Connected with the release of Rod Dreher’s book, Crunchy Cons, which comes out today, there is a new blog at NRO called Crunchy Cons. There Caleb Stegall, editor of The New Pantagruel, had this to say:
The result of this history has been the gradual eclipse of our religious/moral heritage in the beaker of liberalism’s universal solvent. Conservatives intent on defending the older moral orders of society have, to gain purchase on the essentially progressive American mind, been forced in the main into tracing their cultural or policy prescriptions to some basis in individual or natural rights. American conservatism has thus developed an instrumentalist and mechanical view of the “crunchy” virtues: they exist only as a means to preserve the maximum freedom and efficiency of individual action. Or perhaps, diluting the mix even more, they exist only as one valid expression of the individual will among many other equally valid expressions. So when the putatively conservative David Walsh argues against abortion, for example, he does so on rights-based grounds: abortion weakens the sanctity of all individuals; the sanctity of the individual is the foundation of personal autonomy and freedom; therefore, abortion must be opposed to preserve personal autonomy and freedom.
In the end, however, the underlying philosophical conception of man, society, and God will trump any specific policy goal or cultural norm. I would suggest that this is the reason conservative arguments against the expansion of the marriage license seem to have less and less purchase on the American mind as time wears on. If marriage is simply a contractual arrangement for the mutual fulfillment of two peoples’ desires in a social sanctioned way (which is the prevalent view of marriage in conservative, and even religious circles), then opposition to making this contract more widely available begins to chafe against our sense of fair play.
This is the situation Rod describes so well in the book. A conservatism which, based on the essentially liberal and progressive virtues, has become unrecognizable to an older understanding of reality embodied by such conservative luminaries as Russell Kirk. And as such, incapable of offering a coherent vision of our social order as an alternative to the dominate liberal-progressivism of modernity.