As free individuals, we have the responsibility to act in concrete ways that are best for our neighbors and our posterity. Elshtain described this as “neighbor-regard.” Alexis de Tocqueville called it mutual affection within the civil society. This regard for others and for what is to come “in Christian moral thinking ranks concrete responsibility ahead of rigid rule-following.”
That’s because rigid moralism in response to a moral dilemma, such as the one we’re facing now, is really a kind of civil cowardice, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls it. It’s putting concern for your own reputation, or your political party, over what is best for your country and its future. It’s putting yourself before others, even your children.
This neighbor-regard, Elshtain says, “involves concern for forms of life and how best to make life at least slightly more just or, to cast it negatively, slightly less unjust. One is willing to pay a price and, if necessary, to incur moral guilt, when the lives of others are at stake.”
To do otherwise is to be morally lazy, and moral laziness is not what we need in these final hours. Are you willing to put others before your own reputation, your own fears of how you will be judged in the future? If you haven’t voted yet, I urge you to contemplate that question with the seriousness and sobriety it deserves.