Saturday, August 18, 2007

weighing in on V-Rex vs. Indiana Barrister

Indiana Barrister had a brief entry on hypocrisy among religious conservatives and Veritas Rex has responded with not one, not two, but three lengthy posts (so far). As one who has spent much time on this topic (including my book, Turn Neither to the Right nor to the Left)-- within the broader topic of a need for a coherent Christian philosophy of government and consistent practices among Christians-- I'll weigh in with my own views.

In a word, VR, me thinks thou dost protest too much. IB is calling religious conservatives on the carpet for hypocrisy in the face of voiced values (especially in the very area where one has been critical of others!)-- a charge that is completely valid and an offense that is simply unacceptable. I'm not sure whether IB is a Libertarian, a libertine, or both. That's an interesting and important question, but in the context of his remarks, it matters not...

Now, responding to particulars...

Our opponents believe that the personal failings of our leaders demonstrate the falsehoods of the "Truth" that our leaders advocate for. They believe that we should abandon attempts to advocate for public morality because our leaders sometimes fail personally.

I don't know if they believe that or whether it's simply a convenient rhetorical club with which to beat their opponents and to persuade the general public. Proponents should be angry that their supposed allies have worked to arm their opponents to the teeth.

If anything, the failings of our leaders confirm that we are all human. Nothing more. Our failings hurt us personally, and they hurt our ability to communicate our message, but no one ever claimed Christians were perfect. However, even scripture acknowledges that Christian leaders are the "public face" of our faith. In the Bible, we are warned that our leaders will be tempted and must hold themselves to a higher standard.

The writer goes back and forth between the principles that "no one's perfect" and "leaders are held to a higher standard". Both are true, but the more relevant principle is the latter. Moreover, the issue (and your opponent's standard) is not perfection (a straw man) but avoiding rank hypocrisy (an eminently reasonable request!).

It's also possible that Hakim-Shabazz just isn't comfortable with a morality that's recognized corporately. In the end, I think that this is where conservatives break with the "social progressives." They believe society can benefit from pretending morality can be merely "personal." This, however, is a fool's errand. Morality enters our civic discussion no matter who controls the seat of power. It's ultimately a debate between who's morality- not whether we think a public morality should exist.

Again, I'm not sure about H-S's views on this. In any case, VR is correct that Libertarians split with social conservatives in this arena. But it's not that society will benefit from pretending morality is purely personal. Libs have some combination of ethical and practical concerns about the use of govt to enforce that morality.

Ethically/biblically, when should believers actively advocate the use of govt to enforce their views of morality? Practically, when will it be effective, causing more benefit than harm? If one cannot answer these questions affirmatively in any given context, then government advocacy is not a godly means to godly ends. And too often, Christians have spent too little time putting together a coherent and biblical approach to politics.


At August 19, 2007 at 1:29 AM , Blogger said...

I recall an occurrence where the law was used to enforce moral code. The crime was adultery; the punishment was death. Jesus stepped in and put a stop to it, effectively noting that if immorality was punishable by death the executioners should also die.

The Jesus solution was:
1 - Don't condemn
(Neither do I condemn thee)
2 - Don't condone
(Go and sin no more)

Romans 1 provides the principle that sin is a punishment unto itself.

At August 19, 2007 at 5:12 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Yes, that's a huge passage: holding to an ethical norm (that is in the best interests of all involved, by definition) without chucking rocks-- or in the somewhat tired but completely accurate phrase, loving the sinner but hating the sin. Too often, people chuck rocks in that situation or fail to hold the ethical norm. Neither is a truly loving response.


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