Does Christianity, particularly reformed theology, imply a kind of conservative social hierarchy or radical liberal democracy?

24 Jul

A subject of much interest to me.  Reformed folks like to credit Reformational theology with playing a major role in the rationale behind and formation of liberal democracy.  But how far?  Does it promote the great leveling revolutions (Rousseau thought it might) or is it more conservative than that (Burke thought it was).

Good exchange here on the subject:

Reformed Christian ethics has taken a social egalitarian turn. Recently, a few Reformed bloggers have criticized Christians for failing to support the “radical and inclusive social ethics” of the New Testament. Matthew Tuininga, in a couple interesting and well-written posts on the Presbyterian role in racial segregation (see here andhere),[1] has condemned the southern Presbyterians for their “communitarian” social ethics and spiritualized,”neo-platonic” understanding of the Gospel. For them, “the spiritual kingdom of God does not take concrete social expression.” He writes,

I would submit that the real problem with the way in which southern Presbyterians used the doctrine of the spirituality of the church was not the insistence that the Church should only proclaim what God’s Word teaches. The real problem was the interpretation of the concept of ‘spirituality’ through the lens of an underrealized eschatology. By stressing that the Gospel does not affect social structures of nation, race, gender and class southern Presbyterians were bound to have a bias towards the status quo, and they were bound to turn to the Old Testament as an alternative source for guidance about the nature of a godly society. They did not have trouble admitting that the Old Testament did not say anything specifically about race because that was not the point. The point was that the Old Testament clearly justified an exclusive kind of politics, a politics that highlighted division over unity and judgment over grace.

Now, I do not dispute that the southern Presbyterians sinned in failing to see or act against the injustice of the South’s racial segregation, but I want to point out, however, that Southern Presbyterians were following a racialized (and unjust) version of the standard Christian (catholic) position on social hierarchy. The ideas that the Gospel does not significantly affect social structures of nation, gender, and class and that social hierarchy isnatural are standard positions in the Christian tradition. Major figures in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Calvinist traditions are in agreement on this.

It is important to recognize that Tuininga’s argument does not merely condemn the racialized hierarchical system of the South, but also, and primarily, the idea of social hierarchy in general. In this, he joins Michael Walzer and Nichols Wolterstorff, who both argue not only that Calvinism was politically radical from the beginning and always has been, but also that it, given its theological principles, ought to be radical. Wolterstorff insists that Calvinism was and is a “world-formative” religion. [2]

This post provides evidence from major figures in the Christian tradition that social hierarchy (though not its racialized form) is a standard position in the Christian tradition. To be clear, I am not defending racial segregation or anything of that sort. I am simply pointing out that Tuininga’s rejection of social hierarchy and a “spiritualized” Gospel is a rejection of a standard position in the Christian tradition.

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The life of abortion provider Bernard Nathanson

24 Jul

From Public Discourse (excerpt)

Few people, if any, did more than Bernard Nathanson to undermine the right to life of unborn children by turning abortion from an unspeakable crime into a constitutionally protected liberty. Someday, when our law is reformed to honor the dignity and protect the right to life of every member of the human family, including children in the womb, historians will observe that few people did more than Bernard Nathanson to achieve that reversal.

Dr. Nathanson, the son of a distinguished medical practitioner and professor who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology, had his first involvement with abortion as a medical student at McGill University in Montreal. Having impregnated a girlfriend, he arranged and paid for her illegal abortion. Many years later, he would mark this episode as his “introductory excursion into the satanic world of abortion.”

“…the edifice of abortion is built on a foundation of lies. Nathanson told those lies; indeed, he helped to invent them. But others witnessed to truth. And when he was exposed to their bold, un-intimidated, self-sacrificial witness, the truth overcame the darkness in Nathanson’s heart and convicted him in the court of his own conscience.”

Full article

We know of right-wing atrocities, but Marxist historian Eugene Genovese famously asked his fellow leftists, “What did you know and when?”

