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.
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!
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.