When you boil it down, this debate centers on the role of two critical ideas: freedom and righteousness. In our private lives, living righteously is paramount. However, in our public lives — in our relationship with policymakers and our government — we should resist the belief that the power of government should be used to force righteous behavior in others. That’s the temptation facing religious conservatives.
Indeed, such efforts to impose righteousness are doomed to fail — society cannot truly become righteous simply because the government compels “righteous” behavior. God gave us free will, and true righteousness can only be found through a free exercise of personal choice. Although Dobson may not realize it, government-mandated righteousness is a pathway to tyranny.
That’s spot-on, the perfect take-down of the idiocy put forth by Dobson.
However, and this is key given how Mr. Armey has tried to reposition himself as a conservative with a libertarian streak, I’m not sold on Mr. Armey’s transformation. Two paragraphs from his rebuttal are cringe-worthy in the context of Mr. Armey’s plea for freedom and limited government.
The very real tragedy of the past 60 years is the ongoing expansion and intrusion of the federal government into the traditionally private sphere of American life. Activist judges are clearly responsible for much of the damage, but just as corrosive is the expansion of the federal bureaucracy into education, welfare, and health care and retirement. The result is that private, social decisions once left to individuals and communities are now under the control of Washington powerbrokers. Our cultural debate has become politicized.
Indeed, pandering and posturing on gay marriage is an insult to most voters. I’m the first person to argue that marriage is between a man and a woman. But here, Jim Dobson himself is prone to hyperbole, having claimed in one campaign speech that homosexuals and gay marriage “will destroy the earth.” We should leave such rhetoric to Al Gore, where it is better suited.
For someone painting himself as a statesman instead of a former politician, Mr. Armey hits talking points far too well. “Activist judges” are not clearly responsible for anything, other than correcting legislative failures. And if one is truly freedom-oriented, with limited government above imposed righteousness, it’s irrelevant that Mr. Armey believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. Religious marriage? No problem. Civil marriage, where religion should not be imposed as Mr. Armey argues? Not so much.
Skewer conservatives for every meddling, big government policy now prancing around as conservative policy. But there can be no exceptions. If he’s going to pull punches on a few sacred cows he happens to believe based on his religion and not his principles, Mr. Armey should get out of the way and let someone else do the necessary job. I nominate George Will.