I wrote this email to my good friend Deal Hudson in response to his outstanding op-ed at Catholic.org this morning entitled “Why Social Conservatives Should Become Cultural Conservatives”. This is far from a comprehensive response: I simply immediately saw and applied his point. You can see his response here. — Rod
by Rod D. Martin
March 7, 2014
You just rang all my bells.
One place we should start: prison reform. The Bible does not institute prison: it requires restitution, not to the state but to the victim. I certainly support prison for violent offenders, and I have no issue with appropriate fines — I appreciate that one can commit an offense against the people as a whole — but the principle of restitution to victims has been largely lost, however much it’s coming back in certain limited ways, and we have a duty to our Lawgiver and King if to no one else.
In fact, we have a duty to plenty of folks. We have the biggest prison population in the world, mostly nonviolent. How can we say we’re pro-family when we’re breaking up these families, even though their imprisoned family member(s) are no threat to anyone’s safety? Use technology to track them, restrict their movements, generally make their life so annoying and difficult and (dare we say it anymore?) shameful that they don’t ever want to do whatever they did again (and no one around them does either). But don’t send them to prison, don’t send them into the tender mercies of the anal rapists, don’t send them to learn the mindset and skills of the hardened criminal, and perhaps most important, don’t send them where they can never repay their debt to their victim. We abolished debtors prison more than 200 years ago, and still seem not to have learned this simple lesson.
Cultural conservatives should take the lead on this issue. We should go into black and Hispanic churches and communities to build support for it: we’ll find a ready audience there, among those most disproportionately harmed by our current, unreformed policies. To our own crowd, we should explain that we’ll be requiring these people to be productive members of society who for the first time are expected to literally pay their debt, and that they won’t be living off the taxpayer and getting several years of free X-Box anymore: that should resonate even if nothing else does. We should leave the left with nothing to say. And we should, in the process, radically improve the human condition and life in America and around the world.
That would be my first suggestion for your “cultural conservatism.” As you can see, I’ve been thinking everything you just said for quite some time now. We should think more about this, together.