What is Needed to Restore A Moral Citizenry?

on July 16, 2019

This past Monday The Heritage Foundation hosted a speaker event featuring Timothy Goeglein, the Vice President of External Relations for Focus on the Family. His speech focused on previewing his recently published book, American Restoration: How Faith, Family, and Personal Sacrifice Can Heal Our Nation.

The book, as Goeglein explained in his speech, is a framework to renew the citizenry of America and the culture of America. Goeglein hypothesizes that through a focus on faith, family, and personal sacrifice America, as a collective country, can be renewed, restored, and regenerated. Goeglein highlighted the conservative roots that underpin his and coauthor Craig Osten’s thesis regarding the restoration need to regenerate America’s soul by quoting Russell Kirk’s famous line “The Conservative is concerned with the regeneration of spirit and character.”

Goeglein praised several books that addressed the cultural crises afflicting America such as Coming Apart by Charles Murray, Generation Unbound by Isabel Sawhill, and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Where these books eloquently addressed the crises affecting America’s culture, Goeglein and Osten seek to address solutions for America’s restoration and renewal within their own book.

Goeglein believes the solution to America’s cultural crises and a subsequent lack of a moral citizenry lays in the culture, not through “big government” programs like The Great Society. Goeglein compared his position regarding the need for cultural, before political, renewal to the positions of famed conservative Edmund Burke and Pope John Paul II. Ordered liberty, according to Goeglein and many other noted conservative thinkers, has its roots in two parallel concepts; liberty and virtue which checks unrestrained liberty.

Goeglein detailed a solution to regenerating a moral American citizenry: restoring critical institutions like churches, neighborhoods, marriages, and a sense of community. The fifteen institutions that need to be restored and renewed according to Goeglein and Osten’s book are:

  • American founding principles
  • Religious liberty
  • Medicine and medical ethics
  • A culture of life
  • Marriage, family, and social capital
  • Concept of the gentleman
  • Virtue
  • Education
  • Civility
  • Community
  • Citizenship and duty
  • A balance between politics and culture
  • Constitution
  • Patriotism and sacrifice
  • America

Goeglein invoked scripture and noted that moral crises such as the epidemic of abortions will be solved by cultural solutions first. Goeglein stated, “providence will clear His throat when Roe v. Wade is a memory.” Only through restoring these cultural and civil institutions such as a culture of life as well as medical ethics can America’s cultural crises be solved, Goeglein claimed. The institutions of the gentleman, the biblical family, and the uniqueness of God’s design for men and women will never be replaced.

Goeglein ended the lecture with favorite quotes from personal heroes including American novelist Wallis Stegner who once stated “One can’t be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of Hope” and from Catholic philosopher Michael Novak who said, “In order to understand America, you have to understand we are a religious republic.”

Goeglein called for the crisis of civil discourse and a lack of transcendence to be solved with people realizing that there needs to be a sacrifice from both sides of the cultural debate.

Goeglein and Osten’s book differs from others on moral crises that address but don’t offer solutions. This speaks to Goeglein’s preference for the conservative principle local control and “little platoons” as Edmund Burke once called them which is congruent to the Catholic social principle of subsidiarity.

  1. Comment by JR on July 16, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Concept of the gentleman
    Marriage, family, and social capital
    Citizenship and duty

    That’s 1/3 of the list.

    Who did you vote for in 2016?

    If you can’t elect leadership that comes anywhere close to the moral standards you say are critical, what hope is there for America?

  2. Comment by Dan on July 16, 2019 at 10:41 am

    Such a white male of heterosexual privilege position! Unfortunately it’s the exact position of God as laid down in the old and new testaments; therefore, it’s absolutely correct and disregarding it always results in disaster, as in the case of Israel.

  3. Comment by David on July 16, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    Among the founding principles of America was slavery and this is not to be minimized. Our form of government was structured to accommodate this such as the Senate where the more populous North could not vote against the South. Today, most democracies have more rights enumerated in writing than what we have in the Constitution.

    Religious liberty in America predates the Bill of Rights by many years. Locally, it began with the founding of the town in 1645 and was restated by the people in 1657 to include “Jews, Turks, and Egyptians.” Today, this right be being abused by those who claim religious exemption for anything they do. Official tax supported state churches continued in the US until 1833.

    Biblical marriage included polygamy and concubines. While these had declined by the Roman period, the New Testament prohibits these only for bishops and not generally.

    As far as a “culture of life is concerned”, the US ranks 56th in infant mortality. Right to life apparently ends at birth. As I have previously pointed out, 75% of human conceptions abort naturally. You can draw your own conclusions about God’s plan in all this.

