Where to start

You can choose to start with the theses tabs at the top for an overview.

And you might enjoy my (cheap) bathroom reader book, Treasure Trove in Passing Vessels

And don't miss my Hurricane Katrina blog.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A nation of Indians ruled by Swedes?

Unintended consequences? "Religion in America was clearly and decisively disestablished, but it flourished all the more—not so much in spite of disestablishment as because of it." More from Os Guinness in The Case for Civility. Read it! Excerpts follow:

What is clear is that the notion of secularization as the inevitable decline and disappearance of religion in the modern world is the secularist’s fond hope, if not superstition. Religion in America and in most parts of the world is not disappearing and shows no sign of disappearing; and even in those parts of the world where it has declined for the moment, there are indications that the story is not over....
...more accurately a form of believing without belonging, as religious beliefs persist while allegiance to institutional forms of religion declines.

Second, what remains is often a form of “vicarious religion,” as those who have no religious affiliation still continue to look to established churches to speak on their behalf and sustain the cultural memory of their country at key moments in national life—such as Britain’s outpouring of national grief after the death of Princess Diana. Martin Rees, Britain’s present Astronomer Royal and president of the Royal Society, famously acknowledged that he goes to church as an “unbelieving Anglican…out of loyalty to the tribe.”

Peter Berger. On the one hand, he remarked, the tone deafness of the elites at home means that United States is “a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes.” In other words, the American people are as religious as the people of India, the most religious country in the world, whereas the American elites are as secular as the people of Sweden, the most secular country in the world—a fact that lies at the core of the culture wars today.

America is paradoxically viewed in many parts of the world as a nation of “Puritans and pornographers.”

At one extreme, 1789 was decisive in pushing France in a radically secular direction—or, as Jefferson said, toward atheism. A deeply corrupt church and a deeply corrupt state had united in their coercive repression of all dissent, and, like a volcanic explosion, the French Revolution blew them both away together: the Jacobin slogan of “strangling the last king with the guts of the last priest” had the effect of producing Jefferson’s full-blown atheists rather than moderate deists like himself.

Church and state were not officially separated in France until February 21, 1795. But the overall explosion that the corrupt, coercive French establishment ignited against itself created a grand fusion of revolution and irreligion and led to a radical secularization of French public life, so that in France to be progressive still mostly means being secular and to be religious still means being viewed as reactionary. This is a key part of the French mentality that lingers to this day and bedevils the resolution of French conflicts over religion in public life, not to speak of the direction of the European Union.

Astonishingly, too, Roman Catholic writers, from the popes down, who decry the militancy of French secularism today rarely acknowledge that this fierce secularism was bred and developed in direct reaction to their own earlier corruptions and has led to similar outbreaks of murderous anticlericalism elsewhere. These include the vicious Mexican repression of Catholics in the 1920s and the brutal Socialist slaughter of seven thousand priests, nuns, and bishops in Spain in 1936.

There was no wholesale repression, and there was no English equivalent of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre, let alone the slaughter in the Vendée. As a result, English history has never been characterized by the militant anticlericalism or the wilder extremes of French secularization. Yet the secularization has been steady if slow, and the Church of England today hardly seems more than a beautiful Gothic ornament in English public life, or a nationalized utility for the “hatching, matching, and dispatching” of citizens, rites of passage in the seasons of life. Remembering Davie’s important qualifications about “believing without belonging” and “vicarious religion,” we should not dismiss this reduced role altogether.

But Davie is equally clear that the church has indeed “lost its role as the keystone in the arch of European culture.” Though still established, the Church of England is little more influential in England than the long-disestablished Catholic Church in France.

The year 1791 and the passing of the First Amendment put the United States at the other extreme from the start. Religion in America was clearly and decisively disestablished, but it flourished all the more—not so much in spite of disestablishment as because of it. Without the insidious embrace of church and state, religion in America was liberated to be a matter of free, voluntary, independent choice, dictated by conscience alone. It was therefore cut free from the deadly entanglements through which European religion had come to be the parent of its own secularization and the digger of its own grave.

Madison considered his proposed article, which limited the power of the states over religion, “the most valuable amendment on the whole list.”

The early years of the republic also witnessed the long, arduous task of removing the last vestiges of religious tests and established churches in various states. And then, after the Civil War, when the Fourteenth Amendment applied the First Amendment rights and restrictions to the states, too, it did not make clear how the two halves of the religious-liberty clauses should now be understood at the state level, which has been a bone of legal contention ever since.

First, indelible stains on the American record stand for all time as a check on triumphalism and a reminder of the need for humility. Second, unresolved constitutional tensions and inconsistencies remain to this day and are a reminder that law alone can never provide the magic formula to solve the problems. And third, since religious liberty as a natural human right is prior to and independent of all government decisions, including those of the Supreme Court, no generation’s interpretation of the First Amendment will ever be the last word on what religious liberty means. The highest court in the land has the last word on the law, but not on interpreting religious liberty.

No comments:

Post a Comment