This post requests YOUR views on a hot topic.
“The GOOD Society: Religion and Politics” drew a crowd last night in Chaska. The panel was a Quaker, a Christian, and a Baha’i. Those who came were Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Unitarian-Universalist, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, agnostic, atheist searching together. Add your voice to the discussion.
QUESTIONS FOR YOUR COMMENT:
What is your vision of the GOOD society, the kind of world you believe in? Here are several answers from last night to whet your appetite.
The kingdom of God realized (Jesus’ prayer, “Thy kingdom come on earth…as it is in heaven”).
What would that look like? What would be different if it was realized?
What are the qualities of that society? A ‘kingdom’ is a society.
The kin-dom of God, the idea of the kingdom without the ‘g’ – the society of universal kinship. “There is only nation: the human family.”
Agree or disagree and why?
The Unites States is a secular republic, not a religious republic. The founders were clear that America was not to be a theocracy. The “wall of separation” between church and state guarantees the free expression of religion. It also protects the state (government) against any one religion being on the throne, as in Iran, and as had once been the case in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
What is the role of religion in the shaping of public life and in politics? By “politics” we do not mean “dirty politics” or “partisan politics’; we mean politics as the work of the polis (the people) in determining the values and laws that hold a religiously free society together. For example:
The Minnesota referendum on Marriage illustrates the problem.
What is “marriage”? Who defines it? Is it a religious concept or a civil concept?
Should a constitution be amended to define marriage?
Should the “wall of separation” leave the definition of and celebration of “marriage” (however defined) to the church, synagogue, mosque, etc., and instead provide for “civil unions” (legal contracts between two people irrespective of gender)?
All of us have religious/humanist and political traditions that informs us. One of those for me is the “Principles of Church Order” adopted in 1789 at the founding of the Presbyterian Church in the United States meeting in Philadelphia. The Rev. John Witherspoon, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and President of Princeton University, was also a key player in the Principles of Church Order intended to guide the church’s internal life and its relation to “the civil power”. Three of the eight principles, it seems to me, inform the current discussion.
On Church and State:
“God alone is Lord of the conscience…. Therefore we consider the rights of private judgment, in all matters that respect religion, as universal and unalienable. We do not even wish to see any religious constitution aided by the civil power, further than may be necessary for protection and security, and at the same time, be equal and common to all others.
In short, we live in a secular democratic republic in which “the civil power” does not aid any religion, but protects the free exercise of all religions equally, without privileging one over another.
On the shared search for truth and goodness: That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to our Savior’s rule, ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ And that no opinion can either be more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it of no consequence what a person’s opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.
In short: ideas do matter. The search for what I’m calling “the good society” is based on a shared commitment to the search for truth, not just opinion. Some degree of objectivity or what philosopher Gabriel Marcell called “inter-subjectivity”, not just my own subjectivity. My opinion might be that the moon is made of green cheese or that Earth, not the sun, is the center of our solar system. Ideas and opinions have social consequences. And in all things, the truth exists for the sake of “goodness” – human and environmental wellbeing.
On the exercise of mutual forbearance: That, while under the conviction of the above principle we think it necessary to make effective provision that all who are admitted as teachers be sound in the faith, we also believe that there are truths and forms with respect to which people of good character and principles may differ. And in all these we think it the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other.
In summary: In a secular democratic republic, 1) no religion gets to “capture the flag” of the United States of America. We honor individual conscience as the corrective light that reforms the prevailing ideas of truth and goodness. 2) We seek truth rather than sinking into the swamp of “I’m sorry, that’s the way I feel, and it’s none of your business, and yours is none of mine.” The acceptance of pluralism is not surrender to the swamp of anarchy or the refusal to look at the evidence of science or to engage in the common search for solutions to social problems. 3) Where we differ and disagree, however intensely, we will exercise mutual respect and patience while we work it out together.
Enough for this morning. Chime in. Let others know what you’re thinking.
Thanks for visiting.