Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Will Christians For Expanded Government Regret Stance On Religious Liberty ?

Law Prof Greg Sisk had an interesting post up at MOJ yesterday. See The Spirited Debate About the Role of Government and Religious Liberty Will Continue Well into the Future .

He mentioned something that I have been thinking about when he says " To be sure, specific issues that dominate today's political debates -- such as whether to repeal or reform Obamacare and even the rise of same-sex marriage -- may fade. But the central questions of whether we as a people want a bigger government and, important to the readers of this blog, whether big government can be reconciled with religious liberty are not going away."

 Elsewhere he states " To the chagrin of many progressives of faith that I know, the Obama Administration has heightened the perception that liberal government comes at the expense of religious liberty by taking rather extreme positions on these issues, including before the Supreme Court " .

I think this is very critical and will in fact not only have an influence on Church State relations , but also relations  between Faith Community themselves.

It does seem on a host of issues much of the Protestant Mainline , a growing chorus of progressive Evangelicals,  and indeed some Catholics seem not to be thinking long term about some of their positions.

From various LGBT issues to " reproductive rights " issues it seems they view their cause so just so right that critical First Amendment and religious liberty questions don't enter their mind. For instance are progressive Christians really that comfortable with placing such a divide between Faith and work which goes against the worldwide grain?

I think there is wide agreement that there should not be unjust discrimination against LGBT folks.  However many are actively opposed to any exemptions that would allow dissenting folks of Faith not  to have to contribute to a same sex wedding ceremony such as in the case of a wedding photographer. This has both religious liberty and compelled speech issues. However for many Progressive Christians it seems the use of Government power to stop what they view as an evil is so unlimited there are few qualms about these problems.

The problem seems to be two fold.

 First as a " conservative Christian " too many times it has been so easy not to call out friends I am allied with when they are wrong . I think Progressive Christians have the same problem. It is a pretty natural response.

Second as to the Protestant mainline it seems that many special interest groups , for instance LGBT and Feminists , have a huge stranglehold on key parts of the power structure in various Faith communities. This seems evident when you watch them at their annual national meetings / conventions .

I come from a Catholic tradition that quite frankly both as a theological and practical matter seems to envision a expanded role for Government in people's lives. However the deal was that the Church and State were partners , or at the very least there was limits to where the Government could go on infringing on rights of the faithful. This agreement  looks in peril.

Regardless as Prof Sisk indicates these issues are not going away , and who knows that the next collision of Church and State will be.

However history has shown that regimes that don't respect objector rights and freedoms don't fare well over time. I do fear that progressive Christians  , just like  their secular progressive counterparts  in the early 20th century , are going to regret not giving attention to certain natural rights and / or protections we see in the Bill of the Rights that have been part of our tradition.

Regardless of the future if one sees a expanded role for Government in people's lives as a matter of faith then paying attention to the religious liberty question is going to be important. If not then we are going to have quite a few heated disputes that is going to distract from our core mission of bring folks to Jesus.

4 comments:

underground pewster said...

If history holds true to course, there will come a time when progressive Christians lose influence and power, and progressive Government will then start dictating to them too.

Rick67 said...

Excellent post, especially the last two paragraphs which are "prophetic". If I didn't work for a progressive congregation...

James H said...

I think sadly history is going to repeat. Folks repeat mistakes over and over again in history

Mark Pommier said...

The author thought that our nation had a Church and State partnership? Now there's a laugh. The state does not collect any taxes from organized religions. It's called Separation of Church and State, and it's a very good policy. Secularism is on the rise, and when christians become the minority religion in the US, will they be surprised when legislation is offered that deprives them of their civil rights?