Christians Need Stronger Conventions, Not State Power, to Influence Culture

Deep, broad cultural change often results not primarily from government imposition or propagation of ideas, but from committed social entrepreneurs who pilot alternative conventions. Public pronouncement of Christian values, absent change in underlying social conventions, is a poor substitute for deeply rooted change internal to the church.
The pitfall of standard anti-racism is its simplistic attribution of all such disparities to systemic racism or racist policy. Simplistic analysis suggests simplistic solutions, some of which may be detrimental to black people. Heterodox thinkers challenge simple diagnoses and solutions, steering us toward constructive endeavor to achieve genuine progress.
The question is not whether the analysis of the experts, the prudence of the politicians, or the commonsense wisdom of the public should have the most sway. In a free society, each of us must discharge the functions of our orders and offices well.
Catholic social teaching can serve as an important source of wisdom about how to order personal action and social policy toward the ultimate ends of human life. Still, invoking this tradition does not obviate the need for detailed and mundane policy debate.
National politics has its place, but the more important and urgent task for Christians is the construction and maintenance of actual communities in which the personal and social implications of the Christian Confession can be realized.
Contemporary politicians would do well to emulate the virtues of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a liberal who understood the conservative lesson that intermediary institutions—particularly families—are essential for preserving liberal society.
The American Dream is in crisis because the American family is in crisis. We must commit to a national—not purely governmental—effort to promote strong families.