24 Jul

Make no mistake, conservatism has protected and rationalized all sorts of injustices in history. Indeed, the total amount of human suffering that has resulted from a stubborn political and cultural conservatism has perhaps only been eclipsed by the enormous human suffering lying in the wake of radical revolutions marching to the left-wing drums of liberty, equality, fraternity, and scientific progress. Years ago, before a Harvard crowd of left-wing professors, fellow Marxist Eugene Genovese called his colleagues out on it in this scathing speech. In “The Question,” he asks, since right-wing (‘imperial’) injustices are routinely and rightfully castigated, when it comes to the atrocities committed on the left in the name of liberation, equality, and progress, “What did you know and when did you know it?”

Simply a mic-dropping read:…/1353953160genovesethequest…


Many of my old comrades and almost all of
those ostensibly independent radicals and
high-minded liberals remain unruffled. After
all, did we not often protest against some
outrage or other in the Soviet Union or China,
signing an indignant petition or open letter? I
know I did. And does not that change
everything? I am afraid not, but I have nothing
to offer as critique other than that which may
be found in Galatians 6:7

Perhaps knowledge of the record of imperialist
atrocities leads our liberal colleagues to
refuse to single us out by asking The Question.
But I am afraid not. After all, they never stop
asking southern whites about their crimes, real
and imagined, against blacks. And let’s face it:
all the combined crimes of white southerners, at least if we restrict ourselves to the period since emancipation, would be worth no more
than a footnote in a casebook that starred us.

A few years ago, there was a successful
effort to get the Organization of American
Historians (OAH) to condemn apartheid in
South Africa. In the OAH and other professional
associations, Professor Wilborne Washburne
resolutely opposed this politicization,
and attempted to expose its hypocrisy by
offering an amendment to condemn the “necklacing”
of black South Africans, including
children, by the militants of the African
National Congress. (For those who have
forgotten, “necklacing” was execution by
burning the victims alive.) The ANC subsequently
repudiated necklacing as not only
wrong but barbarous. The OAH has yet to
endorse that repudiation.
I laughed. Those bloody South African
whites did kill a lot of blacks and ought to
answer for it, but throughout their whole
history they probably never equaled the numbers
we put up in one of our more spirited
month’s work. I laughed even harder when our
liberal colleagues poured out their wrath on the
ghastly racists in South Africa while they
remained silent about the immeasurably greater
slaughters occasioned by the periodic ethnic
cleansing that was—and is—going on in black
Africa and every other part of the globe. The
New York Times recently announced that the
death toll in the latest round of ethnic cleansing
in Burundi has reached 150,000, with the fate
of a half million or so refugees in doubt. The
historical associations have not been heard
from. Nor should anyone expect that they will

No one should be surprised that none of our
leading historical associations have thought it
intellectually challenging to devote sessions at
their enormous annual meetings to frank
discussions of the socialist debacle. We of the
left are regularly invited to give papers on just
about any subject except this one. We are not
asked to assess the achievements as well as the
disasters, the heroism as well as the crimes,
and the lessons we ourselves have learned from
a tragic experience. No one need be surprised
that we have never been called upon to explain
ourselves. The pezzonovanti of our profession
have more important things on their minds.
When they can take time away from their
primary concern (the distribution of jobs,
prizes, and other forms of patronage), they are
immersed in grave condemnations of the
appalling violations of human rights by Christopher
Columbus. I know that it is in bad taste
to laugh, but I laugh anyway. I would rather be
judged boorish than seen throwing up

EEOC just unilaterally decrees LGBTQs a CRA protected class under federal employment law. Get ready religious organizations.

20 Jul

Constitutional designs, democratic processes, legislative procedures, state politics, elections, the rule of law, we are told are too risky, too slow, and not even necessary to advance social movements and revolutions. Just use the courts. But why? Using the courts to create rights and make law is so outdated. With the ever expanding unilateral powers of the executive, this is a lot easier, cheaper, and quicker: bureaucratic fiat.

