January 30, 2019
Responding to Cardinal Dolan's criticism of his support for New York's new abortion law, which allows babies to be killed right up to birth, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo attempted to separate his personal beliefs from his role as governor: "I have my own Catholic beliefs, how I live my life . . . That is my business as a Catholic . . . I don't govern as a Catholic. I don't legislate as a Catholic." In essence, Cuomo is arguing that while he has religious views on the topic, he has to "separate" his personal views from his public policy positions. While not exactly new, this type of thinking is very dangerous and deceptive -- and breaks down when carried to its logical conclusion.
Faith is at the core of what it means to be human. Everyone has faith in something. As the writer David Foster Wallace (not necessarily a religious man himself) once said, "[e]verybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship." Our faith in God or the absence of our faith in God is at the core of our worldview, which is how we interpret the world around us and interact with it.
If values coming from God do not inform our public views, then what does? Doesn't our faith shape our character and determine our values? How are we informed as to what is right and what is wrong? We must rely on a source of moral authority higher than ourselves. Without it, "[e]veryone [does] what [is] right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).
Recent polling shows that Americans want more faith in public life, both in terms of pronouncements from political leaders and its impact on public policy. Another very recent poll found that "57 percent of people say religion should influence government policies dealing with poverty," showing the public's appetite for religion to serve as a source of influence in how our society seeks to solve problems. It would seem Cuomo should run toward his faith on questions of public policy, not away from it.
The nature of one's worldview, along with the consistency with which one applies it, are qualities that voters can and do look at in determining the credibility, integrity, and reliability of those who run for and hold public office. This doesn't mean that a person of faith seeks to impose his or her faith on others, but it does mean that their actions are informed and guided by their faith. Nor does it mean that all religious obligations are automatically carried over into public life; the Christian's desire to eliminate pride does not mean we automatically legislate it. But our faith does impact what we believe about matters of public policy. If our public policy is now to permit a baby to be slaughtered in the womb when it could survive outside it just moments later, that does say something about our worldview. A leader who publicly says he is associated with the Catholic Church, as Governor Cuomo claims, would be expected to advocate for a view of human life that is in keeping with the teachings of the Church. Indeed, these teachings are clear to any Christian following the Bible, aside from what natural law and science plainly tell us about human life. At a minimum, it would be expected that Governor Cuomo would not seek to advance laws that are 180 degrees from biblical teachings on life. Yet that is exactly what he is doing.
America is not in moral and cultural decline because we have too much of God's presence in public life, but because we have too little. May all of us in America repent of how we have fallen short of God's standards, and re-orient our lives back toward Him. I pray we do this for the sake of our society, for our own sake, and the sake of the helpless ones in the womb. God has created them. He has His eye on them. He will not overlook our treatment of them.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.