Thursday, November 30, 2017
An article in the Nation magazine, by William Greider, discusses on an "autopsy" report on "What Killed the Democratic Party?" The conclusion is that the party left behind working people and unions (and minorities as well) in order to chase big donors by giving them more pro-business policies (and, one might add, cultural progressivism, but the Nation would never see that as part of the disconnect). Sanders, of course, was the messenger of the revolt, and:
Many young people are even to the left of Bernie. A YouGov poll in January 2016 found that 43 percent of people under the age of 30 had a favorable opinion of socialism, versus just 26 percent unfavorable. A recent poll of 18-to-29-year-olds by Harvard University found that a majority of the respondents did not “support capitalism.” This was too much for Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader. At a postelection town hall, she bolted out of her seat to declare: “I have to say, we’re capitalists—that’s just the way it is.” Maybe it’s time for the Democrats to start a conversation with these young lefties.
People shouldn't forget the line (whoever said it) that anyone who's not a socialist at 20 has no heart and anyone who is a socialist at 30 has no brain. But with that said, the great recession, and the long-term instability in the economy and the job market caused by technological revolution, may well make this young generation more hospitable to government intervention for the long term, not just for the moment.
But why does it have to be "socialism, not capitalism"? The New Deal was understood, and won long-lasting support in part because it was understood, as a means not to replace capitalism, but to preserve it by curbing its excesses--excesses that threatened to lead to destructive unrest. Just how much intervention that requires is, of course, a matter of debate and practical judgment. Maybe the meltdown of 2008 showed the need for a lot more regulation in order in order to restore the fair working of a basic market-based economy. (That conclusion seems consistent, BTW, with the Catholic social tradition's affirmation of the need for a "strong juridical framework" to regulate markets--although I agree that CST principles also could support more limited conceptions of the "strong juridical framework.")
In any event, the argument about saving capitalism and markets still, today, seems to me to be more effective--reaching a far wider range of people--than the argument pining for socialism as an ideal. (To say nothing of remembering all the problems with how socialism has actually worked.)
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
A few days ago, thanks to the good people at the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago, I was able to participate in a panel/conversation about last year's Trinity Lutheran case with my friends Andy Koppelman and Dan Rodriguez. The video of the event is available here. (As you'll see, the video-producers substituted some bald guy for me but the words and bad jokes were mine.)
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King. In my experience, preachers in Catholic parishes don't know quite what to do with this Feast. Usually, the day's "message" or "theme" has been (again, in my experience) something to the effect that we should ask if we are "putting Jesus first in our lives" (and, certainly, we should).
And yet . . . especially in light of the emerging (and much needed) focus in the Church on religious liberty and the realities of both aggressive secularism and persecution, it's worth (re-)reading Quas Primas, the encyclical of Pope Pius XI that instituted the feast day in 1925, and remembering that this institution's purpose sounded more in political theology than in personal piety and devotion. This feast -- which we celebrate, again, this Sunday -- is a reminder that government is not all, that there are things which are not Caesar's, and that everything, in the end, is "under God."
UPDATE: More, on Miguel Pro, S.J., here.
Monday, November 20, 2017
Just a brief post to collect some of my recent work on liberalism and Catholicism, in various venues and in reverse chronological order of publication.
“A Christian Strategy” (or, as I also think of it, “The Esther Option”), First Things
“Liturgy of Liberalism”, First Things
November 20, 2017 | Permalink
Friday, November 17, 2017
New Empirical Study on Religious Freedom Cases Post-Hobby Lobby (by Luke Goodrich and Rachel Busick)
Two attorneys at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — Luke Goodrich and Rachel Busick — have just posted one of the first empirical studies of federal religious freedom cases since Hobby Lobby.
Some critics of Hobby Lobby predicted that the decision would open the floodgates to a host of novel claims, transforming religious freedom from a shield for protecting religious minorities into a sword for imposing majoritarian values. But this study finds those dire predictions to be unsupported. Instead, it finds that religious freedom cases remain scarce. Successful cases are even scarcer. Religious minorities remain significantly overrepresented in religious freedom cases; Christians remain significantly underrepresented. The study also highlights several interesting doctrinal developments in recent litigation over RFRA, Trump’s travel ban, and the Establishment Clause.