You might recall during the oral argument before the supreme court, Obama’s Attorney General tried to relieve the fears of Justice Alito.  Alito was concerned if they ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, it would mean that they are making gays and lesbians out to be a protected class in the same way racial minorities and women are.  This would mean that openly gay employees even at religious institutions would be protected (and the principle of religious freedom and/or separation of church and state could not be used by churches and their affiliates to justify their employment decisions).  But the Attorney General reassured him.  He said that he (as Attorney General with enforcement power over federal employment law) would not be using the decision in that way because “there is no federal law generally banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” so “that’s [the states are] where those issues will have to be worked out.”  Oh well, that changed Friday, not by congressional statute or court decision or 50 state laws.  But by 3 unelected bureaucrats in the Labor Dept.

“The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal under federal law, setting the stage for litigation aimed at striking down such practices.

The commission’s ruling, issued this week, hinged on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex in employment settings. In a 3-to-2 vote along party lines, the commission concluded that while the act did not explicitly prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians, “an allegation of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is necessarily an allegation of sex discrimination.”

“If you look at our movement’s success, we are a lot better at litigating than we are at lobbying,” Mr. Almeida said. “We should take the E.E.O.C. decision and run with it by turning to the federal courts to win workplace protections in all 50 states.”

Get ready religious organizations. You are on the chopping block. Religious exemptions, religious freedom, separation of church and state, after all, are so 20th century.

The wall that Jefferson never built

19 Jul

From Daniel Dreisbach (clip):

Throughout his public career, including two terms as President, Jefferson pursued policies incompatible with the “high and impregnable” wall the modern Supreme Court has erroneously attributed to him. For example, he endorsed the use of federal funds to build churches and to support Christian missionaries working among the Indians. The absurd conclusion that countless courts and commentators would have us reach is that Jefferson routinely pursued policies that violated his own “wall of separation.”

Jefferson’s wall, as a matter of federalism, was erected between the national and state governments on matters pertaining to religion and not, more generally, between the church and all civil government. In other words, Jefferson placed the federal government on one side of his wall and state governments and churches on the other. The wall’s primary function was to delineate the constitutional jurisdictions of the national and state governments, respectively, on religious concerns, such as setting aside days in the public calendar for prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving. Evidence for this jurisdictional or structural understanding of the wall can be found in both the texts and the context of the correspondence between Jefferson and the Danbury Baptist Association.[5]

President Jefferson had been under Federalist attack for refusing to issue executive proclamations setting aside days for national fasting and thanksgiving, and he said he wanted to explain his policy on this delicate matter. He told Attorney General Levi Lincoln that his response to the Danbury Baptists “furnishes an occasion too, which I have long wished to find, of saying why I do not proclaim fastings & thanksgivings, as my predecessors [Presidents Washington and Adams] did.” The President was eager to address this topic because his Federalist foes had demanded religious proclamations and then smeared him as an enemy of religion when he declined to issue them.

Jefferson’s refusal, as President, to set aside days in the public calendar for religious observances contrasted with his actions in Virginia where, in the late 1770s, he framed “A Bill for Appointing Days of Public Fasting and Thanksgiving” and, as governor in 1779, designated a day for “publick and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God.”

How can Jefferson’s public record on religious proclamations in Virginia be reconciled with the stance he took as President of the United States? The answer, I believe, is found in the principle of federalism. Jefferson firmly believed that the First Amendment, with its metaphoric “wall of separation,” prohibited religious establishments by the federal government only.

Full article

Robert George further explains:

Shame on you Planned Parenthood. Well done Senator Langford.

19 Jul

The South’s tendency to romanticize her past is eclipsed only by…the North

19 Jul

From Dr. Thomas Sugrue (clip):

Boston. Harper’s Weekly.

the states of the old Confederacy have become a national scapegoat for the racism that underpinned the massacre. If only they would secede again, Lind and others suggest, the nation would largely be free from endemic prejudice, zealotry and racist violence.

Not even close. These crude regional stereotypes ignore the deep roots such social ills have in our shared national history and culture. If, somehow, the South became its own country, the Northeast would still be a hub of racially segregated housing and schooling, the West would still be a bastion of prejudicial laws that put immigrants and black residents behind bars at higher rates than their white neighbors and the Midwest would still be full of urban neighborhoods devastated by unemployment, poverty and crime. How our social problems manifest regionally is a matter of degree, not kind — they infect every region of the country.

In fact, many of the racial injustices we associate with the South are actually worse in the North.

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