The Olasky Manifesto

Marvin Olasky is the editor-in-chief of “World Magazine,” among many other things, including one of the foundational thinkers of welfare reform and the one who coined the phrase “compassionate conservatism, by which he meant having churches and other non-governmental groups step in to help people instead of leaving all that to the government. He has recently written a treatise on how Christian conservatives can get their act together to influence culture and politics in a more positive way. It’s called Add, Don’t Subtract.

He argues that Christians should not try to impose theocratic solutions, but that instead they need to rebuild the Reagan coalition of social conservativism with small-government, pro-freedom libertarianism. Christians should not come across as trying to subtract freedoms (or options, or people included), but rather as trying to add freedoms (and options and people included). Read the Olasky Manifesto (my term, not his) and tell me what you think.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Manxman

    This is only further compromise and capitulation by the Christian academic community to the spirit of the age here in America. Authority-hating Americans absolutely refuse to accept anyone telling them what to do, and a “theocratic” solution to them is ANYTHING, no matter how minor that can be traced back to religious values or demands repentance from them. It is wrong to cater to them by just letting them do whatever they want. Olasky’s “add freedoms” progam reminds me of the parents with a bratty, destructive kid who, instead of disciplining him, try to buy him off with offering him treats if he will settle down. The issue is the kid’s lack of character, not just stopping his bad behavior any way you can.

    What Olasky fails to recognize that is that imposing PROPER moral order on society by civil government actually leads to more freedom and well-being in the long run than ignoring sin in the interests of pluralism or tolerance. It is a serious logical mistake to equate restraining evil to taking away freedoms. How free are the people in the ghettos of large cities where evil is largly given a free rein? The freedom of ghetto residents would vastly imporve if law and order were restored to their neighborhoods.

    The job of the Christian American citizen is to BOTH add and subtract “freedoms” depending on what “freedoms” are under consideration. Unrestrained sin does NOT set people free, even here in America.

  • Manxman

    This is only further compromise and capitulation by the Christian academic community to the spirit of the age here in America. Authority-hating Americans absolutely refuse to accept anyone telling them what to do, and a “theocratic” solution to them is ANYTHING, no matter how minor that can be traced back to religious values or demands repentance from them. It is wrong to cater to them by just letting them do whatever they want. Olasky’s “add freedoms” progam reminds me of the parents with a bratty, destructive kid who, instead of disciplining him, try to buy him off with offering him treats if he will settle down. The issue is the kid’s lack of character, not just stopping his bad behavior any way you can.

    What Olasky fails to recognize that is that imposing PROPER moral order on society by civil government actually leads to more freedom and well-being in the long run than ignoring sin in the interests of pluralism or tolerance. It is a serious logical mistake to equate restraining evil to taking away freedoms. How free are the people in the ghettos of large cities where evil is largly given a free rein? The freedom of ghetto residents would vastly imporve if law and order were restored to their neighborhoods.

    The job of the Christian American citizen is to BOTH add and subtract “freedoms” depending on what “freedoms” are under consideration. Unrestrained sin does NOT set people free, even here in America.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Robert Perry

    Too “wonky” for my taste, and probably talks around some of the issues that we really need to confront in our churches.

    Moreover, there are some crucial areas where we do need to subtract–areas where the actions of government really do create a nasty moral hazard, and all are right to say “enough of that.”

    So “add, not subtract”? Sort of, but let’s not forget that the harshest criticisms of Reagan came when he emphasized the most truly conservative portions of his platform and recommended subtracting some of the moral hazards of the Great Society’s “War on the Poor.”

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Robert Perry

    Too “wonky” for my taste, and probably talks around some of the issues that we really need to confront in our churches.

    Moreover, there are some crucial areas where we do need to subtract–areas where the actions of government really do create a nasty moral hazard, and all are right to say “enough of that.”

    So “add, not subtract”? Sort of, but let’s not forget that the harshest criticisms of Reagan came when he emphasized the most truly conservative portions of his platform and recommended subtracting some of the moral hazards of the Great Society’s “War on the Poor.”

  • fwsonnek

    can someone please translate this for me?:

    “ Christians cannot happily add same-sex marriage to our culture for the SAME reason we cannot smile on abortion`(emphasis mine.) what is that reason? The author is not clear here….

