Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Thoughts for Holy Week

A primary theme of modern progressive ideology is that the world is in a death struggle between the enlightened forces of secularism and the evil reactionary forces of Christianity.

The great irony of this position is that the American form of secularism that we admired is very much a product of Christianity.

Jesus Christ was neither a fan of big government nor was he that enthralled with the big state sponsored religion of his day. The Christian story was that the Son of God preached personal morality and good works. He was tried by a corrupt priesthood and crucified by a corrupt state.

The early Christian Church was a populist movement that stood in contrast to a brutally authoritarian Roman rule. Despite the brutality of Rome, Christ's message was to render unto Caesar what belonged to Caesar. A secular message is intrinsic to the religion.

Yes there have been movements to create a state religion from Christianity. Notably Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity and made monotheism central to the political vision of the Eastern Roman Empire (Constantinople). Emperor Constantine was not baptized until he was on his death bed.

Rulers are always eager to declare a divine authority for despotism; however, I was surprised to learn that much maligned Byzantium Empire was had varying degrees of secularism throughout its history.

The various reformations in Christianity were often driven by discontent with the power structure of the church and state.

The American experiment with a constitutionally limited secular government was very much in keeping with the Christian tradition. Christ's message, after all, is not about how government is supposed to work. It is about how people should live.

The US Founders sought to create a government limited to those areas needed to maintain a civil society. The people in the society would be free to pursue their Christian beliefs.

The idea of a limited government is the central key to understanding the secularism of the American founders. Their ideal government was relatively small and concentrated on functioning in areas critical to sustaining a civil society. The government was not put on earth to define that society.

I think the founders stumbled onto the ideal structure for a society. The government proper should be small and concentrate on defining the limits. The individuals would have the freedom to define and pursue their ideals within the accepted social limits.

The modern progressive version of secularism is much more in line with the Material Dialectics of the Hegelian/Marxian tradition. The Material Dialectic is a belief system popular among the professoriate with a bizarre claim that an intellectual elite, in tune with the driving conflicts in society, can scientifically control the evolution of culture.

I find this secular-progressive view problematic as it effectively raises the state and science to a religion. I find this problematic as efforts to position science as a belief system undermine the integrity of science. Likewise, efforts to make the state into a religion reintroduce the corruption of a combined church and state.

In my opinion the truth or falsehood of the Christian belief system is secondary. For I believe that the Christian founders found the right balance in their creation of a limited secular government that allows the people in the society the ability to pursue their beliefs.

Such a secular system presupposes that people recognize that they have beliefs. The system of separating church and state falls apart when a group tries elevating secularism to their belief system.

Holy Week and Easter recount the death of Jesus Christ at the hands of an elite church and state that were oppressing the people. I believe that this Jesus Christ would not see the limited secular government of the US Founders as conflicting with his message. Such secularism is perhaps one of the most sublime and important developments in the Christian tradition.


Jason The said...

This is about the fourth post of yours now that I didn't read beyond the first paragraph, as you begin each one with a black and white generalization that is neither a) factual, or b) accurate.

I understand that the world is a much simpler place if we boil everything down into absolutes and stereotypes... but it does little to promote actual understanding, or productive dialog.

y-intercept said...

The purpose of the article was to draw a stark distinction between two views of secularism. Drawing a stark contrast is different from stereotyping.

BTW: Your condescending snipe accusing me of black and white thinking is really funny as you slammed it on a post claiming there to be distinctly different views of secularism.