BY: Sen. Chris McDaniel
The embrace of Judeo-Christian morality is an indispensable component of American life and conservative ideology, particularly in the State of Mississippi.
It is the acceptance of an astute understanding shared by the founders — a belief that moral truths exist and are necessary for people to responsibly self-govern their own affairs.
Although we are all imperfect, Mississippi conservatives believe that moral limits to human behavior are intertwined into our nature, not simply accidents of history. We regard such limits as something that must be conserved to protect character from avarice, envy, unhealthy ambition and destruction. As Russell Kirk noted in his masterpiece, The Conservative Mind, we have a “belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience.”
We recognize, as he did, that “political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.” Consequently, we do not reject moral certainties; we accommodate them, understanding that good individuals make good citizens.
Self-government and moral order are intertwined. Without moral order, notions of liberty often slide into chaotic license, and expanding government rushes in to fill the void and reestablish order. The result is a corresponding and often devastating loss of personal liberty.
And yet, contrary to other political philosophies which embody the might of centralized authority, we do not propose that it should be the mission of government, by force of law, to dictate to others how they must live or to remake authority in an effort to micro-manage every individual’s whims and desires.
“We have,” as Kirk reminded, “not been appointed the correctors of mankind; but, under God, we may be an example to mankind.”
Such beliefs sew the seeds of personal responsibility, resisting calls for state sponsored uniformity, choosing instead to respect individualism and the treasures that originate with it. People are more than materialists with animal instincts.
Barry Goldwater, in 1962, explained this principle, when he wrote, “The root difference between the conservatives and the liberals of today is that conservatives take account of the whole man, while liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature. The conservative believes that man is, in part, an economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires. What is more, those needs and desires reflect the superior side of man’s nature, and thus take precedence over his economic wants. Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man’s spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Man’s most sacred possession is his individual soul.”
Put simply, not everything about human nature is reducible to society’s modes of production. A person is a moral, political and religious entity. And it is his natural complexity that we seek to conserve.
That is why, for Mississippi conservatives, the practice of politics must always take into account the whole human being – mind, body and soul – conceding that the problems affecting society are the result of the complexity of human life and therefore cannot be quickly or efficiently rectified by government action, schemes of forced human improvement or similar one-size-fits-all approaches.
Unlike liberalism, it is not our desire to override the decisions of people and reform them into one master plan.
Noble and lasting virtue is never forced; it is instead born out of respect for liberty.
Senator Chris McDaniel is an attorney, conservative commentator and was a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014. He has represented the 42nd District, which encompasses parts of South Mississippi, since 2008. He lives with his family in Ellisville, Mississippi.