Saturday, January 06, 2007

We invented it, and that is why it must be crushed

Nothing inspires Christian bipolarity more than the topic of secularism. Just compare this paragraph from an article in the Guardian:

Christians feel particularly aggrieved because we believe that Jesus invented secularism. Jesus's teachings desacralised the state: no authority, not even Caesar's, was comparable to God's. As Nick Spencer writes in Doing God, "the secular was Christianity's gift to the world, denoting a public space in which authorities should be respected, but could be legitimately challenged and could never accord to themselves absolute or ultimate significance". Christianity, far from creating an absolutist state, initiated dissent from state absolutism.

with this statement from quasi-Christian Dennis Prager entitled America founded to be free, not secular:

This country was founded overwhelmingly by men and women steeped in the Bible. Their moral values emanated from the Bible, and they regarded liberty as possible only if understood as given by God. That is why the Liberty Bell's inscription is from the Old Testament, and why Thomas Jefferson, the allegedly non-religious deist, wrote (as carved into the Jefferson Memorial): "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"

The evidence is overwhelming that the Founders were religious people who wanted a religious country that enshrined liberty for all its citizens, including those of different religions and those of no faith. But our educational institutions, especially the universities, are populated almost exclusively by secular individuals and books who seek to cast America's past and present in their image.

So which is it? How is it that one word, secular, can generate two such opposite reactions from the same group of people. Christians both embrace the word and revile it.

For starters, the first quote is simply nonsense. Secular government was a totally alien concept within Christendom right up until the founding of such oddball experiments in governance as the states of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. This modern view that Christianity either encourages or requires states to guarantee religious liberty is revisionist fantasy.

I guess what maddens the modern school of religious secularists is the fact that when given religious freedom, people actually act on it. When allowed to question the authority of Biblical religion, they do and often find it wanting. That's not how the script was written, apparently.

Another aspect of this secular bipolar disorder is that religious conservatives can't quite decide if America is a secular or a religious society. When confronting the lapse of religiosity in Europe, American conservatives revel in the fact that America is the most religious advanced country in the world, and enjoys the blessed fruits of that faith, including a fertility rate that is just barely above replacement rate (for now), economic growth, and boundles, God-given optimism. But when faced with the modern social pathologies of divorce, illegitimacy, drug use and pornography, America is a sick society suffering from secularization and a retreat from Biblical values, starting with the banishment of God from the classroom.

Heaven forbid that America could be both religious and morally corrupt.


Blogger Oroborous said...

Regarding the Ron Sider link, I agree with him completely.

Professed faith, without action, is at best worthless, and at worst hypocritical.

But that's the dynamic facing every popular movement, up to and including the "Dean for Prez" & "kick the stuffing out of Lieberman" movements. Lip service is easy.

January 06, 2007 12:22 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

In citing Jefferson as he does, Prager is being either disingenuous, or jaw droppingly ignorant.

"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"

NB, Mr. Prager: for Jefferson, and a great many of the other founding fathers, God != religion.

January 07, 2007 5:11 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

From Duck's link:

If there could be one place protected from the cancerous infection of pornography and sexual misconducts, one would assume that the Christian church would be that sanctuary.

One would?

How about: if there could be one place protected from the cancerous infection of the sexual molestation of little boys by strange, single middle-aged men who like to wear shorts and be called 'Bagheera', one would assume that the Boy Scouts would be that sanctuary.

January 08, 2007 7:08 AM  

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