Action Alert!

'Helpful' advice for social conservatives: ignore causes, deal with effects

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 30, 2015

New York Times columnist David Brooks offers friendly advice for social conservatives: “Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.”

Brooks makes a point of saying that he admires social conservatives, and wants to see them succeed. He thinks success would come easier if they stopped arguing about issues such as abortion and homosexuality—that is, if they stopped acting like social conservatives.

Brooks suggests that the movement should have an entirely new focus:

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families.

In other words, Brooks instructs us to stop worrying about the causes of moral decay and family breakdown, and concentrate on dealing with the results. To use a familiar image, we should spend our time fishing the drowning infants out of the stream—knowing all the while that we can’t save them all—instead of taking a walk upstream to try to stop the people who are throwing them in.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Thomas429 - Jul. 04, 2015 12:14 AM ET USA

    That is an apt summation of what many would advise.

  • Posted by: FredC - Jul. 03, 2015 5:47 PM ET USA

    Why not do both, such as the Catholics are doing?

  • Posted by: Bveritas2322 - Jul. 03, 2015 4:37 PM ET USA

    Pro-aborts need to continuously try to convince themselves that social conservatives do nothing of substance. In the abortion war, only one side provides care for women in crisiss pregnancies and the other side does nothing at all. Which side does he think it is?

  • Posted by: djpeterson - Jul. 03, 2015 2:55 PM ET USA

    Recently, David Brooks has written a book on the subject of how people can build character. Earlier in his career, he was a top writer for the Weekly Standard which claims to be pro-life. It was only after he left the journal that Brooks disclosed he had always been pro-choice on abortion.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Jul. 03, 2015 9:59 AM ET USA

    I have been trying to advocate some form of this within the Society of St Vincent de Paul, where leaders tell me this actually WAS something the founders of SVDP did at their beginnings in Parish, they helped cohabiting couples to get married. However while everyone acknowledges that marriage matters for the well being of the poor, there is no will to do this.

  • Posted by: shrink - Jun. 30, 2015 6:18 PM ET USA

    Brookes is really behind the times. Many of the Catholic teaching orders abandoned the parochial schools in the inner cities 50 years ago in the wake of Vatican 2, to become social workers.