The most intriguing empirical research tells us something new, such as that the conventional wisdom is mistaken or overstated. That is true here, as Goodrich and Busick reach this conclusion:
[Hobby Lobby] has not prompted a flood of new litigation by Christians or for-profit corporations. If anything, its main effect has been to provide more protection for religious minorities like the Native Americans who won the right to use eagle feathers in McAllen, or the Muslim prisoner who won the right to grow a beard in Holt. These religious minorities were the main religious liberty claimants before Hobby Lobby, and they remain the main religious liberty claimants afterwards. Ironically, then, the main beneficiaries of the win for Christian claimants in Hobby Lobby may be non-Christian religious minorities.
You can find the full article here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3067053. I highly recommend it! I’m see that it has already drawn more than 150 downloads. Add to the statistics by downloading it yourself today.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
There is now online a podcast conversation on religious freedom that I recently did with the Rev. Leith Anderson. Leith is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, a wonderful and prolific writer on Christian living, and the former senior pastor of Wooddale Church in the Twin Cities. He has been interested in religious-freedom issues, and commenting thoughtfully on them, for some time. It was great fun to have this conversation with him. A sample comment of mine, in response to Leith's question "Why should Christians work on protecting people of other faiths in the U.S.?":
Two kinds of reasons. One is a matter of principle: Christians know that a commitment of faith, a relationship with the Divine, is a matter of the heart; it can’t be real and valid if it’s coerced by government. Human dignity means that the soul should be free to seek and respond to God, even if its response is mistaken. The second reason is pragmatic: If Christians want to preserve freedom for their own religious exercise, they have to recognize it for others. You won’t get sympathy for your plight if you don’t show it for others.
That's the title of a new book by Cathy Kaveny. The subtitle: Christian Moralists and American Legal Thought. The book, published by Oxford University Press, "proposes new methodological approaches to Christian ethics-using law as a source and conversation partner; shows how religion can move beyond treating law as a locus of the culture wars to seeing it as a source of moral knowledge and wisdom; and demonstrates how examples from secular law can help us integrate special ethics, like medical ethics, with broader questions of social justice." You can read about the book--and about Cathy--here. Highly recommended:
"Cathleen Kaveny's new work brilliantly demonstrates not only that law can be a fruitful conversation partner for theological ethics, but that it is a necessary one. Her mastery of the fields of law, ethics, and theology is marshaled throughout as she probes perennially vexing problems and explores new questions. Highly original, sometimes provocative, always illuminating, Ethics at the Edges of Law is a tour de force." --Linda Hogan, Professor of Ecumenics and former Vice-Provost of Trinity College Dublin
"Ethics at the Edges of Law is one of the most important recent books at the intersection of law and theology. Kaveny's thoughtful and at times unconventional engagement with some of the major twentieth-century figures in these two disciplines offers glimmers of both tragedy and hope-and a reminder that our lived experiences unfold in the shadow of both."--John D. Inazu, Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion, Washington University in St. Louis
"Cathleen Kaveny is one of the most important scholars in the interdisciplinary field of law and religion since the field began to flourish about forty years ago. Ethics at the Edges of Law is a superb book. In it, Kaveny succeeds in doing precisely what she set out to do, namely, 'jump start . . . a complementary interdisciplinary conversation . . . centered in religious studies and theology and reaching out to the legal field.'"--Michael J. Perry, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, Emory University
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
[The Siege of Lisbon, by Roque Gameiro (1917)]
David Brooks has published an insightful warning of the mutually repelling characteristics of the true believers on both extremes of the political spectrum today. In today’s New York Times (here), Brooks calls this behavior the “Siege Mentality,” which “starts with a sense of collective victimhood” that feeds “a deep sense of pessimism” and “floats on apocalyptic fear.”
This approach is seductive, offering a kind of a false high that, like other misguided addictions, proves self-destruction: “The odd thing is that the siege mentality feels kind of good to the people who grab on to it. It gives its proponents a straightforward way to interpret the world — the noble us versus the powerful them.” But, in the end, “[g]roups smitten with the siege mentality filter out discordant facts and become more extreme versions of themselves, leading to further marginalization.”
Worst of all, those who surrender to the Siege Mentality lose their own souls, becoming the opposite of what they sincerely believed themselves to be at the beginning. “Evangelical Christians, for example, had a humane model for leadership — servant leadership — but, feeling besieged, they swapped it for Donald Trump, for gladiator pagan leadership.”
As Catholics, we need to remember that faithfully standing by what we think is right need not fall into a hateful disregard for those who disagree or a willingness to compromise our principles by temporary political alignments with those whose past conduct and present behavior display contempt for those very principles.