Americans disagree about many things, but on one topic we are nearing consensus: America is in trouble. Anxiety and loneliness are rampant. Partisan hostility is as bad as it’s been in living memory. People feel disconnected from their families, their communities and their country. The future is uncertain, and people are angry. What can be done in the face of so much pain, animosity and fear? 

Princeton’s Robert P. George has an idea. Americans should recommit themselves to things that matter most: God, spouse and family, community and country. And George wants to dedicate an entire month to this collective recommitment to things of lasting importance.

On Facebook, he recently wrote: “By the authority vested in me by absolutely no one, I have declared June to be ‘Fidelity Month’ — a month dedicated to the importance of fidelity to God, spouses and families, our country, and our communities.”

Time will tell if this idea sticks, but George (full disclosure: he served on my dissertation committee) is doing everything in his power to promote the importance of fidelity. In addition to giving several interviews on the idea, George kicked off Fidelity Month on June 1 with a panel discussion featuring several prominent authors and scholars. The overarching theme was that America needs to get back to the values and commitments that historically have been “our main sources of unity and strength.” America does not need a new moral code, it needs “a new birth of fidelity,” he says.

As author and scholar Yuval Levin noted at the panel discussion, there is something “profoundly countercultural” about promoting fidelity. “In a time when people tend to think about freedom only in terms of choice, we’re proposing a way here to think about freedom in terms of obligation and commitment.”

That is because, to his view, freedom comes “not by breaking, but by building.” Our attachments to God, others and core institutions help us to realize our full potential. 

According to George and other panelists, our highest allegiance and fidelity should be to God. Now, George wants to make it clear that he is not advocating for an established church. But he does say in an interview that “we are a country founded on the principle of ethical monotheism, the idea that there is a more-than-merely-human source of meaning and value — a Creator, a God who cares about us, who endows us with rights, and to whom we are ultimately answerable for how we conduct ourselves. ... So faith in God plays a very important role in the American constitutional order, a very important role, historically, in our self-understanding as Americans.” 

During the panel discussion, Jacqueline Rivers, executive director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, emphasized the importance of fidelity to God as a source of social stability and harmony. The coercive force of law has only a limited ability to get people to act justly. Though laws and social structures are important, it is the “conduct and conscience of individuals that shapes the nation.”

The gospel of reconciliation

Further, individual conscience and fidelity to God can act as a check against unjust laws. Andrew Walker of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary emphasized that by putting God first, we are able to see all other things in their proper context. 

Fidelity Month also includes fidelity to spouse and family. In the context of marriage, “fidelity” is often understood narrowly as the virtue of not cheating on your spouse. But George has something much broader in mind. He advocates for ‘“creative fidelity’ — that is, fidelity with a purpose, fidelity for a good — the good of enjoying the blessings of marriage and family, the good of bringing up children in the loving bond of mother and father in a committed, faithful union.”

Panelist Ana Samuel of CanaVox addressed the use of the word “mononormativity,” a term of disparagement for the view that people ought to be faithful to one spouse. She listed several ways that fidelity to spouse and family helps children and society and said that we should promote a cultural ethos of unity rather than division.

Anti-abortion activist Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, added that one of the best things that could happen for the anti-abortion cause is a renewal of the marriage culture. Eighty-six percent of women who get abortions are unmarried, and encouraging faithful marriages would go a long way toward reducing abortion.

Fidelity to country is next on the list, and Hillsdale’s Wilfred McClay acknowledged that this form of fidelity is somewhat more difficult than the others. Regardless of which political side you’re on, you’re likely to see many reasons to be unhappy with our country. But if we see problems, McClay says, fidelity requires that we “stay and work to mend them.”

This dovetails with something George said in an interview. Fidelity to country does not mean that we never work for reform. Quite the opposite. George says that “it’s a false view of patriotism to suggest that a patriot can never be critical of the policies of his government or aspects of the history of his country. Patriotism means love of country, and anybody who loves his country wants his country to be the best it can be. And to do that, we have to acknowledge where we have gone wrong.”

Perspective: The courts are coming for monogamy. We should resist

James Wilson of the University of St. Thomas adds that we often underestimate the importance of our unchosen connections. He draws a distinction between “filiative” associations, such as the family you are born into and the place where you are born, and “affiliative” associations, which are chosen by the individual. Our society tends to celebrate affiliation over filiation, but there is no substitute for filiative connections.

Further, our filiative connections provide the basis and grounding for our affiliative connections. “One is the root, and the other is the branch.” He brings up the example of a young man about to propose to a young woman and asks, “Is he likely to be a good husband and father if he is already burned and cynical about his relationship with his own family?”

Lastly, Fidelity Month includes fidelity to community. Levin, author of “A Time to Build,” said that part of being faithful to one’s community is the choice to “identify our fate,” our happiness and fulfillment, with that of those around us. He also noted that we live in a time in which everyone talks about what they hate. But this will not inspire or persuade the rising generation. “Not by talking about what we hate, but talking about what we love,” will we make a difference. This is because love “moves us to emphasize and articulate what we love in the world,” and our joyful witness will invite others to rediscover what we have found.  

Now, the first thing that many people say when they hear about Fidelity Month is that it is merely a reaction to Pride Month. But as the foregoing should make clear, Fidelity Month is not intended to be oppositional or combative; it is meant to identify and celebrate certain values which historically have been a key part of Americans’ self-understanding.

As George recently wrote on Facebook: “Fidelity Month proposes a positive vision: we stand for fidelity to God, to spouses and families, and to our county and communities. Our aim is to renew our own commitment, and encourage our fellow citizens to renew their commitment, to the values that have historically been among our society’s main sources of strength and unity, despite our many differences.”

And in an interview, George emphasized that Fidelity Month need not interfere with other celebrations. “Nobody gets a monopoly on a particular day or a particular month,” he said.

“As a Catholic, I think of June as the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I don’t think by designating June as Fidelity Month, I’m interfering with or detracting from or making some statement about the Sacred Heart. Catholics can observe June as the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with their fellow Catholics and Fidelity Month with everybody else. If someone wants to observe their favorite cause and also observe Fidelity Month, I’m fine with that. The more the merrier.”

This is the view of Fidelity Month that George wants to promote — a common project for Americans of many different faiths, beliefs and backgrounds. There isn’t a more fitting conclusion than his invitation to everyone: “If our values — fidelity to God, to spouses and families, to our country and community — are your values, then we want you to join us. Welcome aboard!”

Daniel Frost is the director of public scholarship in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. He also serves as editor-in-chief of Public Square Magazine.