Wednesday, August 24, 2016
A reader called my attention to this piece, from Mere Orthodoxy, which also responds to the David Gushee column I linked to yesterday. It's dead-on, bracing stuff. Again: those who fret about "culture warriors", "culture-war rhetoric", etc., while imagining or pretending that the aggression in that "war" isn't coming from progressive and intolerant egalitarians, are, well, mistaken. Here's a bit:
The trouble here is that [Gushee's account] completely misrepresents what is actually happening. What we are witnessing is the triumph of one understanding of reality over another. As I noted last week, market-enabled, government-backed individualism is ascendant; Christianity is in decline.
This transformation will have wide-reaching social consequences that extend well beyond the redefinition of marriage to accommodate same-sex couples and give them access to legal benefits enjoyed by married couples. Again, you can argue that this is a good thing. Many will. And that’s fine. I’d prefer it, actually. But let’s be clear on this point: We aren’t witnessing a transformation effected by an objective, impersonal force called “progress” in which entrenched social conservatives are acting to oppose it. We are witnessing a conflict between two groups with rival conceptions of reality that are incompatible on certain key points. That is the story here even though you’d never guess it from Gushee’s remarkably dishonest account.
And here’s the thing: If we’re honest about the fact of the conflict playing out in front of us, we can be honest about the stakes of the debate, which are enormous: Either we are completely autonomous, self-defining human individuals and the government has an obligation to protect our right to self-definition or we enter into a world given to us in a certain condition, shaped by certain factors outside our control, and filled with norms, rules, and laws we are powerless to change and can only submit to. Gushee’s attempts to obscure this fact do nothing to change it.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
It is sometimes said that concerns about threats to religious freedom, properly understood, in America are overstated, or partisan, or part of a misguided "culture war" mentality. Of course, the threats and persecutions faced by many religious believers in many other places are far more grave. Still, those who imagine that religious freedom doesn't face challenges, even threats, here in the United States, are seriously mistaken.
This piece by David Gushee is refreshingly candid, and discusses the dynamic that I'm talking about. The only way it can be the case that religious freedom is not threatened by the developments he describes, anticipates, and welcomes is if "religious freedom" is (mis)defined so as to include only the religious freedom of those who share Gushee's views.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Here is a very thoughtful piece at Crux by my former Notre Dame Law School student, Laura Wolk. (Keep an eye out for her work; she's going to do great things.) A bit:
[D]egrading isolation characterizes the lives of myriad disabled persons. So many live either confined and neglected in homes and institutions, or walk among us laboring under the weight of unfathomable loneliness.
I am not surprised, then, that along with desires to control death and avoid pain, data show that fears about decreasing independence, becoming a physical burden, andlosing the ability to participate in meaningful life activities can motivate a person’s decision to seek physician-assisted suicide.
At bottom, these factors reflect the widespread, internalized belief that living with a disability means experiencing life sequestered from society, destined to live out one’s days as the perpetual and helpless recipient of unilateral beneficence.
Christians can allay these fears only by changing the cultural assumptions surrounding disability. We must use our lives to testify that independence and dependence take multiple forms, and that the financial costs of disability can never outweigh the richness of a life fully and joyfully lived.
But to do this, we must also try harder to draw our disabled brothers and sisters-especially those deeply or completely isolated from human fellowship-into our communities.
Friday, August 19, 2016
Here is the new book by Rodney Stark. The description:
As we all know and as many of our well established textbooks have argued for decades, the Inquisition was one of the most frightening and bloody chapters in Western history, Pope Pius XII was anti-Semitic and rightfully called “Hitler’s Pope,” the Dark Ages were a stunting of the progress of knowledge to be redeemed only by the secular spirit of the Enlightenment, and the religious Crusades were an early example of the rapacious Western thirst for riches and power. But what if these long held beliefs were all wrong?
In this stunning, powerful, and ultimately persuasive book, Rodney Stark, one of the most highly regarded sociologists of religion and bestselling author of The Rise of Christianity (HarperSanFrancisco 1997) argues that some of our most firmly held ideas about history, ideas that paint the Catholic Church in the least positive light are, in fact, fiction. Why have we held these wrongheaded ideas so strongly and for so long? And if our beliefs are wrong, what, in fact, is the truth?
In each chapter, Stark takes on a well-established anti-Catholic myth, gives a fascinating history of how each myth became the conventional wisdom, and presents a startling picture of the real truth. For example,
- Instead of the Spanish Inquisition being an anomaly of torture and murder of innocent people persecuted for “imaginary” crimes such as witchcraft and blasphemy, Stark argues that not only did the Spanish Inquisition spill very little blood, but it was a major force in support of moderation and justice.
