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Congressman Tom MacArthur

Image credit: Katie Colaneri / WHYY

What Does It Mean to Stand ‘Moderately’ in Defense of Right?


President Trump just headlined a fundraiser for New Jersey Congressman Tom MacArthur that reportedly added $800,000 to his political coffers. In the competition between the Democrat and Republican Parties, New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District can swing either way. That keen competition encourages exuberant spending. For example, to win the seat in the 2014 election cycle Mr. MacArthur reportedly raised over $5.6 million dollars. But the 2015 cycle cost less ($1.9 million), partly due no doubt to the underlying advantages of incumbency. In any case, with these facts in hand, I think most of his fellow members of Congress would regard the MacArthur Campaign’s Trump-headlined fundraiser as more than moderately successful.

Congressman MacArthur answers to the description of what some would call a “moderate” Republican. Now, when money can be used as a measure; and a factual context for judgment has been established, the word “moderate” can be meaningfully deployed. But what does it mean to be “moderately” supportive of the right to life; or moderately opposed to enforcing laws or court decisions that disparage or deny the right of the people to uphold and secure the natural family, as God endowed? Matters of right and wrong are not easily susceptible to quantitative comparisons and measurements.

Empirically it may be true that many murders engender greater horror than one or two. But it is never right to murder even one. The fact of murder depends on a standard for judgment that each and every murder violates to the same degree. As a matter of right, the debate over abortion is not about how many innocent human offspring are killed. It’s not about the way they are snuffed out and disposed of, either. It’s about whether God’s decision to give life to humanity is to be respected, in every case, according to His will, or rejected according to merely human will and convenience. The same is true of the debate over marriage. Is God’s provision for the perpetuation of humanity to be respected, according to His will, or rejected in accordance with human whims and predilections?

Both these questions require a simple yes or no answer. Formally, they deal with different manifestations of God’s will, as the Creator. But when answered in the negative both involve discarding His measure, and putting some merely human rule in its place. If each of us could justly claim to be the author of our own existence, this substitution might be arguable as a matter of individual authority. But, of course, this claim to be self-made is self-evidently false. How, then, can an authority none of us can claim over ourselves nonetheless be claimed over whole groups, communities and nations?

By right of conquest, proven in some contest of power, some person or persons may assert that, as a matter of fact, they rule. But though their use of power can impose a given outcome, the rule by which that power is made manifest (the conformity of objects to the law that determines their nature and its properties) is not an effect of their power; rather, their power is effective because of the rule. Thus, on account of the rule that governs its nature, as well as the nature of other existing things, the human body may be torn this way and that by a sword or a bullet; or blown to bits by explosive devices; or poisoned by chemical and biological weapons.

But the ones who wield such weapons are not the source from which such weapons derive their powerful force. Like the moon, they only reflect, as it were, the activity of a mode of being otherwise not to be found in them. Rather it is found in the one whose moderation appears in the operations for which the apparent wielders of power are, at best, like conjurers, slavishly following patterns they have learned, but have no means to originate.

To accept their claim of authority simply because they can conjure baneful effects is to be like sun-worshippers accepting to be overawed by those who understand and can predict eclipses. With swords, bombs and poisons human rulers can make shift to predict the eclipse of life. But since they are not the authors of the rule that makes life possible, why is it rational to assume that the darkness they conjure will not be followed, like each eclipse of the sun, by the return of light— shining without their leave, in accordance with a rule of its own making?

Thus understood, their power is dependent. It represents no authority but what they derive from the credulousness of those who, out of fear, worship their sham demonstration of what is, in effect, a being not their own. This is the folly of those who worship the creature instead of the Creator, and so, becoming ever more enslaved to their own fear, prolong forever what might otherwise be just a brief, passing moment of darkness.

The only moderation I respect, therefore, is the moderation of fear that comes of trusting in the rule of the Creator, God. Therefore, I’m wary of people who claim that they are “moderates” because they temper their fear of God, while giving in to the supposed authority of immoderate human passion, selfish interest and self- delusion. If the right to life is, as our Declaration of Independence says, a matter of God’s rule, it cannot be suppressed by rule of human law—local, state, national or international. If the right to uphold marriage is a matter of God’s rule, it cannot be denied or disparaged by human edict, from any local, state, national or international authority.

The same can be said of every God-endowed unalienable right. So, when we deny God’s authority over this one or that one, we have denied it overall. But without the claim of God endowed right, what becomes of our self-government—and the liberty and justice it is supposed to secure to all who are willing to join in action that accords with God’s good will? Doesn’t it disintegrate? By whose rule or measure is that disintegration a “moderate” result?


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