The Nation’s Moral Tutor?

Who does the president think he is, the nation's moral tutor? That was the question thrown out by columnist George Will, as he opened fire on the campaign theme of family values. Candidates should stick to subjects the government can actually do something about, Will argued--things like roads, schools, and national defense--and ought to leave questions of lifestyle out of the campaign. In one sense, Will is right, of course. The family is a work of God, not of government. And government should not be in the business of regulating its internal workings. But there's another side to the family values debate. In Romans 13, Paul says the function of government is to reward those who do right and punish those who do wrong. That means the government has to be guided by some sense of right and wrong--some set of values. The only question is, which values? The operative values in government today are often hostile to family life. Take, for example, tax policy. According to a Heritage Foundation, during the past 4 decades federal income taxes on families have increased by over 300 percent as a share of family income (primarily because the personal exemption hasn't kept pace with inflation). As a result, families bear a disproportionate share of the tax burden. In fact, measured by average per-capita income after taxes, families with children are now the lowest income group in America--even lower than elderly households. Clearly, tax structure is one area where government ought to be doing a much fairer job. Consider, too, the issue of education. Schools are meant to be an extension of the family in its role of teaching and moral guidance. But today many school programs undermine what parents teach their kids at home, especially in the area of sexuality. For example, many schools offer children counseling about abortion and homosexuality without telling their parents. They hand out condoms and contraceptives. Here in Washington, D.C., when parents objected to having their kids receive condoms, school officials told them it was none of their business. Policies like these send a powerful message to kids: You don't have to listen to your parents. Just come to us. Virtually every issue has some impact on the family. Liberal pornography laws undermine marriage by stimulating perverse sexual appetites. Laws that recognize homosexual marriages undermine the real thing, by denying its unique claim to certain rights and privileges. There was a time when government really did deal just with things like roads and national defense, as George Will says. But today, like it or not, government has intruded into all sorts of social issues. And so, like it or not, we have to evaluate government policies on the basis of how they affect the family. Government laws and programs can either undermine the family or they can protect and encourage it. So don't be taken in by political pundits who say family values are irrelevant to the presidential campaign. Values may well be the most important issue of all.


Chuck Colson


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