    `We could speculate as well about other consequences, but here’s the essence: “The right to do whatever one wants to do can only exist in a society that removes all impediments and tidies up the social dislocations and inconveniences created by the sexual indulgence of its members.”

    So gay marriage then is about giving gays permission to have sex with each other?

    later the author says basically that gay marriage would be wrong because by doing so it would make gay marriage `look normal`. I could argue in this same way i think, in favor of making non christian religions illegal. It give our children the impression that it is “ok“ to be a pagan or to believe in idols, and to accept this as normal or acceptable behavior, or at the very least is saying that all religions believe in the same God.

    To insist on putting up the barracades to defend Natural Law and then not insist on defending also the TRUE God of Nature seems sorta twisted to me. cart before horse.

    I would like to understand how religious tolerance is any better or worse than tolerance of gay marriage in the minds of people here.

    It seems to me that allowing other religions to recruit children to go to hell is a big deal and maybe we should legislate against it.

    what am i missing here?

  • fwsonnek

    can someone please translate this for me?:

    “ Christians cannot happily add same-sex marriage to our culture for the SAME reason we cannot smile on abortion`(emphasis mine.) what is that reason? The author is not clear here….

    `We could speculate as well about other consequences, but here’s the essence: “The right to do whatever one wants to do can only exist in a society that removes all impediments and tidies up the social dislocations and inconveniences created by the sexual indulgence of its members.”

    So gay marriage then is about giving gays permission to have sex with each other?

    later the author says basically that gay marriage would be wrong because by doing so it would make gay marriage `look normal`. I could argue in this same way i think, in favor of making non christian religions illegal. It give our children the impression that it is “ok“ to be a pagan or to believe in idols, and to accept this as normal or acceptable behavior, or at the very least is saying that all religions believe in the same God.

    To insist on putting up the barracades to defend Natural Law and then not insist on defending also the TRUE God of Nature seems sorta twisted to me. cart before horse.

    I would like to understand how religious tolerance is any better or worse than tolerance of gay marriage in the minds of people here.

    It seems to me that allowing other religions to recruit children to go to hell is a big deal and maybe we should legislate against it.

    what am i missing here?

  • fwsonnek

    “ Biblically, any posture that implies, “I’m righteous and you’re not,” or suggests that homosexuality is the worst of all problems, displays an inadequate view of sin. “

    actually it looks more like “I´m repentant and you are not!“

    besides legal abortions, what could I imagine that the author thinks is a worse problem? He is begging this question.

    can any of you here think of a WORSE social problem beyond abortion and homosexuality?

  • fwsonnek

    “ Biblically, any posture that implies, “I’m righteous and you’re not,” or suggests that homosexuality is the worst of all problems, displays an inadequate view of sin. “

    actually it looks more like “I´m repentant and you are not!“

    besides legal abortions, what could I imagine that the author thinks is a worse problem? He is begging this question.

    can any of you here think of a WORSE social problem beyond abortion and homosexuality?

  • fwsonnek

    More false reasoning when he gets into same-sex marriage: “The right to do whatever one wants to do can only exist in a society that removes all impediments and tidies up the social dislocations and inconveniences created by the sexual indulgence of its members.”

    Maybe, but no one as asked for “the right to do whatever one wants to do.”

    Some homosexuals have asked for the right to have their relationships recognized the same way as opposite-sex couples. That is a limited and defined issue that is not the same as “anything one wants.” They’re not asking to be allowed to have sex in the street, buy cocaine or commit ritual sacrifices.

    It’s a common rhetorical tactic, to imply that something you’re against is the same as rampant unrestrained libirtinism, but it’s a false comparison.

  • fwsonnek

    More false reasoning when he gets into same-sex marriage: “The right to do whatever one wants to do can only exist in a society that removes all impediments and tidies up the social dislocations and inconveniences created by the sexual indulgence of its members.”

    Maybe, but no one as asked for “the right to do whatever one wants to do.”

    Some homosexuals have asked for the right to have their relationships recognized the same way as opposite-sex couples. That is a limited and defined issue that is not the same as “anything one wants.” They’re not asking to be allowed to have sex in the street, buy cocaine or commit ritual sacrifices.

    It’s a common rhetorical tactic, to imply that something you’re against is the same as rampant unrestrained libirtinism, but it’s a false comparison.


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