Will the last conservative please turn out the lights? | WORLD
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Will the last conservative please turn out the lights?

If conservatism is not accountable to the moral law, it is nothing

A student member of the Log Cabin Republicans wears a combination Gadsden/gay pride flag at U.C.-Davis. Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee via Associated Press

Will the last conservative please turn out the lights?
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Fox News reported the story as if it made perfect sense—just a routine news account of a political happening. But this political event was actually a moral earthquake disguised as a social celebration. The festivities were held at Mar-a-Lago and among the “high-profile group of attendees” were none other than former President Donald Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump. The event may be remembered as a milestone in the death of American conservatism.

Mrs. Trump was actually a featured honoree at the event, billed as the Log Cabin Republicans “Spirit of Lincoln Gala.” The central purpose of the Log Cabin Republicans is to advance the LGBTQ movement within the Republican Party. As Fox reported that the Republican National Committee announced at the gala the formation of its first RNC Pride Coalition, “partnering with the Log Cabin Republicans to invest and mobilize LGBTQ communities ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.”

Log Cabin president Charles Moran told Fox News, “When LGBT conservatives are included in Republican campaigns, we win." LGBT conservatives? That makes sense only if conservatism now means nothing more than dismantling human civilization more slowly than the left demands.

We now see two rival visions of “conservatism” in the United States. The Log Cabin version, representing moral liberalism, just wants a more orderly transition to a new ideological age. True conservatism, based in the impulse to conserve the truths, traditions, and principles that are necessary for human happiness and lasting civilization, is committed to a metaphysical vision that acknowledges that sex and marriage are not plastic realities to be reshaped at will. Marriage was created by God, not by the Supreme Court. Sexual morality, centered in marriage, was also revealed by God. The Creator has spoken in Scripture and he embedded the cosmos with these truths. Successful civilizations obey, respect, and revere these necessary truths. That has been a central conservative commitment and the cardinal conservative insight.

As the late Sir Roger Scruton rightly said: “Conservatism is about freedom, yes. But it is also about the institutions and attitudes that shape the responsible citizen, and ensure that freedom is a benefit to us all. Conservatism is therefore about the limits to freedom.”

But the authentic conservative vision is now being undermined by many who call themselves conservative. In Britain, the so-called Conservative Party is just more conservative (on many issues) than the rival Labour Party. Back in 2005, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron began his drive to rebrand the Conservative Party as—you guessed it—on the right side of history. It was the Conservative Party in the U.K. that led the drive to legalize same-sex marriage, and it was David Cameron who boasted, “So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative, I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”

Here is a hint: If you support a rebellion against marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman, you are not a conservative. Same-sex marriage is not a reform of marriage as an institution, it is a rebellion against marriage and morality.

David Brooks is billed by the New York Times as a conservative. It is blatantly false advertising. As far back as 2013, Brooks told his readers that “same-sex marriage will be a victory for the good life.” David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, once led the fight against same-sex marriage. All that changed in 2013. Why? His answer: “I changed my opposition to gay marriage because of personal relationships.” Andrew Sullivan, a brilliant intellectual force, famously made what he claimed was a conservative case for same-sex marriage. His argument, similar to the argument made by Jonathan Rauch, was that same-sex marriage would serve as a restraint on homosexual promiscuity and thus, conservatives “should be among the first to support it.”

That is not a conservative argument, but plenty who want to redirect conservatism to non-conservative principles want us to think it is. Andrew J. Bacevich, editor of the recent volume, American Conservatism: Reclaiming an Intellectual Tradition, chose Sullivan’s argument for same-sex marriage as a key chapter, describing Sullivan as “arguably the most influential conservative public intellectual of his generation.” If so, conservatism is dead.

If conservatism is not accountable to the moral law, it is nothing. If would-be “conservatives” fall all over themselves to celebrate the Log Cabin Republicans, we are doomed. Driven by love of neighbor, our Christian concern must be to conserve the institutions and truths necessary for healthy human society—and the defense of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is at the top of that list.

Those who are trying to redefine conservatism were shimmying up to the bar at Mar-a-Lago last weekend. Those who would conserve an authentic conservatism had better get ready for an argument. We now know what we are up against.

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College and editor of WORLD Opinions. He is also the host of The Briefing and Thinking in Public. He is the author of several books, including The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. He is the seminary’s Centennial Professor of Christian Thought and a minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches.

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