Thursday, October 6, 2016
Below, Tom writes: "In an increasingly secular-oriented public square, it seems to me, arguments for religious freedom will increasingly be unable to take the value of religion as an accepted premise: they will have to appeal explicitly to, and then demonstrate, the distinctive contributions that religious organizations make."
I've been reading Ryszard Legutko's book, The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies. Here's something in conversation with Tom from Legutko in his final chapter, "Religion," at 164-66:
Hostility to Christianity in modern liberal democracies raises the question of how religion should manifest itself in public life.
The simplest answer--close to what some Protestant movements embodied--is that religious life and political life should be separated. Religion is essentially a private matter, a family matter, and sometimes a community matter, but definitely not a state matter. There are quite a lot of people today who are public figures, professionals, politicians, and it is rarely that we know what religion, if any, they profess, and even if we knew, this would be irrelevant in the assessment of their public performance. Such a strict separation of the religious and the public realms is very much in tune with today's ideology of modernity. And it is all the more convincing that it confirms the assumption--considered obvious but, in fact, doubtful--that the freedom of religion is guaranteed in Western democracies, and that Christians, being denied a public presence, should have no reason to complain.
This strategy--let us call it conciliatory--should be distinguished from another one--let us call it capitulatory. The difference between the first and the second is at the beginning one of degree, but ultimately one of essence. The aim of the conciliatory Christians has been to avoid conflicts with the liberal democrats and to adapt themselves to the existing system, which they thought sufficiently spacious and friendly to include Christianity together with other religions; the aim of the Christians who have capitulated is to be admitted to the liberal-democratic club, and in order to do it they are willing to accept any terms and concessions, convinced that remaining outside this club or being refused entrance would bring infamy on them.
One can, of course, defend both strategies, conciliation and capitulation, and the standard argument of defense is the following: an enormous part of the activities of churches and an enormous area of religion have nothing to do with politics, socialism, liberal democracy, or anything related. Religion and churches are about God, souls, and salvation. Therefore, because we live in a civil society governed by the rule of law, waging big political battles against it is not only meaningless from the perspective of religion but pulls the churches away from their primary mission, which is that of evangelization.
No doubt the basic objectives of Christianity remain outside politics, and it is these objectives that the churches and the faithful should pursue. But this otherwise obvious statement fails to address one crucial fact: the growing infiltration of liberal democracy into religion. Liberal democracy, like socialism, has an overwhelming tendency to politicize and ideologize social life in all its aspects, including those that were once considered private; hence, it is difficult for religion to find a place in a society where it would be free from the pressure from liberal-democratic orthodoxy and where it would not risk a conflict with its commissars. Even the issues thought to be remote from politics become censured by the punctilious scrutiny of those who watch over ideological purity....