When a secularist attempts to create a distinction between “ethics” and “morality” in order to argue that the public sphere should focus on the former, religious people often become sneaky and try to point out that ethics are informed by or derived from morality. A usual form of their intellectual appropriation is to say something like: “Your ethical values are a by-product of a Judeo-Christian heritage.”
There are numerous effective responses to this and mine generally focus on the role of ancient, pre-Christian, philosophy in the development of ethics. Some sneakier religious people will acknowledge the role of the ancients but then try and suggest that the ancients were influenced by Judaism, and since this is a “Judeo-Christian” country, even the ancients were really informed by religion! (It is usually a Christian who has never read the Old Testament that tries this).
What other viable responses can you think of?
What does the secular right want? If you read Kathleen Parker’s latest – and I know she doesn’t speak for all right secularists – you get the strange sense that she wants the way the GOP is perceived to change but not for the GOP to be substantively different.
As long as the religious right is seen as controlling the Republican Party, the GOP will continue to lose some percentage of voters, and that percentage likely will increase over time as younger voters shift away from traditional to more progressive values. (emphasis added).
Perception is not really a persuasive reason for the GOP to be less theocentric. What if the GOP could remain religious, even become more religious, while merely pretending to be secular? I think in many ways that’s what people like Huckabee and Palin represent. I mean, I’ve seen Huckabee on the Tyra Banks show, for God’s sake, and Sarah Palin definitely shops like the East Coast secularists Kathleen Parker identifies with. Such a rope-a-dope may be inauthentic to some degree but then again its politics.
In other words, I predict that Kathleen’s exhortations are going to have absolutely no effect. She’s arguing for a new packaging. Not for a new message. And that, really, is what people on this website have to ask. If you can get a more pro-secular packaging out of the GOP, would you have any other gripes with it.
If so, what.
And just as a follow up: are your policy differences, if any, dependent on your secularity or on something else.
James Dobson has responded to Kathleen Parker’s oogedy-boogedy editorial. He says that when people such as Obama ask the religiously motivated to translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values, that this is “secularism with a smile.”
This is from the HBO show Generation Kill. The scene, which contains some adult language, is about what role, if any, a clergy-man should have among Marines. The last line – “Now Brad has just pissed off God” – follows a series of amusing events.
[Update: it seems to me that the shirtless soldier's comments are an effective and ideal secular critique of the clergyman's place in the military].
As we enter the twenty-first century, we are at a crossroads on the issue of military service and Christian service. Can a church that sees itself as a “contrast society” accept the values and activities of the political status quo and its military machinery? Can a church that acknowledges the centrality of nonviolence in the New Testament accept the use of violence to defend or extend an empire that it exists to replace as the world’s guiding light?If we accept this new understanding of the church’s vocation—which is not new at all—then we must be courageous enough to accept the theological and practical consequences of it—divorcing Christian faith and military service. Carrying out this divorce will take creativity and energy, so much so that some will claim that the divorce is impossible even if it is right. After a century of horrific violence and bloodshed, and careful consideration of the New Testament texts, we need finally as a church to recognize that those who seek justification in the New Testament for Christian participation in violence of any kind, including military action, will always seek in vain. Why? Because violence is part of the false gospel of the world’s counterfeit lords and empires—Herod, Pilate, Nero, Domitian, and the like. It is not the way of the true Lord, whose gospel and empire give to us—and demand from us—an alternative allegiance and vocation.
The question this editorial also raises is what connection, if any, do reformers within religion have with secularists.
(Btw: Hi! I’m going to be contributing pseudonymously).