Obama: 'Your Moral Imagination' Can't Be 'Bound by Limits' of Country, Community

Craig Bannister
By Craig Bannister | March 27, 2014 | 1:06 PM EDT

Your "moral imagination" cannot be bound by government or society, Pres. Obama told European youth at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Belgium yesterday.

Obama told his young audience that their "moral imagination" could not be "bound by the limits of your community, ethnicity or country:

"And it is you, the young people of Europe, young people like Laura, who will help decide which way the currents of our history will flow.  Do not think for a moment that your own freedom, your own prosperity, that your own moral imagination is bound by the limits of your community, your ethnicity, or even your country.  You're bigger than that.  You can help us to choose a better history.  That's what Europe tells us.  That's what the American experience is all about."

Ironically, on the same day Obama was apparently advocating the right to subjective morality and moral relativism, his administration was arguing before the Supreme Court that government could require American business owners to violate moral objections to helping fund abortion-causing drugs and contraception.

Turns out, the term "moral imagination" is actually a conservative concept, one that is even defined by a person's cultural heritage, family, and spiritual life. What's more, "moral imagination" has declined due to increased hostility toward Western culture.

As explains:

The term "moral imagination" was coined by Edmund Burke (1727-1797), the Father of Modern Conservatism. It became a core idea of Russell Kirk (1918-1994), the Father of American Traditionalist Conservatism. Kirk was a very prolific writer but he was most famous for "The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eloit," and "The Roots of American Order." There is a Russell Kirk revival going on because of a new book by Kirk protege Wesley McDonald, "Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology."

Kirk's two central tenets were "Permanent Things," and the "Moral Imagination." Permanent Things are the Universal Moral Law, the Laws of Nature, universal and unchanging elements of Human Nature and universal principles of Truth. An Evangelical Christian might add basic Biblical Doctrines and a conservative Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Presbyterian might add orthodox or confessional doctrines of the faith to the list of Permanent Things. Permanent Things have an objective existence and are conceptually understood by Reason.

The Moral Imagination provides a vision of a life of Virtue and Meaning, the ways of Wisdom and Love and the nature of a humane life in civilized communities. The Moral Imagination is subjective and intuitive, and is inspired by poetry, literary classics, drama, and the sayings of wise men. One's cultural heritage, family, spiritual life and practical experience of life helps to furnish the rooms of the Moral Imagination. Kirk and Burke were major advocates of the preservation and cultivation of the best in the Western cultural heritage as a means of developing the moral imagination. The postmodern indifference, or even hostility towards the Western cultural heritage is a major cause for the decline of the Moral Imagination.