Friday, December 18, 2009

Religion in the Public Square

Jody Bottum, the editor of First Things, has some thoughtful things to say in the current issue of that journal about the role of religion in "American exceptionalism," not least what he quotes from Stephen Carter. Here it is:
When people are well formed by family, church, and all the other institutions of civil society that mediate between the individual and the state, they naturally resist the politicization of life and the encroachments of the state even as many are motivated to become and remain civically engaged. But atomized, self-defining individuals need a Levithan to direct and protect them, as the only alternative to anarchy. And under today's social conditions, there are more and more such people.
Whereupon Bottum soon quotes from Stephen Carter's God Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics:
Religion is what we profess and morality is what it moves us to do. Politics needs morality, which means that politics needs religion. In a nation grown increasingly materialistic and increasingly involved in urging satisfaction of desire as the proper subject of both the market and politics, the religious voice, at its best, is perhaps the only remaining force that can call us to something highere and better than thinking constantly about our own selves, our own wants, our own rights. Politics without religion must necessarily be, in today's America, the politics of me.
Well said.

As for the "politicization of life and the encroachments of the state," one might add: and the super-state. Oversimplifying, but not by much, the need for health care reform -- a legitimate if rather over emphasized need -- is the best available excuse for those eager to politicize every facet of our lives, allowing the state to encroach into every nook and corner of them, just as the much more dubious global warming "crisis" is the best available excuse to turn ourselves over to some of the most questionable bureaucrats at the U.N., the E.U., the Arab League, and sundry unelected international institutions deeply at odds with the principles upon which our own society -- and western civilization itself -- was founded.

1 comment:

Gunter Weltschmerz said...

I have been talking with my wife about your idea of resentment, capital "R". As a former New Orleanian, I witnessed up-close and personal the effects of resentment as a psychological by-product of policies such as these. As the "me" increases, disinterest in responsiblity increases as well.