Britain’s Conservative government is starting to show courage in confronting the budget-busting welfare behemoth. Chancellor George Osborne is insisting forthrightly on reductions, and he has expressed a determination to face down the special interests that predictably howl with the standard platitudes about grinding the faces of the poor. “Those who defend the current benefit system are going to complain loudly,” he acknowledges. “These vested interests always complain, with depressingly predictable outrage, about every change to a system which is failing.”
His determination accompanies that of Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, who has been the strongest voice in the British cabinet explaining why, far from harming Britain’s families, reducing dependency on state benefits is the healthiest measure that can be taken for them.
This combination of fiscal and social arguments is precisely what is needed to bring this ravenous and destructive monster under control. But one voice is still missing. An authoritative voice that should be leading us with moral and spiritual support is instead seeking to stem its declining popularity with carping and cheap grandstanding.
The Church of England and other mainline Protestant churches are exhibiting a very un-Christian self-righteousness. Of course the Church must be a voice of compassion for the poor. But while compassion is one element of moral strength, it must be balanced with broader moral principles that the Church seems to have forgotten and that in this instance are much more appropriate and urgent.
Britain’s “poor” are not starving children with distended bellies. They are the offspring of single mothers, deprived of fathers and the morally healthy upbringing of a two-parent family that alone can equip them to grow into responsible, functional citizens. They are the victims not of a stingy society but of a sexually indulgent one.
The Church must remember its responsibility to God as the foremost champion for the one value that can now deliver the poor and the rest of us from a new kind of poverty—both financial and spiritual: sexual morality. For the welfare leviathan is simply the latest consequence of our unwillingness to control our sexual appetites.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, understands this. He is correct that the Church must fill the void left by welfare benefits in assisting the truly helpless, abandoned, and dislocated. But this alone will not restore the Church to its integrity and respect, nor the poor and the government to solvency. Strangely unpalatable as it now seems, the Church must return to its traditional role of inculcating an ethic of sexual discipline and sexual restraint. For this absence is the origin of not only the welfare fiasco, but all our most serious social pathologies: abortion, divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing, pedophilia, skyrocketing medical costs, crime and incarceration, substance abuse—and of course, politically aggressive homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Western sexual decadence is even very likely fuelling militant Islamism and other forms of religious conflict.
But before we are tempted to feel superior to the Church of England, let us remember that “the Church” is potentially all of us. It is we—the Christians not only in Britain but throughout the world—that need to look to the sin within. God has given us a huge unused opportunity both to influence public policy with Christian principles and to spread the Gospel. Christian sexual morality—for which brave Christians have been ridiculed mercilessly in recent decades—now stands starkly vindicated before the world as the protector of health, prosperity, and freedom. And yet we seem half asleep in our reluctance to proclaim this to the world. Indeed, we seem on the verge of despair.
Christians here in the United States and throughout the West have not brought the unique insights and authority that God has revealed to us on sexual matters to bear on today’s public policy issues. Yes, we do “preach” in the vulgar sense of that word: We nag and bemoan and wag our fingers at others—for their lack of compassion or their divorces or their homosexuality (it hardly matters). But seldom have we been faced with such circumstances where we can engage public policy with such authority. We must confront not just abortion and same-sex marriage but also the larger sexual license and the destructive institutional political machinery it has created: the welfare state and its destruction of the African American family and the African American male (now spreading to the American family and male generally); the vicious divorce apparat that devours children, loots families, and incarcerates fathers; the vast social work and public school nomenklatura with its sexual indoctrination of children and attack on parental rights.
Christians cannot complain that we are marginalized from the “public square” when we have voices that we do not use. Politics, like all works, must never substitute for true faith. But for faith to be true it must manifest itself as striving, and today there is no more appropriate evil against which to strive than the destructive consequences of sexual libertinism that litter our public life. We must marshal biblical principles—not just the ones that ingratiate us with secular sensibilities, but the difficult, unpopular ones that address our social malaise—to create a defiant counter-revolution to the militant sexual politics that have wrought this devastation on our civilization.
Stephen Baskerville is Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College. He is the author of Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family and is writing a book on sexual politics. Read full bio.