Here are two very different views on the future of social conservatism. George Weigel, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, believes that the two political parties represent the two cultural options mentioned by John Paul II: “the culture of life” or “the culture of death.” Weigel writes:
By the dawn’s early light on Nov. 5, two distinct Americas hove into view. The two Americas are not defined by conventional economic, ethnic or religious categories; it’s not rich America vs. poor America, black America vs. white America, or Catholic America vs. Protestant America.
No, what this year’s election cycle clarified decisively is that the great public fissure in these United States is between the culture of life and the culture of death.
Weigel’s analysis trivializes John Paul II’s thinking. The point John Paul II made by using these two phrases – “the culture of life” and “the culture of death” – is that there is something far larger at stake than just the morality of abortion. Rather, the abortion controversy implicates a deeper question of what concept of the human person we should adopt as the foundation to our culture. On the one hand is the concept of the human person as autonomous and free from all duties to other persons that are not entered into freely. On the other hand is the concept of the human person which in its innermost essence is tied to other persons by both bonds of love and duties of care. The first concept of the person leads to “the culture of death,” the later to “the culture of life.” Understood in this way, there is more than a little of “the culture of death” in the Republican party and more than a little of “the culture of life” in the Democratic party. Of course, the Democratic party’s good positions on economic justice do not excuse its support for abortion; but, neither does the Republican party’s opposition to abortion justify its indifference to the poor.
The British philosopher John Haldane, argues that neither the Democrats or the Republicans (or any other political party for that matter) represents the culture of life and, moreover, it is dangerous to loose sight of this fact. Haldane writes:
While it would be wrong to abandon the political parties, it would be equally mistaken to side with one of them. The fact is that elections will always be fought and decided on a range of issues and the balance will sometimes favour one side, then another. Social conservatives who look to politics should be seeking to work within both parties, and in the case of the Democrats, seeking to return them to a historical position that was once more in line with Christian moral values and Catholic social teaching than was that of the Republicans.