Saturday, November 11, 2006

Theocon Offers Democrats A New Faith-Based Agenda

Newsweek has published and essay by "Theocon" Michael Gerson, former speech writer for President Bush, entitled "A New Social Gospel."

Now that a reaction to the Religious Right has set in, the theocons are attempting to set the agenda for the Religious Left. Only the political parties have changed, the agenda remains the same -- to "Catholicize America."

Thecons rarely express their agenda openly. Instead, they are working with anyone they can to undermine the First Amendment. They do that by challenging the "liberal" idea of secular government and personal religion. Here's a quote:

Modern liberalism has defined the belief in truth as the enemy of tolerance because absolute claims of right and wrong lead to coercion. And religious claims, in this view, are the most intolerant of all, and should be radically privatized so no one's morality gets "imposed" on another. It is difficult for liberals and Democrats to appeal to religious people while declaring their deepest motivations a threat to the republic.
This passage downplays the threat of division that arises when different religions seek to impose competing absolute truth claims on all society by force of law. It presumes that a society that was united by guaranteeing persons of diverse religions the right to hold different convictions about absolute truth and to freely pursue different visions of the common good will remain united when a single version of absolute truth and one vision of the common good is imposed on everyone.

Another frequent tactic is to portray "liberalism" and "secularism" as hostile to religion. Liberal "secular" government, when defined by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, is not hostile toward religion. It is "neutral" toward religion.

This is the classic American "liberal" position. There is no way to deny that a nation founded by way of revolution is "liberal" and there is no legitimate way to deny that a nation that refused to establish any religion is "secular." The classical conservative position would preserve the Monarchy and its English Church establishment.

Our "liberal" First Amendment makes government "secular" by prohibiting the government from establishing religion (-- giving it special status and privilege by law), and it prohibits the government from impeding religion (-- denying its free exercise).

For Theocons, the free exercise of personal religion is too "autonomous" and "individualistic." Baptists like Roger Williams, John Leland, E.Y. Mullins and those who think faith must be voluntary and that entrance into community is by covenant have got it wrong. Catholicism holds that religion must be expressed corporately in the public square, officially within the halls of government, legally in legislation, judicially imposed in the courts and socially privileged throughout the entire culture. In their eyes, this is not the definition of theocracy; it is the definition of the common good.

The Theocons are right about at least this much: as long as American government remains liberal and "secular" -- separating church and state, it will be an impediment to their desire to "make America Catholic."

1 comment:

Mike Broadway said...

I want to make sure that no one is thinking that all critics of Baptist moderodoxy are somehow against separation of church and state. A thoroughgoing polemic toward Neuhaus, Weigel, Peter Berger, and neo-conservative Constantinianism is a central element of the broad critique of all forms of Constantinianism.

There are important openings among the diversity of Roman Catholic voices who share a critique of Constantinianism. Just as all Baptists have not jumped on the bandwagon of the new government-sponsored, faith-based social services, not at Catholics are trying to use the government to Catholicize the U. S.

Theologizing on James Madison's theory of factional democracies does not provide all the answers for protecting the church or any other version of a good society. It does, I agree, beat what Neuhaus and crew have to offer. But churches committed to the conditions that require us to duke it out with one another for the sake of preserving religious liberty seem to be far astray of the calling from Jesus that we may be one.

If we get too used to looking for our enemies in the same place, we may not ever see the ones who are coming to blindside us.