Contrary to the conventional wisdom, America is not a house divided over moral issues. In fact, according to Carl Anderson, the head of the Knights of Columbus, Americans broadly agree on the problems facing the country and on the importance of moral leadership and values in solving those problems.
“The American people see morality as the key to the future of this country, and not surprisingly, see a moral dimension to every issue,” said Anderson, author of the new book, “Beyond A House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored By Washington, Wall Street and the Media." The book is available from Doubleday Religious Publishing Group.
In an interview with CNA, Anderson suggested that political pundits and the mainstream media exaggerate the divisions in American public life and often confuse political differences with disagreement over moral principles.
Core “Judeo-Christian values are the guiding moral compass for the overwhelming majority of Americans,” Anderson stated.
His recently released book relies on a close reading of public opinion research to debunk the myth of an America polarized over issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, and other issues.
Anderson said he was surprised by the degree to which Americans share similar core values. “On issue after issue, even on the issues that one would think divide us most — like abortion — the unity was astounding,” he said.
Anderson's new book contains data from recent polling by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and other sources. One polling result showed that 49 percent of Americans believe that a “return to traditional moral values” is the greatest hope for the future of this nation. When asked what was most valuable in achieving personal economic success, over 75 percent of Americans said either individual effort, honesty and integrity, or education was most valuable, highlighting the importance of a personal moral based work ethic.
While he found a convergence of values among the American people, Anderson said that his research also revealed a growing gap between the values of the American people and many of the institutions of American life. Politicians see the world in terms of “right vs. left,” but Americans tend to see the world in terms of “right vs. wrong,” Anderson said.
Anderson is the top leader of the Knight of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization that promotes family life and works of public service such as education and charitable assistance. He has long career in government work and Church leadership, including serving in various positions in the U.S. President's Executive Office for several years in the 1980s. The Knights of Columbus leader has also been appointed to numerous Pontifical councils by both John Paul II and Benedict XVI, has served in education and has a background in philosophy and law.
Anderson said he wrote his new book in an effort to help move the country past “partisan bickering” and gridlock on key questions.
Overcoming the misconception of a “house divided” is an important first step, he said. One reason for partisan political gridlock on important issues, Anderson suggested, is that politicians tend to want to avoid talking in moral terms.
A morals-based political conversation would quickly find that agreement on such divisive political issues as same-sex “marriage” and abortion, he said. Moreover, politicians would find that “the vast majority of Americans support significant restriction on abortion and value and want to protect marriage.”
The Knights of Columbus leader also urged Catholic politicians and others to not fear talking about moral values and religious beliefs in framing political arguments and policy agenda.
“Judeo-Christian values are widely shared,” he said. “We need not feel like if we hold traditional values we are part of a small minority — far from it.”
“Now the time has come for all of us to act on our beliefs, to move forward with the expectation that our beliefs are not only correct, but widely shared and worthy.”