Friday, December 21, 2007

Another limit on state religious impositions

You know that religion is way into politics when Tim Rock is prooftexting.

I am intensely interested in the intersection between religion and politics and public life. I believe that the latter must inform the former, but that the impact it will have is always mediated by individual conscience and empirical judgments. Faith will tend to identify the values to serve, but not the particular policies that will serve them.

In connection with some scholarship that I am working on, I have been dipping into theological writings on worship. Here is what a scholar named Gordon Lathrop, writing in a book called Holy Ground, has to say regarding the implications of the Christian Eucharist:

"Participants in the eucharist ought to be seen as fiercely questioning any easy cultural assumptions: that what we are is equal to what we own; that we may have all the energy we want, that what vehicle we drive is nobody's business but our own but our own; that we should have a great variety of foodstuffs and clothing, building materials and consumer goods,drawn from all over the wood at very low prices; that other people's salaries or poverty are not connected to our habits of consumption."

I actually agree with this, although I would add that Dr. Lathrop (and every one) should also fiercely question the easy (and erroneous) assumptions about economics that seem to lie behind this passage.

But holding up the underlying value of interconnectedness and regard for others is just good Christianity. (Yes, I agree that other faith traditions may do the same thing.) Just what it means in the world is for us to work out.

But, as we work it out, there should be a presumption against culture and the imposition of any one solution by the state. Look at the breadth of the Lathrop quote. Placing in the hands of the government - even a democratically chosen one - such power over life is a prescription for tyranny.

There is a difference between hearing an admonition to care for the poor and any particular anti-poverty policy or, for that matter, voting to compel your neighbor to care for the poor. Easy prooftexting is dangerous on the left as well as on the right.

8 comments:

Dad29 said...

A sagacious agnostic poster has made the point that 'when religion and gummint mix, religion is the loser in the deal.'

Yah, hey! One only needs to see the disaster(s) of the 16th/17th centuries (and a few others--such as the Mohammedan states) to understand that.

The recognition of Original Sin is sorely lacking from the liberals' enterprises.

John McAdams said...

I don't see Lathrop asking that we question any "easy cultural assumptions" about sexuality.

I'm afraid that marks him as an ideologue.

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that goverment should only take care of business and the rich, or, do you think it has a role in representing all the people?

Anonymous said...

The concept is simple.
Keep Your God out of My God's Face...and we'll get along just fine.

Otherwsie my God will beat up your God.

Because my God is mentioned in the very first line, of the very first paragraph of the first part of the US Constitution.

My God protects me from your God.

Anonymous said...

By far, while conservatives make on average less then liberals do they give much more to charities.
I think it was also noticed that Church goers gave more than non-Church goers.

I think that Christians are more offended when the goverment is used to rob the poor to give to the rich, or, when policies intended to help the rich create more poor.

I do not think Christians are offended by the goverment helping the poor because they believe that goverment is to do good for its people and that it will be judge by how it does treat its poor.

People are seeing that salaries are low, benefits are being cut while more of the tax burden is being shifted upon them from business when goverment isn't reducing its costs. Ultimately, this will create more poor or at least a larger division between the rich and poor.

Cutting programs to the poor and needy is not the place to cut the budget.

Merry Christmas

jp said...

"Placing in the hands of the government - even a democratically chosen one - such power over life is a prescription for tyranny."

amen

karl marx said...

One of the anonymous posts said: "Cutting programs to the poor and needy is not the place to cut the budget"
If I laughed any harder I'd shit my pants.
The "poor and needy" having their "programs" cut.
Wow, that is some funny shit. That is the stuff of Planet Edwards. The "poor and needy".
Who are these "poor and needy" and why have they stayed "poor and needy" despite trillions in liberal "programs". And why would libs want to add 12-15 million more illegal "poor and needy" to our "programs"??

Anonymous said...

karl marx said:
"If I laughed any harder I'd shit my pants."



This probably is because you're still in diapers.