Monday, July 25, 2011
Lecture Notes 3: Secularism vs Christian Democracy
While this lecture focused on the situation in Britain, the principles in play have a great deal to do with the debate and conflict in America about Religion in the Public Sphere.
Dr Jonathan Chaplin
Between Theocracy and Secularism: Religion and the State in Britain Today
The emergence of a secular priesthood: journalists, stars, academic ‘experts’. Secularism is in fact parasitic in terms of legal tradition, and in large parts of its intellectual vigor, living of the Judeo-Christian capital of the West.
Basic to the secular ideal is the radical separation of the religious and the public and jurisprudential spheres.
Citizens may not appeal to their religious views in regard to their approach to law
There is an ‘empirical world’ with which religion has no inter-action.
‘Theocracy’ is a scare tactic
Theocracy is a misunderstanding; what they object to is in fact an ecclesiocracy.
Varieties of Secularism (Not the ancient notion of the secular but the idea that there is an area or areas of life not under God)
Militant Secularism: state officially committed to a secular/atheist position which the state propagates through state action - either passively or aggressively, either violently or by exclusion.
Exclusionary Secularism: state seeks to keep the influence of religion and faith out of public policy and debate; does not oppose private religious belief, but restricts the public manifestation of religion. Religion may be prevalent at the personal level but invisible at the public level.
Impartial Secularism: State refrains from endorsing a religion or creed, adopting a stance of impartiality or neutrality towards all. Since the state cannot judge religion’s truthfulness, it should refrain from such judgments.
Theology of Freedom to the Call of the Gospel
Theology of the Church: Church stands under the authority of Christ in a way that other ‘spheres’ do not. This is not immunity for the Church, but it is to say that no human authority can restrain the Church in its mission.
Theology of the State: the limits of the state. Note the subversive nature of the ancient Church(Horsley, Wright, etc). The state may assist the Church, and should through the maintenance of peaceful conditions for the Church.
American system and in particular first amendment
The US Courts have imported an alien version of secularism - namely (B) - to replace (C).
Justifcatory Secularism: state refrains from officially offering religious justifications for its laws and actions. For instance, the state may say, “This violates the human rights of the foetus”, but may not say, “This is a violation of the image of God”.
Benefits of (C): Impartial Secularism
State is Humbled - it acknowledges its incompetence
The Church is Protected for its Gospel mission rather than being identified with the state.
This does not imply religious neutrality when it comes to Law: all laws are a legislation of morality, which is inescapably religious in nature.
Allows appeal by the state to the religious heritage (note recent example of Italy and the posting of crucifixes in state schools).
Exclusive Secularism’s Problems
It does in fact imply justificatory secularism
Separation of jurisdiction does not mean the separation of religion and state. A ‘religion-free state’ is mythological.
ES presupposes that secular speech/reasons unites people while religious reasoning/speech divides.
ES further presupposes that secular speech is rational and objective, while religious speech is irrational and subjective.
Yet both C and D are false.
ES’s damaging consequences
Catastrophic violation of individual rights
- the track record is that the religious are marginalized. This liberalism is illiberal.
Deprivation of society of an indispensable resource for moral consideration.
Theological-Cultural Amnesia at work.
Not Christian Nation but Christian Democracy
The Church does not rule the state (Gregory VII’s age even recognized the different jurisdictions): What people truly reject is ecclesiocracy - clerical domination of the state.
But what of ‘Christian Nation’? It seems to pre-empt true debate and it favors one religion over others.
In Christian Democracy, Christians engage, work through political and legal positions, and then work in the culture for these positions (say everything from life and death to ecology and economics).
Church must be alive and helping her members and office holders to be wise and diligent in their public service.