Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

07 December 2009

Religious Right Takes a Deep Philosophical Breath

By Gina Liggett

For two decades, the Religious Right has reveled in the successes of their crusade to erode the wall separating church and state. Since America's sharp Left turn in 2008, they have not been so quick to gloat. Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said, "I'm not grieving over Barack Obama's victory, but over the loss of things that I've fought for, for 35 years," particularly concerning abortion rights and advancement of the so-called homosexual agenda. The Religious Right itself seems to be taking a soul-searching sabbatical, to get back in touch with its deeper mission: to live by the rule of God.

In October over 500 evangelical Christian leaders attended a conference at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary on "renewing the evangelical mission." Many felt that evangelicals had veered from the mission of Jesus. As one pastor put it: "The missing ingredient is not the primacy of the mind and doctrine. It's the willingness to suffer."

To this point, attendees sang a hymn with the words, "We spurned God's way and sought our own, and so have become worthless." I'm not sure if in this context "worthlessness" pertains to human beings or to evangelism's usefulness to society. Indeed, one pastor lamented, "We've become useless in a society that desperately needs us."

Another theologian urged pastors to talk less about fulfilling individual potential and teach more from Old Testament prophets like Prophet Joel, who urged repentance before God. Others argued for embracing Christian Reconstructionism, a movement emphasizing the total reformation of society according to God's Law. Yet another pastor, spoke of his frustration in getting evangelicals of differing perspectives to collaborate on goals such as fighting abortion rights.

But in the end, all conferees agreed that Scripture should be the foundation for whatever direction Christianity is to take.

In a well-publicized coming-together, another prominent group of Catholic and Protestant leaders announced in November their joint document called The Manhattan Declaration: a Call of Christian Conscience. It states:

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good and to call upon our fellow citizens...to join us in defending them. These truths are: the sanctity of human life; the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife; the rights of conscience and religious liberty.....We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
As defenders of Christianity's 2000-year-old legacy of "proclaiming God's word," they claim that it because of Christian "obedience to the one true God...who has laid total claim on our lives..." that the moral good has manifested in society (e.g., babies being rescued from ancient Roman trash heaps, and the emergence of modern democracy).

It is in this spirit that the Christian leaders have drawn their philosophical line in the sand:
(W)e will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's.
These two events, the writing of the Manhattan Declaration and the Gordon-Conwell conference, have made it clear that the Religious Right is getting back to its philosophical roots: that truth and human society should be "grounded in Holy Scripture."

Contrast this with Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. Ayn Rand integrated the inescapable axiom that "existence exists" with the fact that humans rely on their faculty of reason to survive, validating that the moral good is the pursuit of human life-enhancing values.

In direct opposition are the Christian beliefs of a dual universe consisting of a mystical God ruling over humans, the reliance on Scripture as the source of truth, and self-sacrificing service to God's laws as the moral good. These fundamentally irrational ideas are anti-life in the most profound sense of the term, and can lead only to tyranny.

The Christians are returning to their philosophical roots. It is time for rational individuals to follow the religious right's example of philosophical introspection. But let's become grounded in a philosophy that holds as absolute--not God--but reason, reality and rational egoism.

Comment Rules

Rule #1: You are welcome to state your own views in these comments, as well as to criticize opposing views and arguments. Vulgar, nasty, and otherwise uncivilized comments will be deleted.

Rule #2: These comments are not a forum for discussion of any and all topics. Please stay roughly on-topic.

Back to TOP