Posts tagged with: religion and politics

0701whitefieldpreachingHow did religious freedom develop in America? It didn’t happen the way most of us were taught in school—whether in elementary school or law school. In fact, notes legal scholar Richard Garnett, the “standard story” about religious freedom in Early America is profoundly misleading:

In my experience, this “standard story” is familiar to most Americans, whether or not they are historians or constitutional lawyers, though lawyers have probably been more exposed to and influenced by it than most. In this account, our sophisticated and “enlightened” Founding Fathers—with far-seeing Virginians like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the lead—took special care to write and design a “godless” constitution so as to spare our new political community and experiment from the superstition and strife that, they knew all too well, had ravaged and torn Europe in the preceding centuries. In this story, the First Amendment was crafted and constitutionalized so as to entrench a principle—a “wall”—of church-state separation and ensure a secular “public” sphere, with religion protected, but confined within, the “private” realm.

This story is not true. In fact, America’s revolution and constitution were shaped not only by the Enlightenment but also by the Great Awakening, by preachers as well as pamphleteers. And, as John Witte describes in Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment, the Founding-era arguments about religious freedom under law included not just “Enlightenment thinkers” but also “congregational Puritans,” “Free Church Evangelicals,” and “Civic Republicans.” It would not have been difficult to identify a consensus in favor of the liberty of religious conscience and a distinction between religious and political authority and office, but this consensus obtained at a high level of generality and allowed for variation and disagreement with respect to many—indeed most—questions and applications. And, it seems very unlikely that the First Amendment was widely seen as embodying, let alone entrenching, much beyond an aversion to a nationally established church, backed and propped up by legal coercion, of the kind they knew existed elsewhere. Hardly anyone, if anyone, thought that the ratification of the First Amendment meant that something called “religion” was now legally barred from the “public” or that, as a result of that provision, the constitutional validity of laws and policies was contingent on a judicial determination that they did not rest on “religious” beliefs or motives.

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Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
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The problem with Pope Francis’ encyclical is that nature is nasty: Spengler
David P. Goldman, Spengler

The trouble with natural theology (the notion that nature itself points us to an understanding of the divine) is that nature herself is a nasty piece of work. When St. Francis of Assisi and his namesake, the reigning Pope, laud nature as “mother” and “sister,” they open a can of theological worms. Nature is no sister of mine. Christians like to view things in terms of teleology–their ultimate goal–and the teleology of the world we know is to be destroyed in a fireball.

What Do We Do When the Pope Gets It Wrong?
John Zmirak, The Stream

No less a defender of Catholic truth than Barack Obama has made it clear: Pope Francis threw “the full moral authority of his position” behind the need to abandon fossil fuels, junk our unjust and exploitative free market system, and massively redistribute wealth via globalist institutions. These heroic measures are essential to save the earth and cushion the impact of switching to solar, thermal or hamster-treadmill power for poor countries worldwide.

Pope Francis vs. Wall Street
Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Washington Post

For Pope Francis, the market and the economy must be bound by rules that serve “basic and inalienable rights.” At the center of these is work: “We were created with a vocation to work.” Work is the setting for “rich personal growth . . . creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values . . . giving glory to God.” Therefore, priority should be given to “the goal of access to steady employment for everyone, no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning.”

Pope Francis’ climate-change encyclical: If only Galileo could see it
Sarah Mosko, The Los Angeles Times

If successful, this pope’s encyclical will more than make up for the harm the Catholic Church caused in the past by its intransigent denial of the science proving that the Earth is not the center of the universe. Too bad Galileo isn’t here to see the church take the lead this time.

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Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, June 11, 2015
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Pope’s new encyclical will provoke backlash, says Peruvian archbishop
Catholic Herald

Archbishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru, told Catholic News Service: “(The encyclical) will have many critics, because they want to continue setting rules of the game in which money takes first place. We have to be prepared for those kinds of attacks.”

Protecting the Whole of Creation
La Civiltà Cattolica

In many societies, from the 1970s to the beginning of the 1990s, awareness of ecological threats grew consistently and progressively. Saint John Paul II was the first pope to talk about the consequences of industrial growth, massive urban concentrations and vastly increased energy needs.

