Should Religion Just Shut Up on Policy Matters? – UPDATED

That’s the question currently being bandied about over at Patheos’ Public Square page, where a Druid, an Evangelical and others are piping up.

From the Catholic side, Joseph Bottum — whose book An Anxious Age will be out in the spring of 2014 — picks up more or less where he left off, last August, when he argued that our social condition is such that we’ve moved beyond the question.

Sounding a bit exasperated, Bottum writes:

Read the Creed, for God’s sake—not a single line of which concerns a behavior other than belief in the metaphysical declarations it makes. Read Paul’s discourse on Mars Hill. Read the Sermon on the Mount, for that matter: “the highest morals, the perfect standard,” as Augustine told us. Yet even there, the emphasis is the individual morality that derives from awareness of the true structure of this god-haunted world. You start, as Christianity starts, with a cosmology and soteriology: The world is a broken place, and we need blessing—and we need it soon, because the apocalyptic night will shortly fall upon us.

Of course, scattered through the Gospels and developed through the rest of the New Testament are any number of ethical observations, applying, sifting, and developing the ethical work of the Old Testament. And certainly those observations, together with the logical consequences of the Christian way of understanding reality, suggest a more comprehensive public morality. Why is it any surprise that as the West lived with Christianity century after century, a comprehensive moral system was developed, however much the individuals of any particular era failed to live up to it?

In fact, we have a name for all that; we call it Christendom. Christianity is fundamentally a metaphysics. Christendom is mostly an ethics. And our trouble these days is that Christendom is broken.

You can read it all, here.

In coming weeks, the Public Square will be talking about the Future of Religious Liberty, Faith in the Workplace, Ethics and Government Secrecy and more, so you’ll want to bookmark that place.

And if you’re looking for some interesting (and different) Christmas reading to get you into the spirit of things, check out Bottum’s Christmas-themed crime-caper for Kindle Wise Guy: A Christmas Tale or last year’s The Christmas Plains. Sometimes, right before Advent, one feels the need of a nudge!

UPDATE:
Max Lindenman
looks at the question from a perspective of recent history and also current events:

Msgr. Thomas Paprocki, bishop of Springfield, Illinois, demonstrated engagement outside the box when he offered prayers of supplication and exorcism in reparation for the state bill approving same-sex marriage. Granted, it’s a move that lends itself to misunderstanding. Systematic theology professor Robert Fastiggi has expressed fear that “some segments of the secular media will twist this out of context” and claim the bishop’s calling gay people “diabolical.” Well, I’m not a member of the secular media, and I had a hunch that wasn’t what Paprocki meant, but…I did have to check.

But nobody, on the other hand, could interpret these prayers as a cheap act of political theater.

Read the whole thing.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    The problem with such a statement, that religion should shut up, is rather insidious. Religion doesn’t talk just like religion doesn’t cross the street; people do. So the insidiousness of such a statement is that it’s stifling speech; it’s not only outright bigotry, but unconstitutional.

  • FW Ken

    Exactly. Maybe religion should shut up, but I don’t plan to. And here’s why: the proponents of the hot button issues aren’t satisfied with their personal freedom. Once they have their abortion rights, they push from the first trimester to the second, then to the third. Then they fight any law that protects babies that survive an abortion. Moreover, they push for every doctor to be trained to kill babies. Nurses get no excuse from assisting art abortion procedures. Catholic social services lose contracts unless they push contraception and its stepchild, addition.

    As for same-sex marriage, every merchant must join in the celebration, and every church who doesn’t play the gay game will have to fight to keep their tax exemption.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    If that Joseph Bottum article is there to represent Catholics, then I’m embarressed. Couldn’t Catholic Patheos at least get someone who believes in the truth of Christianity and how it should be active in all functions of our lives, including effecting civic life?

  • RelapsedCatholic

    If Bishop Paprocki thought that invoking the word exorcism could be interpreted in any other way than calling gay marriage and gay people demonic than I am questioning a bishop’s intelligence openly for the first time. I may object to their example of pastoral care, or their judgement, but never their basic intelligence. It was a publicity stunt.

    Someone expressed it better than I ever could. I am unsure if Bishop Paprocki cast out any demons, but I am sure he cast out many LGBTQ Catholics and their friends and family.

  • yeah right

    If Christendom is broken, it is in no small part thanks to writers like Jody Bottum, who uses his public platform to contort Catholic ethics and make them include homosexual marriage, all in order to regain the esteem of one of his gay bluegrass buddies.

  • Heloise1

    Completely OT:
    I miss the convenience of the sidebar which provided a helpful link to recent posts on other patheos blogs. What happened to it? And is it coming back?

  • MeanLizzie

    I miss it too! Apparently it was giving the whole site problems, but I hope whatever the issue was can be rectified. Meanwhile, the landing page always has everything updated: http://www.patheos.com/Catholic.html

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I don’t know anything about his personal life, but that article is embarressing.

  • Victor

    ((((If that Joseph Bottum article is there to represent Catholics, then I’m embarrassed.)))

    I hear YA Man! He has the nerve!!!!!

    Un word Christians soldiers

    What! What! What? :)

    Peace be with YA (lol)


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