Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Who are you going to arrest first?

In the current political climate if you announce that what you want is a Christian nation, even a Christian Democracy, the first thing you will be asked is something on the order of "Who are you going to arrest first?", "Which ordinary human pleasures are your top targets for extinction?" and of course "Who will run your Inquisition?"

I am sorry to say these silly questions actually require a serious answer directed not only to obvious adversaries, or hoped for friends, but even to ourselves. Even those few Christians who allow themselves guilty fantasies of a Christian politics are often demoralized by the deep rooted assumption that a Christian politics must be a politics of busybodies and worse, moralistic, and repressive at its core, and thus of course un-American.

There are two answers, one positive and one negative. The positive answer is the answer to the question "What should a Christian democracy actually do," which is what this blog is largely about and entails an ongoing discussion.

The negative answer, however, is simply that there is no justification for the assumption as an assumption. It may prove true that some future Christian government would prove authoritarian and bullying even by the standards of governments generally. It may prove true--but the reasonable assumption runs the other way. It might be true, as so many people seem to believe, that Christendom when it existed scored very high on the historical index of repression, but it would need a close look at the history to prove it.

It would need a close look, because a quick look says just the opposite. We have just survived a century in which 100 million people more or less were slaughtered by atheism. We have just lived through an era in which all totalitarian regimes were agreed in their ambition to destroy religion, or at least any religion that retained a God capable of challenging the state. Almost all the history we really know, the history we don't have to read because we or our parents and grandparents lived through it, goes directly contrary to the standard assumption that Christian governments are more disposed to repression than secular regimes.

What is true of history is even more true of philosophy or theology. A first glance at Christian doctrine leads rather to the assumption that Christian governments would be more likely to respect basic human rights for the simple reason that Christian governments, unlike secularist governments, can actually offer some reason for believing in those rights. A rebuttable presumption to be sure, but the ball is in the anti-Christian court. And until they can hit it more impressively than they have to date, there is no reason for Christians to be demoralized about their ability to govern--as Americans.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christianity has dished out plenty of persecution in its own history.
Nazism and Communism are not suddenly defacto arguments for why we should be any more trusting of religion in a dominant role in government.

3:00 PM  

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