Martyred American nun could be the patron saint of the pope’s eco-encyclical
John L. Allen Jr, Crux

On Thursday, however, Francis provided an indirect clue that there’s another strong candidate as the patron, someone much closer in time though not yet formally declared a saint: Sister Dorothy Stang, an American missionary nun assassinated in Brazil in 2005 for defending the Amazon rainforest and the rights of poor farmers.

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Jesus Christ the Apple TreeToday is the 70th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the Flossenbürg concentration camp. I’m privileged to offer a brief reflection on Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy over at Public Discourse.

I’ve been working on Bonhoeffer’s thought for over a decade now, and I’m often struck by the depth of his conviction and insight in such troubled times. One of the things about him that I try to highlight in the Public Discourse piece is how Bonhoeffer’s courageous action for the world today was rooted in hopefulness for the world to come. As so many others have often pointed out, and rightly so, Bonhoeffer’s theology and biography are intimately related.

For example, in principle Bonhoeffer affirmed God’s institution of marriage: “Through marriage human beings are procreated for the glory and service of Jesus Christ and the enlarging of Christ’s kingdom.” But even when faced with the dangers of resistance to Hitler and the travails of war and social discord, he took the step of proposing to Maria von Wedemeyer. Planning to marry her was an act of courage, a concrete form of affirming and accepting God’s will for this world.

There is an apocryphal saying attributed to the sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther, that “if I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.” As Scott Hendrix writes, this saying (although it has precedent in a story attributed to Francis of Assisi) actually arises from the Nazi era in Germany: “Scholars believe it originated in the German Confessing Church, which used it to inspire hope and perseverance during its opposition to the Nazi dictatorship.”

Bonhoeffer lived out his own form of that insight through his engagement to Maria in 1943, shortly before his arrest and eventual execution. May Bonhoeffer’s life and work continue to inspire hope and perseverance even in the midst of our suffering and confusion.

discrimination.photoWhile in college, did you ever join the Catholic Student Association, Campus Crusade for Christ, or some other student religious organization? If so, you might want to leave that off your resume. A new study in the sociology journal Social Currents found that applicants who expressed a religious identity were 26 percent less likely to receive a response from employers.

For the experiment, the researchers sent out resumes to companies in the South from fictional recent graduates of flagship universities located in the South. They signaled religious affiliation on the resume by listing membership in campus religious organizations such as the “University of Alabama _______ Association,” where the blank is replaced with a religious identity (e.g., atheist, Catholic, evangelical, Muslim). They also sent out resumes with similar information but left off any religious identifiers.
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The Emperor Constantine with his mother Helen, both traditionally commemorated as saints.

The Emperor Constantine with his mother Helen, both traditionally commemorated as saints of the Church.

This month marks the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan. While much debate surrounds the relationship of Church and state in Christian Rome, even key figures like the Emperor Constantine (traditionally considered a saint by both East and West), the Edict of Milan is something that anyone who values liberty, religious liberty in particular, ought to commemorate as a monumental achievement. While a previous edict in 311 had offered some toleration to Christians, who spent almost their first 300 years having to fear for their lives any one of many local outbreaks of persecution that periodically plagued Pagan Rome, the Edict of Milan for the first time granted the Church the same status, including property rights, as other religions. It did not establish Christianity as the state religion (that would not happen until the end of the fourth century). Even then, the history, like all history, is messy. Often different emperors had widely different practical perspectives toward their role (or lack thereof) in religion. As Lord Acton has stated, liberty is the “delicate fruit of a mature civilization,” and that includes religious liberty and Christian Rome. In all cases, it was not a total separation of Church and state, but it was an achievement, a maturation if only for a time, that marked the end of centuries of martyrdom for Christians in the Roman (now Byzantine) empire. (more…)

“When Christian institutions attempt to mitigate or compromise this understanding of their mission–often as the result of the political pressure–they morph into shadowy versions of their former selves,” writes Rev. Robert A. Sirico. In this week’s Acton Commentary (published October 24), Rev. Sirico explains that by losing the Christological dimension, Christian charitable work becomes essentially secular. The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

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