Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reno on "Our Secular Future"

R.R. Reno has a must read on the redefinition of religious liberty in America.


The Heart of the Conflict 
To be blunt: Religious people who hold traditional values are in the way of what many powerful people want. We are in the way of widespread acceptance of abortion, unrestricted embryonic stem cell research and experimentation with fetal tissue. We are in the way of doctor-assisted suicide, euthanasia and the mercy-killing of genetically defective infants. We are in the way of new reproductive technologies, which will become more important as our society makes sex more sterile. We are in the way of gay rights and the redefinition of marriage. We are in the way of the nones and the engaged progressives and their larger goal of deconstructing traditional moral limits so that they can be reconstructed in accord with their vision of the future. 
And Reno could have mentioned that we Christians are in the way of what modern capitalist/market civilization wants-- a shattering of inhibitions that preclude incessant voracious consumption. I am not here advocating a Marxist view or anything like it: I am observing that the forces aligned against Christian praxis go beyond the mere atheists and secularists who have always hated us. There are economic reasons to suppress Christianity, and our economic foes may prove to be our most obdurate. I think that this is a central part of Pope Francis' message.

Traditional religious people are in the way, and many of our fellow Americans are doing their best to push us out of the way. The outspoken among us have been largely expelled from higher education and other institutions of cultural authority. This exclusion should not surprise us. Traditional Christianity and churchgoing no longer define the social consensus in the United States. The Protestant era is over, and in its demise we have not seen the Catholic moment that the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things, hoped for. Instead, we seem to be heading into the secular moment, which is almost certain to find ways to redefine religious liberty, or at least try. 
In Islamic states, a dhimmi is a non-Muslim who is tolerated, but whose social existence is carefully circumscribed to ensure no threat to Muslim dominance. Have we reached the point at which our secular elites envision something similar for religious people with traditional values? We will be free to worship, but not to run universities or hospitals or social service agencies in accord with our principles. We will be free to believe as we wish, but not to run our businesses in accord with our beliefs. We will be permitted to exist as long as we do not openly challenge the progressive consensus.

But, Reno notes, there is more to Christian resistance here than eliding dhimmitude. 

Last summer a young Dominican brother studying for the priesthood served as an intern for First Things. He is an impressive man, one of a remarkable cohort of 20 who entered the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph a few years ago to begin formation. As I walked with him on the streets of New York City, I noticed that people often stare at his white, ankle-length outfit. Unlike the often-wild fashion statements that people parade as great expressions of protest or individuality but blend into the city as just another pose or posture, his simple habit represents something dangerously real. People intuit, however dimly, that he embodies a vision of the future that collides with the spirit of our age, and does so with frightening force. 
Seeing these reactions I was reminded that our faith goes deep, very deep. And as the guardian and servant of this faith the church has tremendous power. As I contemplate the coming battles over religious freedom, I am consoled by this thought: Our secular challengers are right, very right, to see our faith as a dangerous and disruptive dissent.
Please read Reno's whole essay. It's brilliant, and difficult to excerpt without leaving out so much of his insight.

Secularists rightly understand the threat we Christians pose to their hegemony. We know a different world. We live by different standards. We serve Someone else. We are very dangerous to the secularist agenda, and they fight us with a fury and a resolve commensurate to the actual danger we pose to them.   This is going to be a very nasty fight.


  1. Liberals really don't understand the concept of religious liberty. They like to quip that just because you're religious doesn't mean that you don't have to follow the law just like everyone else. They only say that when they have crafted such laws. If the laws were crafted by people with religious backgrounds then they feel they don't have to follow the law either.

    And no, we aren't saying that we shouldn't have to follow the law. We're saying that the law should be changed because it conflicts with the First Amendment of the Constitution which is in fact the highest law of the land. The lawlessness is entirely on their side.

    The Constitution doesn't say a word about the separation of church and state. What it does say is that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. If your law impedes my free exercise of religion then your law must yield. My free exercise of religion wins. You don't like it? Then amend it or move to North Korea. There's no religious liberty there, you'll love it.

    Government yielding to the rights of its citizens to practice their religion freely is what we used to call that freedom but we've lost so much freedom that we hardly recognize it anymore. Liberals don't get it because they perceive of religious liberty as the freedom to be a backwards, anti-science, gay-hating religious bigots. Well, we're none of those things, but even if we were, a free country would afford us the right to be exactly that.


    1. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyFebruary 20, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      Anon: "pushy authoritarian control freaks, which is what they really are"

      When the redefined term "liberal" fell out of vogue in the US, The "liberals" started calling themselves "progressive". I think there's much more truth in that label, despite the fact that it actually means "regressive" in practice (medieval energy generation, 18th century farming, 1940's government, 19th century transportation, etc.).

      Despite its practical inversion, "progressive" is a term that implies knowledge: i.e., knowledge of what will lead to progress (the development of an individual or society in a direction considered more beneficial than and superior to the previous level - and better times. Therefore, "progressives" must not be thwarted. What fool does not yearn for "better times", a "chicken in every pot", and a "healed planet"?

      Obviously, anyone who would stand in the way of chickens in the pot and planetary healing is, at best, an atavistic impediment to a material eden where all "wanted" children are above average and members of the Collective consume no more than the optimal amount of salt, and, at worst, a mortal enemy of achieving maximum happiness and minimum suffering for the Collective.

      Progressive individuals with such knowledge must share it. But more than that, they are morally and ethically obligated to make sure everyone can bask in the comforting glow of maximum utility. That implies that impediments must be removed. And if you are the impediment, Mr or Ms Kulak, Mr or Ms Zionist, Mr or Ms Bitter Clinger, then you must be re-educated, and if not re-educable, neutralized. And if not neutralizable, removed.

