Distinguishing Between Heroes and Pretty Good Friends

by Dr. Michael Farris
August 31, 2010

Michael P. Farris served as founding president of Patrick Henry College (2000-2006) and is now Chancellor. In addition to teaching Constitutional Law and coaching the Moot Court team, he organizes a mentorship program for PHC students called Tyndale's Ploughmen. He serves as Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

I received a fair amount of feedback concerning my last column taking Glenn Beck to task for his soft-endorsement of same-sex marriage. One thoughtful reader didn’t appreciate my critique, because Beck, among his other positive attributes, “does point people toward faith in God.” His mission, the reader noted, is “to show us the truth about what is and has happened in our country; and what may happen very soon if we don’t all stand up.” Interestingly, in the interim Beck has hosted a massive rally in Washington, DC where he proclaimed the importance of “faith.”

Almost simultaneously, Ann Coulter rose to occupy some related air space by announcing that she was giving a keynote speech at the upcoming Homocon event in New York City -- an event which promotes same-sex marriage and gay rights among people that are conservatives on issues like taxes and Second Amendment rights.

This came on the heels of news that Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, had confirmed long-standing rumors that he is gay -- an announcement in which he also declared himself a supporter of same-sex marriage. I can personally confirm that Mehlman, a dynamic, articulate conservative strategist when he was working in the Bush White House, was, even then, an effective supporter of the concept.

One day I was in his office talking to him about the political necessity of the Federal Marriage Amendment -- which he was decidedly cool towards -- when he abruptly terminated our meeting because he had to speak with Vice President Cheney’s daughter. And, yes, it was the Vice President’s lesbian daughter.

The fact is, libertarians reject the moral component of conservatism. Beck, Coulter, and Mehlman are all examples of the growing influence of amoral libertarianism in the conservative movement. Their views on some important issues do not withstand the uncompromising light of truth. Let me use myself as an example: how would it be received, for instance, if I suddenly declared that, even though I am personally opposed to abortion, I thought it was no business of the government to get involved in such a decision?

Would all the apparent “good things” I am doing for parental rights, homeschooling, and religious freedom exempt me from criticism for embracing the pro-abortion view? Obviously not -- and I should expect that a number of people who previously trusted my judgment would no longer do so. And they would be right, because there are some errors that reveal deeper flaws

While I agree, for example, with Beck’s economic views, insofar as I heard him explain them in a recent speech, I also agree with the ACLU’s views on the dangers of requiring American citizens to carry identity cards. All of which is to say, I can agree with people on particular issues and still think that their fundamental positions are flawed. Glenn Beck needs to be challenged for his views on same-sex marriage, even though he does a lot of good in other areas.

More alarming, in fact, than his implied approval of gay marriage in the O’Reilly interview (cited in my previous commentary), were Beck’s comments that people should go to “church, synagogue, mosque or whatever.” This sounds good on the surface, but such language actually promotes the idea that all roads to God are equally valid. What good does Beck’s call to faith do anyone since: (a) he is not specifically promoting faith in Jesus Christ as the only One who can save men from their sins;  and (b) since his own faith has not affected his views on moral issues in public life?  Good intentions or not, Beck will never lead America back to God with this premise.

Christians must be able to distinguish between the so-called "good ideas" of conservative spokesmen like Beck and Coulter and the authentic moral truth found only in Scripture. Generic faith never saved anyone and it will not offer political salvation to America.

Patrick Henry College was founded to call young people who love Jesus to effectively engage the culture for Christ and to use Scripture as the plumb-line to examine all claims to truth.  I fervently believe that all of us should use this method for evaluating truth in our own lives as well, including in the political arena.

For those of us who share this kind of worldview, William Wilberforce is a genuine hero. He loved Jesus and taught and lived the centrality of Jesus in every endeavor, and his faith in Jesus compelled him to stand up for truth and righteousness in the public square. 

By this standard, Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter are admittedly pretty good friends. On many issues they take a strong stand for traditional values and conservative principles. But they are not true heroes to those who hold to a biblical worldview.  They get a lot of issues right -- and we can work with them whenever our interests align.  But we should not hold them up as champions and allow our movement to be defined by their convictions, because they are so radically different regarding important fundamental presuppositions.

I was actually hoping that Glenn Beck might turn out to be a real champion for the things I believe in. But unless and until people embrace the truth that, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life -- no man comes unto the Father but by Me” -- these conservative-sounding promoters of good ideas, clearly friends on some issues, will on others become opponents.