When challenged on "values," progressives inevitably rejoinder that "moral values" also include peace, social justice, care for the poor and for the environment. In this morning's Fort Myers News-Press, that argument is eloquently -- and typically -- expressed by a local rabbi:
Rabbi Bruce Diamond celebrated the 50th anniversary of Temple Beth El in Fort Myers Saturday by discussing how biblical values relate to the economy, to war and to issues beyond abortion and gay rights.
"There is kind of a sexual obsession that masquerades as morality," Diamond said. "Morality covers a whole range of human activities. We need to wake up out of this puritanical stupor and look at the real challenges of this nation."
Values must also be part of decision making on poverty and homelessness in America, war and health care, Diamond said.
"Those of us who are Bible believers take that very seriously. Jesus was a healer," the rabbi said. "What do you think he would say about health care?"
Mostly true -- but . . .
The proponents of progressive morality -- just like the proponents of conservative morality -- are very good at pointing out the other guy's blind spot. If only progressives would insist that "values" include all of the above in addition to high standards of sexual and familial conduct. But that isn't really what they're saying -- as witness the rabbi's scornful dismissal of the latter concerns. Progressives are saying that peace, economic justice, compassion and environmental protection should be our values instead of, or at least way ahead of, sexual morality. Conservatives are saying the opposite: that "family values" are exclusively about traditional sexual conduct (not at all about the "value" of a job, a home, an education, health security) and that a "culture of life" applies mostly to the unborn products of such conduct.
Bring up the notion of any restraints on sex, and liberals simply evade the issue, change the subject. Bring up Jesus' radical teachings on wealth, poverty, and violence, and conservatives change the subject. That's why we can't have a conversation, much less a dialogue, on "values."
To get Biblical about it, when it comes to deadly sins, the Left gives a free pass to Lust; the Right gives a free pass to Greed. Liberals need to confront the necessity for a sexual morality, not of straights vs. gays, but of commitment vs. exploitation, meaning vs. addiction, creation vs. consumption. Conservatives need to confront Jesus' warnings about the dicey relationship between wealth and heaven and our crucial responsibility for "the least of you."
Then we can talk.