In the wake of the Clinton impeachment debacle, some moral conservatives are asking whether the culture war has been lost. Others say now is definitely not the time to disengage
Following the February vote by the United States Senate to not remove President Bill Clinton from office, conservative activist Paul Weyrich said that perhaps the best course of action for moral conservatives and people of faith would be to disengage from the political process.
In a letter to other conservative leaders, Weyrich, the president of the Free Congress Foundation in Washington D.C. and the man who suggested the name Moral Majority to Jerry Falwell for his organization in the 1970s, said, “I no longer believe that there is a moral majority. I do not believe that a majority of Americans actually share our values.”
He encouraged a quarantine by moral conservatives, suggesting they separate themselves from politics and the culture by forming their own schools, courts and radio networks. He said conservatives should “drop out of this culture” as a means of survival.
A Washington Post headline screamed, “Key conservative surrenders in culture war.” Weyrich insisted that is not true. Defending himself on the Alan Keyes talk-radio show, Weyrich said, “I’m not surrendering anything. What I’m suggesting is a different front.” He said conservatives have had political victories for the past 30 years, but that they haven’t amounted to much.
The conservative response to the letter has been overwhelming. Keyes, in his exclusive column for Internet site WorldNetDaily.com, said moral conservatives can’t give up now. “I think that much of the corruption that is going on is actually the calm before the cleansing storm of political change that is going to turn things around in this country.”
Patrick Buchanan, a syndicated columnist who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, said the culture war centers on one question: “Is God dead, or is God King?” Considering the stakes, Buchanan said, disengagement in the battle is suicide.
Weyrich countered the argument by saying there is no battle anymore. “What I am suggesting is that we have already lost” and that the “quest for us is survival.”
In Canada, some pro-life leaders are sensing that there is an increasing dismay and hopelessness among rank-and-file pro-lifers. After all, May 14 will mark the 30th anniversary of the legalization of abortion by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals. That is a long time to fight for change without any significant results.
But British Columbia’s Heather Stilwell told The Interim that people who believe that life begins at conception and believe in the traditional family, must continue fighting our permissive and death-saturated culture. Stilwell, a mother of eight, is a former Christian Heritage Party leader and currently the chair of the Surrey Public School Board, as well as leader of the B.C. Family Coalition Party. She said she wouldn’t think of giving up now. “When things are getting tougher, that’s when you have to keep fighting on.”
She said Christians have a responsibility not to give up. “We’re the ones that see what is wrong and what the solutions are,” she said, adding that it would be irresponsible to give up at this point. “If we are not there, the forces of darkness will be,” she warned.
To battle the fatigue and disillusionment, she encourages people to, “Just lean on your faith.”
Dan McCash echoes the belief that we cannot give up, and that a proper understanding of one’s religion is vital to winning the pro-life battle. McCash, a former executive with Liberals for Life and a Toronto pro-life activist, said people must first become re-acquainted with Jesus. Once they have come to a true understanding of Christianity, they can go out into the political world prepared for the uphill fight they face. From their faith, he said, they will get the strength and knowledge for a life-long fight.
McCash told The Interim he understands that many people who disengage from society wouldn’t see their actions as a sign of pessimism, but rather as a logical decision to protect themselves and their families from an unfriendly world. So to some degree, he agrees with Weyrich. He assumes the number of people who totally disengage to be small, but thinks that many pro-lifers are becoming disillusioned because they were naive to think the fight to end abortion would be quick.
“We’re going to be fighting against abortion, euthanasia, sex education and homosexuality for a long, long time,” he said. However, McCash suggested pro-lifers examine the way they practise politics. He said pro-lifers must put aside party allegiances and concentrate on the pro-life issue. Pro-lifers must focus on each constituency to determine which party is strongest in that riding and “try to take it over.” Over time, there will be many more pro-life MPs and members of provincial legislatures, he said.
McCash noted perseverance is necessary for victory. “We can’t expect to sign up for one convention and change everybody’s mind.” Noting that the abortion culture didn’t pop up overnight, but grew slowly for decades, he says the fight to reverse it will also take many years.
Stilwell agrees that pro-lifers must get involved in the political process. “Pro-lifers must not look at politics as something alien to their life and interests.” She said that in British Columbia, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims have worked together to fight a school board over the teaching of homosexuality and aggressive, secularist sex education classes.
At the national level, there is some optimism. Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes recently told an audience in Toronto that there is a tremendous opportunity in Parliament because it is now easier to get private members’ bills to the floor. He stressed the importance of the March for Life in Ottawa May 13-14, because politicians will take notice of the strength of pro-lifers at election time. Pro-lifers must work within the system, not drop out of it.
Stilwell said if people don’t want to run for office themselves, they should work to help good people get elected to city councils and school boards, so they can work their way up the political ladder. She said pro-lifers make the best politicians, because pro-life work teaches diligence, perseverance, and selflessness.”It’s easier to make a pro-lifer a politician than a politician pro-life, she added.”