Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The Rules of Engagement
Michael Gerson and Ross Douthat have some interesting things to say over Brit Hume’s comment that Tiger Woods, a Buddhist, should consider turning towards the Christian Faith. I’m on board with what they’re saying, but I would just take the whole episode as an opportunity to make a more general comment about the relationship between Democracy and Religion.
At first glance, the flare-up which resulted seemed to be a good thing for religious believers because Hume’s critics wanted to protect a particular religion, in this case Buddhism, from being maligned. But on closer examination, this protection for religion is premised on the idea of nonjudgmentalism which is itself based upon relativism: since no religion can be objectively true, criticism of all religious claims is off limits. Instead, religion should simply be seen as a lifestyle choice. This is a Faustian bargain and religious believers shouldn’t sign on.
The long term consequence of this bargain will be the further marginalization or privatization of religion as any mention of it in the public square will be condemned (Fr. Neuhaus called this the Naked Public Square.) Admittedly, the bargain’s tradeoff is the Privatization will not eliminate religion entirely since that would violate the freedom of autonomous individuals. And it is this inability to deliver a knockout punch which makes the Faustian bargain deceptively attractive to the religious believer. Communism, in contrast, was a more obvious foe because it is in principle against Religion and so it used overt coercion in its assault. The danger posed by Liberal Democracy is more subtle which is why so many people are oblivious to it.
The only way out might be to play the game with our fellow citizens in order to change its rules: Liberal Democracy should be replaced with an updated, 2.0 version, what JPII called Personalist Democracy.