The Need for Cultural Conservatism

Deal W. Hudson
December 10, 2014

At the annual Paul Weyrich Awards Dinner in 2014, Foster Friess, a well-known philanthropist, and leader among conservatives made a simple suggestion: social conservatives should become, and refer to themselves as, cultural conservatives. When I heard him say it, I thought to myself, “Friess is exactly right!” Then wondered, given the purpose of this series of columns, why didn’t I think of that?

The examples are given by Friess, of the difference between a social and cultural conservative, were primarily those of human suffering that social conservatives are regularly accused of not caring about. For example, the plight of low-income single-mothers and their children and the percentage of African-Americans incarcerated on drug charges (Friess stated they’re being tried and convicted at a rate far exceeding other races). These examples, of course, could be multiplied and should be.

This is why I think his suggestion should be taken: the phrase “social conservative” has become a political codeword for a small number of specific issues: abortion, marriage, traditional values, euthanasia, fetal stem cell research, and abortifacient contraception. From a Catholic perspective, a social conservative is someone who stands on the right side of the non-negotiable, or settled, moral teachings of the Church as they apply to political participation.

Until now, calling someone, or yourself, a social conservative has had a useful purpose. But like all buzzwords and brand names, its usefulness has come to an end. In our zealousness to protect innocent life and marriage, social conservatives have allowed themselves to be perceived as uncaring about other forms of human want and suffering. I know most of this nation’s social conservatives and can attest to the fact that they do not lack concern or compassion for the poor, single mothers, and the unfairly incarcerated. But as long as they are described, or describe themselves, as social conservatives the misperception will stick.


In upcoming columns, I will be drafting a list of proposals for those who would become cultural conservatives. This is not to say that I am declaring myself the leader of such a movement, but Foster Friess put into words the full significance of a new direction I have taken in my own life, after many years of being seen as a Catholic social conservative in politics. When I initiated this series of columns on January 1, it was called, “Culture: Its Delights and Diversions.” This is the 40th column in that series, and only at this moment have I realized how this turn toward culture would impact my politics.

Though much that can be said about a cultural conservative is a matter of common sense, the one thing that must be said at the start is this: to believe in the protection of human life, to be pro-life, means that you care about all of life, all of human existence, from beginning to end, encompassing the life of an individual in a society. Thus, a cultural conservative will address the kinds of social prejudices, lack of opportunities, lack of justice and compassion, and the presumptive sense of entitlement that obstruct persons in their quest for human happiness.

A cultural conservative will preserve the hierarchy of moral concerns as they pertain to political participation, but at the same time will invite those who have been perceived as the opposition to think and work together to alleviate what we can of needless suffering and lack of opportunity in this nation and around the world.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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