- Instead of Pope Pius XII being apathetic or even helpful to the Nazi movement, such as to merit the title, “Hitler’s Pope,” Stark shows that the campaign to link Pope Pius XII to Hitler was initiated by the Soviet Union, presumably in hopes of neutralizing the Vatican in post-World War II affairs. Pope Pius XII was widely praised for his vigorous and devoted efforts to saving Jewish lives during the war.
- Instead of the Dark Ages being understood as a millennium of ignorance and backwardness inspired by the Catholic Church’s power, Stark argues that the whole notion of the “Dark Ages” was an act of pride perpetuated by anti-religious intellectuals who were determined to claim that theirs was the era of “Enlightenment.”
In the end, readers will not only have a more accurate history of the Catholic Church, they will come to understand why it became unfairly maligned for so long. Bearing False Witness is a compelling and sobering account of how egotism and ideology often work together to give us a false truth.
Admittedly, he's shooting fish in a barrel, but still . . . it's important to shoot those fish.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
I re-watched Chariots of Fire the other day, and was struck by a few lines and exchanges that seem particularly timely and relevant:
HRH Edward, Prince of Wales: There are times when we are asked to make sacrifices in the name of that loyalty. And without them our allegiance is worthless. As I see it, for you, this is such a time.
Eric Liddell: Sir, God knows I love my country. But I can't make that sacrifice.
. . . .
Lord Cadogan: Hear, hear. In my day it was King first and God after.
Duke of Sutherland: Yes, and the War To End Wars bitterly proved your point!
Monday, August 15, 2016
Here, thanks to the good people at SCOTUSblog, are some thoughts of mine about the upcoming Trinity Lutheran case -- another one that, I cannot help thinking, will turn out differently than in would have otherwise as a result of Justice Scalia's death.
I end with this:
Will any of the Justices examine or embrace the claim, advanced in the amicusbrief filed by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund that the Constitution should be read to disallow government from cooperating, even through neutral programs, with religious organizations that “discriminate on the basis of religion and other grounds”? I have argued in academic writing that it is a mistaken oversimplification to equate invidious and irrational “discrimination” by governments with religious organizations’ efforts to operate in keeping with their religious teachings, character, and mission. The government, of course, may and should not discriminate on the basis of religion. However, there is not (or, at least, there should not be) anything objectionable about a religious school or social-welfare agency hiring for mission. Nor does the latter become objectionable, let alone unconstitutional, simply because the religious actor is cooperating with the government to do good works like feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, or educating the young. Unfortunately, some seem determined to wage an aggressive culture-war campaign that conflates religious commitments with “bigotry.” Will the Court resist, or enlist in, this effort?
“Separation of church and state” is an important idea. Correctly understood and reasonably implemented, it is a limit on government that protects religious freedom by preventing the government from corrupting religion or interfering in religious groups’ affairs. It does not require, though, and the Constitution’s neutrality principle should not permit, the pointless discrimination at issue in Trinity Lutheran Church.
Friday, August 5, 2016
I've posted, at SSRN, a very short piece I did for the American Journal of Jurisprudence about my former colleague, Bob Rodes (R.I.P.) And, if you want to learn more about Rodes's law-and-religion work (as I hope you do!), here's an essay of mine from about ten years ago, called "Pluralism, Dialogue, and Freedom: Professor Robert Rodes and the Church-State Nexus."
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
As this story reports, a federal district court refused to dismiss an employment-discrimination lawsuit that was brought by the "director of worship" of a Chicago-area Catholic church. The claimant was fired after he became engaged to legally marry his same-sex partner. Notwithstanding the unanimous ruling in Hosanna-Tabor, the court said that "title alone doesn't determine whether a church employee should be defined as a minister" and that "further legal arguments would be needed to determine whether the ministerial exception applies[.]"
Here is the District Court's order. In my view, some of the news coverage makes it sound as though the court determined that the case could proceed because the claimant is not a minister, the opinion is actually pretty careful to insist that the question is open, because of factual disputes about the claimant's actual duties and role. And, the court also goes out of its way to reject some of the claimant's more extravagant claims, such as the allegation that “the Catholic Church has deprived [him] of his constitutional fundamental right to marry[.]"
Stay tuned. . . .
Wednesday, July 27, 2016