    2. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyFebruary 20, 2014 at 7:48 AM

      I apologize... "chicken" should read "free-range chicken".

  2. Egnor: Secularists rightly understand the threat we Christians pose to their hegemony.

    What hegemony? How many atheist presidents has the US had in recent history (or ever)? How many of the judges on the US Supreme Court are atheists? How many atheists are there in the House of Representatives?


    1. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyFebruary 20, 2014 at 7:40 AM

      secularist: the attitude that religion should have no place in civil affairs

      atheist:a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings

    2. I see what you mean, Gramps. For once, a coherent thought! What gives?

      Seriously, though, secularism is a way to maintain religious freedom. Pushing religion into public life is a double-edged sword.

      There are countries where religion is a public establishment, but these examples are hardly encouraging. Reno himself mentions Phase Two of the US history, in which Christianity was firmly established in public life. It as Protestant Christianity, and it was promoted at the expense of other Christian confessions. Catholics know that full well. Today's private Catholic schools are a reminder that public schools used to be all Protestant. I'm sure Reno doesn't want to go back to this sort of culture.

      The secular state is hardly the foe of Catholics. It may not be their best friend, but it's a guarantor of their rights to freely practice their religion. That's not a small thing.


    3. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyFebruary 20, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      hoo: "The secular state is hardly the foe of Catholics."

      In this country, the secular state was a friend to Catholics. Anti-Catholic sentiment (e.g., the Know-Nothing Party) has long been a feature of American politics.

      Nevertheless, hypersecularism as we see today goes much further, and demands the removal of faith from the public square. That may be OK for some faiths, I can't say. But for orthodox Christians, it becomes a persecution, a means of denying the possibility of practicing one's faith. Because Christianity has never been a religion of the temples but a religion whose tenets demand public acts of faith.

      When the Taliban murdered the International Assistance Team (IAM) medical personnel in Afghanistan, Secretary Clinton condemned, and rightly so, the Taliban, but for the wrong reasons. She said they were not proselytizing because they carried no Bibles, wore no religious accouterments, and did not discuss religion. All that was true. But she was still wrong. They were proselytizing, and the Taliban knew it. Healing the sick is one of the oldest forms of proselytizing in the Christian religion. :-)

      When Christians cannot exercise their faith publicly, they simply cannot be practicing Christians in the fullest sense. Christianity is not just, or even mostly, about going to church and reading a book.

    4. I think you may have meant to say the 'the secular state was not a friend to Catholics.'

  3. This is an eye opening post, a must read for everyone.

    I was a moderate Catholic not taking religion very seriously and hoping to make it to Purgatory. When I came across these discussions I didn’t know any atheists. Now I realize some of them can be nasty, many are angry and in extreme cases (for ex. Jerry Coyne) dangerous.

    Powerful and rich social architects are rearranging society quietly in the background so they love to have atheists as the promoters of new values. They are “agents”, Quislings among moderate population. They help steer population against old values, which include traditional family unit and Christianity in many areas of the world.

    In many old civilizations rulers realized that family unit is the most important for the society. There were laws against adultery in order to discourage family unit break up. Aztec and Maya civilizations had some really nasty punishments for adultery. Of course that is extreme for today and I would never approve it.

    I will remain moderate with religion but I now know the game and see it implemented everywhere just like the essay says. It is gravely serious situation; we cannot be lulled into semi-coma by the crooks.

  4. Poor Christians. You really only have yourselves to blame. Christianity has become synonymous with unpopular Republican and Tea Party politics and policy. Conservatives in the media and conservative leaders make it quite clear that they are on God's side, and it's not doing Gods image any good.

    I don't have to do anything to destroy Christianity except help keep you whipped-up. The more stupid apocalyptic histrionics you spew, the fewer people will want to be identified with you. It's just to bad you have to be a ball and chain on progress as this farce plays out.


    1. Have fun trying to stand in the winds which will blow through your world, all foundation and reason for moral behavior having been pulled out by the roots.

  5. i am Evangelical and Canadian. Things have never been better fir evangelical christianity in North America. We are popular, famous, rich, and feared by bad guys everywhere.
    The late great debate was a product of Evangelical creationism.
    I don't see differences in basic values of Christians (I mean defined by it) and the rest.
    Abortion is not a value fight but a intellectual one between like values.
    The gay agenda works upon the sympathy and kindness of the public to include them in all society. This is wrong and immoral and to be stopped where it crosses boundaries with conclusions about sexual identity .
    The nations must not reject the man/woman relationship as the only deep commitment recognized by the state.
    The other things also make a play for love and justice.
    In reality Protestant civilization was so successful ,I must not include later Catholic immigrants, in making a just and kinder society that today we fight our own foundations.
    The bad guys don't invoke evil but invoke love and accuse us of evil.
    Thats not the old Roman, Chinese, Indian, or Muslim civilizations.
    We can win by becoming better lawyers and street smart.
    AS Churchill said to France Don't give up yet. We can beat them.

  6. Brilliant essay and a very important post, Dr Egnor.
    The forces of which you speak are manifold and in no way limited to the traditional 'left'. I am glad you make mention of this. This Pope has made a very brave stand on the economic issues facing us. I am glad to see you have taken it to heart. A good portion of the Roman Catholics I know have rejected it in favour of political partisanship. It is nice to see you make the stand with him, Mike. Not surprising, given your consistency - but a breath of fresh air just the same.
    Keep up the good fight, Doc.
    On a personal note: I am sorry I have not been able to comment as much recently, but my duties have been extensive. I hope to be back in regular form shortly.