists such as Amy Gutmann and Stephen Macedo take when they argue, for instance, that the state can and should require children to be exposed to values and ways of life that conflict with those they are learning at home, that the state at least in principle has the right to mandate such “diversity education” programs even in private schools and home schools, and that parents in principle have no right to opt their children out of such programs, even if they have a moral or religious objection to their content.
One of the more disheartening (if fascinating) responsibilities of my day job is to moderate the online comments responding to the blogs of two deeply thoughtful, “conservative” columnists at a national newspaper. It is amazing how many commenters either don’t read carefully or completely dismiss the columnists’ arguments with rants about how idiotic and out of touch they are with “mainstream” will (most of the readers hail from the coasts and the major cities). The tone is ruthless as it defends the righteousness of the commenters’ own cultural sensibilities, hypersensitive to any public argument that might sting their moral rectitude. Questions like, “hey, how do you make a case for gun control without alienating a third of the population, some of whose values reflect as much pride in the second amendment as they do a textured heritage bequeathed from the frontier generations?” or, “hey, how do you characterize the rights of an illegal immigrant knowing that he’s resented as a job-robber by legal residents?” aren’t being asked by the vocal masses, although they involve the most basic dilemmas presented by all political choices. For all of our toleration and well-readness and talk of “global citizenry,” there is an astounding lack of curiosity about the why’s behind others’ perspectives, on both sides of the political aisle. Everyone knows best and everyone knows all.
The Bishop of London, Rt. Rev. and Rt. Hon. Richard Chartres, gave a sermon at the funeral. He recounts Thatcher’s life and tells a few stories that brought a dignified warmth and humor which put the former prime minister in an endearing light. I remember his sermon at the wedding of (now) Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and was impressed with his wisdom to deliver fitting words for the occasion. The prime minister, David Cameron, and Thatcher’s grand-daughter also spoke at the funeral in St. Paul’s cathedral.