Conservative scholars call for coalition centered on life, family, religion, education

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CNA Staff, Feb 1, 2021 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- A group of conservative scholars released a letter Sunday highlighting what they consider the most important goods for society that people of good will ought to work to conserve, citing a need for a “new consensus” among those who consider themselves conservative.

“Conservatives might disagree on many things, but disagreement is not something to avoid; in fact, a real and productive disagreement is an accomplishment,” the Jan. 31 letter from a group of scholars working with the Witherspoon Institute, a non-profit organization focused on moral reasoning in a free society, reads.

“Among conservatives, there is fragmentation and confusion. Some of this follows from the convolutions and intense debates about the last administration, but it goes beyond President Trump, revealing the fragility of the coalitions that defined the right during the Cold War and its aftermath.”

“A new consensus is needed, and we invite others to work with us toward shaping it…If we can establish the conversation partners of a post-Trump conservative coalition, then we can begin the hard work of engaging the most serious questions that face us.”

The scholars identify several “elements of our common life…central to human flourishing” that they believe ought to be focused on in public discourse.

Under the umbrella of “marriage and life,” the scholars identified same-sex marriage, gender ideology, abortion, pornography, contraception, and social isolation as some of the most pressing problems to be addressed.

The letter comes against a backdrop of several planned or enacted agenda items from the Joe Biden administration that are at odds with a Catholic view of human sexuality.

In one of his first acts in office, Biden on Jan. 21 signed an executive order to interpret sex discrimination in federal law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. On Jan. 28, Biden issued a presidential memorandum repealing the Mexico City Policy, allowing the U.S. to again fund international pro-abortion groups through family planning funding and global health assistance.

“How can we counter technology’s worst effects on our souls while preserving the freedom of expression that makes meaningful discourse possible? How will we help young people to see the emptiness of endless consumption—of both people and things—and its insufficiency as a source of joy?” the authors wrote.

“How can we help our fellow citizens overcome the fear of commitment and suffering and recover the belief that self-giving love is worth the cost?”

“However necessary the defense of religious freedom, such freedom in itself is insufficient for the promotion and flourishing of religion, particularly at a moment when religion in America is in decline in both adherents and substance,” it said.

“Too few religious leaders and intellectuals seem prepared to provide and teach thick, meaningful religious truths in a publicly accessible and winsome way. Like so much in our moment, contemporary religion appears trapped in decadence. How can we revive and restore it?”

In terms of education, the scholars identified school choice, local control, parental rights, and quality of education as some pivotal topics.

The authors noted that “Conservatism should be governed by a sense of the primacy of the person,” and that “no law or policy or institution destructive of the human person can be just.”

“Race, equity, justice before the law, fair business practices, unions, the dignity of workers, just compensation, civil rights, taxation, respect for the contributions of women, sexual identity—these are not topics to ignore or deride. The first task is to understand. Then, from the stance of understanding and compassion, we must clearly articulate the true conditions of human well–being, working through law, civil society, family, and individual action to bring about those conditions as we are able.”

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