Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I’m Sure He’s Changed His Mind

There’s been a whole lot of flak lately about Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell and his Master’s thesis at the College of Law and Government, CBN University (now called Regent University). Apparently Mr. McDonnell made some rather derogatory assertions about single mothers and working women in that thesis and some people (especially Mr. McDonnell’s opponent Democrat Creigh Deeds) think it demonstrates that he is unsuitable to be governor.

I think that this is all rather unfair. We all said things when we were young and immature that we regret saying now. Even this maven sometimes shutters in embarrassment when I am reminded of things people claim I said as a high school junior or a college sophomore. The thesis that is causing such a fuss was written by Mr. McDonnell in 1989, when he was only—let me see, 1989 less 1954 when he was born—35 years old. (I had thought he must have been younger. Thirty-five years old is not exactly a high school junior or college sophomore). But Mr. McDonnell has said that he has changed his mind about a lot of things since he wrote that thesis and I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

Lots of people are zapping Mr. McDonnell for saying that the Supreme Court was stupid in ruling that states could not outlaw contraceptives, or that mothers working outside the home are one of the leading causes of family breakdown. Others criticize him for his proposal of fifteen steps that the Republican Party must follow to save America. He says that he no longer believes some of those things, so why harp on them.

I’m much more interested in the political philosophy that the young and obviously immature Bob McDonnell set forth in his thesis. A person’s philosophy probably demonstrates better what kind of officer he will be than a few hastily-typed statements.

Young Bob McDonnell’s political philosophy was not based on the constitution and laws of the United States or the constitution and laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Rather, it was based on the Christian Bible—old and new testaments. Young Bob believed that all of society was created by God, “a God of order and authority, not chaos and autonomy.” It follows that “[e]ach institution in society has been instituted by God for specific, limited purposes.” The major institutions created by God are the family, the church and the state. (Apparently, Bob McDonnell’s God was not much interested in the individual.) Each is sovereign within its own realm.

In young Bob McDonnell’s thesis, God ordained the family to carry out the functions of procreation, nurture and socialization of children “through marriage.” The family must be the primary caretaker of its members and therefore must become economically self sufficient. In time of need, the family may seek help from relatives or the church (but apparently not from the state).

According to young Mr. McDonnell, God gave the church a monopoly over the sacraments and the sole authority to preach the Gospels and determine church membership. It also has the responsibility, along with the family, to care for widows, orphans and the poor and disadvantaged. In case of family dysfunction, it is the church (not the state) that is ordained to support, counsel and restore the family.

In young Bob’s thesis, God created civil government to protect the inalienable rights of individuals and to facilitate a society in which the family and church are free to perform their “covenantal” duties to God and others. The state has the sole authority to punish wrongdoers (except for the exclusive authority of parents to discipline their children). Although there may be instances in which the state may use its police powers to advance the health, safety and morals of family members, in general God has ordained the state to “support family parenting as the first premise of its social, economic and fiscal policy.”

So, it appears that to the young Bob McDonnell God’s hierarchy was family first, church second, and the state third. Mr. McDonnell clearly believed in a minimal role for the federal and state governments, mostly to create an environment in which the family (as God’s primary institution of government) can thrive. If the older and wiser Bob McDonnell were to follow the philosophy of his younger self, this maven would be concerned over the direction the Commonwealth would be heading in the next four years (should he be elected).

But, I am sure he has changed his mind.

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