    “Sacrifice” would include paying taxes for the public good. It is always the Right Wing types who are screaming, “No new taxes” while bridges are collapsing and people suffering. Taxes in the US are only moderate compared to other advanced countries.

    The following puts to rest the myth of pious early America:
    “For there are many doctrines of faith and sects in Pennsylvania which cannot all be enumerated, because many a one will not confess to what faith he belongs. Besides, there are many hundreds of adult persons who have not been and do not even wish to be baptized. There are many who think nothing of the sacraments and the Holy Bible, nor even of God and his word. Many do not even believe that there is a true God and devil, a heaven and a hell, salvation and damnation, a resurrection of the dead, a judgment and an eternal life; they believe that all one can see is natural. For in Pennsylvania every one may not only believe what he will, but he may even say it freely and openly.”—Gottlieb Mittelberger, Journey to Pennsylvania (1750)

    If you can see this link, it puts many things in their place:


  4. Comment by William on July 16, 2019 at 8:13 pm

    As we lift history from its context and place it in the 21st century context and then be genuine and honest in our protest, we would have to give up and do without all the conveniences and benefits of modern life inherited that are in any way byproducts of the ugly parts of the past. Or, we could study history in its context and ask ourselves how we would have lived and gotten along in that time of the past, a time with its ugliness and injustices.

  5. Comment by binkyxz3 on July 18, 2019 at 4:33 am

    Worthless post devoid of solutions and unrelated to the article. Go pedal your lies and guilt trip elsewhere.

  6. Comment by David on July 18, 2019 at 7:45 am

    If I posted anything that is inaccurate, I would be glad to be corrected. Not wanting something to be true is not a basis for calling something a “lie.”

  7. Comment by Lee D. Cary on July 16, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    Another way to answer the article’s question, while being historical, without being politically partisan.

    The American Civil War addressed slavery – although that war was about more than slavery.

    The Great Depression, after the Roaring Twenties, brought humility to many in their struggle to survive.

    The Second World War brought a generation that fought a war on foreign shores against genuine evil.

    And the eventual Sovereign Debt Default will bring a painful reckoning to the federal government’s out of control spending that will alter the nation, for better or for worse.

  8. Comment by Andrew Hughes on July 16, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    Dear David, I pray your distorted views will someday be healed by God’s grace. But I thank God you have the freedom in this Country to express your views and we should all kiss the ground everyday for the place we live because of all the freedoms we have. It’s still the greatest place to live in all the world.

  9. Comment by Steve on July 17, 2019 at 8:35 am

    Presumably almost everybody will figure some of that is nice, some of it is not, and consign it to the deepest regions of the memory hole. Debating something of such little practical significance doesn’t seem a good use of time. Will say, I’m always suspicious of calls for people to sacrifice up to and including their lives considering the causes are often unworthy (and the people calling for the sacrifice benefit). If certain behaviors are important, why doesn’t society reward them better? Why is it so expensive to raise kids? If the powers that be would rather have tax cuts than do something about that, tends to indicate they don’t actually care these things.

  10. Comment by Roger on July 17, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    To practice the Golden Rule and to see our Nation as a City on a Mountain shining brightly. Regardless of faults, it is the best nation in the world, why else does everyone want to come here?

  11. Comment by David on July 18, 2019 at 7:49 am

    I do not see many Western Europeans, especially from Northern Europe, coming here. That would be a drop in standard of living for them.

  12. Comment by Steve on July 18, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Actually, I see 939,000 Western Europeans in 2016, seems like more than a few to me.


    Also, the number seeking to immigrate is presumably much higher.

  13. Comment by Steve on July 18, 2019 at 11:43 am

    951,000 from Northern Europe, too (Western and Northern are two separate categories).

  14. Comment by David on July 18, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    They have “Northern Europe” as the UK and Ireland—a very strange definition. US News and World reports rates the US as 17th in quality of life.


  15. Comment by Steve on July 18, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    No, UK and Ireland are just the top places from Northern Europe. Total immigrants from Northern Europe are 951k; from UK is 697k, from Ireland is 126k, leaving 128k for the others. 128k is more than a few also. I wouldn’t place much stock in quality of living list any more than I would place much stock in a list of greatest songs of all time; it’ll vary depending on the priorities of the creator.

  16. Comment by Steve on July 18, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    At the top of that list is Canada.
    “According to a report by Statistics Canada about 167,300 Canadian residents moved to the U.S. between 2001 and 2006*. That’s about 33,000 per year. By comparison about 9,000 Americans move to Canada each year, and the U.S. has nine times as many people.” So there’s a huge imbalance in America’s favor. I sure don’t want to move to Canada; too cold.

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