Religion [Rod Dreher 03/22 09:08 AM ]
I didn't set out to write this book with this in mind, but it became clear to me that the base of this entire neo-traditionalist sensibility is religious conviction. It quickly became clear in doing my research that almost everyone to whom I'd spoken was in some serious way a religious believer. Why is that? I think it's because people who are serious about their religion understand in their bones how devotion to God and to His laws must be the basis for ordering our own lives, and that of our society.
Now, right off the bat, this to me, as someone raised in a liberal Protestant tradition (by conservatives, mind you; it was a liberal theological tradition) is anathema. My Church was a community of believers, not a civics lesson with organ music. I wouldn't presume to speak for Christians, but I can say I know plenty who do not feel their belief, or devotion, has anything to do with ordering society or ordering other people around. So is this the result of "research", or a criteria for filtering? Can one be a crunchy Hindu, or Buddhist, or does that require acknowledging that Christianity is the one true model for social order?
(This is something that fascinates me, really, how such Christians always speak as if every religion shares their basic assumptions about the order of the universe. There are plenty of Christians who don't like Christians presuming to speak for God, let alone what all those crazy Easterners think.)
That does not have to mean a theocracy, I hasten to add;
Of course you hasten to add it, though that "does not have to" doesn't exactly instill confidence in the skeptical mind.
I doubt anyone here would want to live in a theocracy, and the idea that the bishop could call the magistrate and have me put in jail is a revolting idea.
News flash, Mr. Dreher. If you do see an American theocracy, like it or no, bishops are not going to be high-ranking officials in it. Nor rabbis.
Why do I find it much easier as a Catholic to talk to a Southern Baptist or an Orthodox Jew about matters of faith, politics, society, etc., than with liberal members of my own church? It has to do with the way we view religious truth, and indeed Truth itself. Conservatives in whatever religion view Truth as transcendent, as something that can be known, however imperfectly, and as an objective standard that humans have to conform our own consciences to. The modern, liberal view is that Truth is mutable, and can be reinterpreted in every generation to suit the perceived needs of the community.
This is precisely where these types lose the good graces I try to offer: multiple objective Truths, transcendent yet known, known but imperfectly so? It's difficult for me to understand what sort of "mutability" liberal Catholics are offering to Dreher that can possibly lie outside that soggy mush. You cannot stand outside the mutability of Truth while simultaneously giving yourself an out for imperfect understanding, or granting others the power of Truth when you disagree with them. Every generation has reinterpreted Truth, as a casual glance at Christian history will confirm. That may be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but it's so. And you can't resolve the issue inside your own faith, but you presume to do so for the rest of us.
Re: Religion [Rod Dreher 03/22 01:01 PM ]
Given the direction of American society, is it becoming harder or easier to be a good orthodox Christian or Jew and a good American? ( In most ways, yes.
Yes, it is becoming harder or easier?
(The decline of public morality hardly needs commenting on. The deeper problem is that we have lost the vocabulary of moral absolutes, and increasingly, the only “thou shalt not” our pluralistic society recognizes is, “Thou shalt not impose your values on others.”
Again, I do try to be generous about this stuff, but why is it that "people of faith" so often argue in bad faith? The "decline of morality" certainly does need commenting on, especially seeing as how you're using it to justify the imposition of your own. Are we less moral now than slaveowners were, or their 20th century lynch mob descendants? Or than the days of Native American genocide? Are people less honest today than the Civil War profiteers were, less exploitative than the employers of child labor, less charitable than the Robber Barons?
If you mean sexual morality, say so, and be prepared to defend it. You don't get a free pass for saying people are less sexually moral today just because Victorian hypocrisy can't be enforced on the same scale it was when most people lived in small villages. Lust in your heart, an' all that.
(This, of course, is only applicable to religious believers. A believer may keep his or her quaint devotions, but is expected to have the decency to keep them in the closet.
Aw, yes, the poor persecuted vast majority. Someone please tell me where all these religious believers who are forced to keep their mouths shut reside. It's got to be a lot quieter than this place.
(Much religious life in America today seems to have accommodated itself quite nicely to the culture. Which makes it harder to live in an orthodox fashion. What are you supposed to do when the only doctrine ever heard from the pulpit is “I’m OK, You’re OK,” and you cannot be certain what anybody else in your church believes, other than the near-certainty that they believe they have the sovereign right to decide for themselves — that they are their own Pope? )
Where does all this confusion come from? Surely not from outside religious tradition, where a scant 15% of us dwell. There's not a single complaint here that couldn't have been, or wasn't, made with absolute Christian assurance in the 19th or 18th century in this country. Whining that no one else lives up to your religious standards--and insisting that that same society which doesn't should do something about it--that's the only real immutability here.