Thursday, January 10, 2013

When Atheists Endorse Religion Viewpoints - Pastor Giglio Inauguration Controversy and Other Matters

I am not sure some Atheists, Agnostics, and other Secular folks quite can see the forest for the trees as to some issues of viewpoint discrimination , and possible new unofficial religious tests. Note I say SOME which will be made more clear in a bit.

I try to read  Hemant Mehta AKA the  Friendly Atheist over at Patheos pretty much daily because  he is interesting and engaging.  I might even agree with him a time or two on some things. Two incidents that he has engaged  , one happening today , on his blog seem to indicate part of the problem that is the subject of this post.

Late last year  Mehta blogged this entry  Tufts University’s Nondiscrimination Policy No Longer Applies to Religious Student Groups . I was a little taken aback that atheists that have suffered some official and unoffical persecution could  not see some of the larger issues here. See from F.I.R.E Can Tufts Handle Religious Pluralism? .

However what really struck me was how it seems that folks that wanted " Freedom from Religion" seemed quite fine for the use of religion to perhaps advance their views of how the world should work. Even if that use of religion was combined with some heavy handed tactics.

As to Tufts F.I.R.E. again sort of hit the nail on the head as to a group that Mr Mehta seemed to view as the "good guys" in the affair that is the C.A.R.E group . From the above F.I.R.E. article link

CARE is actually arguing that its beliefs about religion be privileged over the beliefs of other groups and established as the rule for all religions at Tufts. Take another look at the "About" section of its Facebook page:

We want to live on a campus where students can gather into moral communities that evolve organically according to the community's needs—not artificial boxes where students are blinded from the hateful practices of their elites, where their spirituality is imposed upon and defined for them. We want a campus where the community molds its institutions, not the converse.

CARE-affiliated students may be surprised to realize that this can be read as a form of religious manifesto or confession. It makes a statement about the proper source of doctrine: "moral communities that evolve organically according to the community's needs." It makes a value judgment about those who subscribe to a predefined moral code ("artificial boxes where students are blinded from the hateful practices of their elites"). It opposes TCF's form of religious organization ("where their spirituality is imposed upon and defined for them"). And it calls for an institutionalization of CARE's own beliefs and an exclusion of those (like TCF) who don't share them: "We want a campus where the community molds its institutions, not the converse." It may not be the 95 Theses, but it's definitely a statement calling for religious and societal reform.

Again I think we seem some blinders on my SOME in the Atheist and related communities. I say SOME because F.I.R.E which I have cited has as it's head a liberal leaning Athiest and was was founded by two Atheists.

Which bring us to today and his post Louie Giglio pulls out of inaugural over anti-gay comments .

The Friendly Athiest has done two posts on this matter.

See Louie Giglio, Who Thinks Laminin Molecules Prove Christianity is True, Will Deliver Obama’s Inauguration Benediction . Now to be fair the Frindly Athiest no doubt would like there be no BENEDICTION. But if there has to be one that they get as he puts it " decent Christian " to do it. 

Today he posted Anti-gay Pastor Louie Giglio Withdraws from Inauguration Ceremony .

 I can't help but note The Friendly Athiest left out any part of the bio of Pastor Gigilo where perhaps some of no Faith might share some common ground with him.

Pastor Gigilo is of course behind the huge PASSION gatherings that attract many young Evangelicals. See from this past week from Get Religion on a huge event that happened in Atlanta. . The Passion event had some major social justice themes as watched it unfolded on twitter #passion2013 including a huge emphasis on ending modern day slavery.  This by the way I am sure is a shared concern with the Obama administration and the President perhaps saw that. Also as a part of their statement we see :

5. willingness to shine the gospel to all people -

because God is seeking worshipers of all peoples, i will spread his fame among the nations, fully participating in his global purposes and engaging poverty and injustice in jesus’ name.

Again a shared viewpoint I am sure with the Obama administration and perhaps one reason why he was picked.

Let me try to bring us back to the main point of this post. Southern Baptist Russell Moore is among some of the Southern Baptist leaders I enjoy following. I think he represents the tone of many of the young Evangelicals and indeed younger Christians on many matters. He had a post up today Louie Giglio and the New State Church . It is a very good read and I have been sending to to many of my fellow Catholics today.

He says in part :

....When it is now impossible for one who holds to the catholic Christian view of marriage and the gospel to pray at a public event, we now have a de facto established state church. Just as the pre-constitutional Anglican and congregational churches required a license to preach in order to exclude Baptists, the new state church requires a “license” of embracing sexual liberation in all its forms.

Note, this now doesn’t simply exclude harsh and intemperate statements or even activism. Simply holding the view held by every Roman pontiff and by every congregation and synagogue in the world until very recent days is enough to make one “radioactive” in public.

As citizens, we ought to insist that the President stand up to his “base” and articulate a vision of a healthy pluralism in the public square. Notice that the problem is not that this evangelical wants to “impose his religion” on the rest of society. The problem is not that he wants to exclude homosexuals or others from the public square or of their civil rights. The problem is that he won’t say that they can go to heaven without repentance. That’s not a civil issue, but a religious test of orthodoxy.

As Christians, we ought to recognize that the old majoritarian understanding of church/state relations is outmoded. Our situation today is not to hold on to some form of American civil religion. Our situation today is more akin to the minority religions of America’s past: colonial Baptists, nineteenth-century Baptists, early twentieth-century Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are appealing simply for the right to exist at all, in the face of an established religion armed with popular support and, in the fullness of time, state power.

It turns out we’re circling around to where we should have been all along: with the understanding that religious liberty isn’t “toleration” and separation of church and state isn’t secularism.

We don’t have a natural right to pray at anyone’s inauguration. But when one is pressured out from a previous invitation because he is too “toxic” for simply mentioning once something universal in the Christian faith, we ought to see what we’re looking at: a state church....

Again read the whole thing. I think he is largely correct. In fact some leading (Now Unofficial State Church ? ) religious  publications in a low key way perhaps showing their disapproval.

Now there is no doubt that again the Friendly Atheist would like no Benediction. I also think he is quite sincere as an apostle of  "Freedom from Religion " . But I think one must point out that perhaps we are not getting " Freedom from Religion " but in fact as Dr Moore points out an unofficial State Church.

From a purely Civics point of view  and how we engage each other I think this shall end badly.


Brian Westley said...

You claim Hemant et al. can't see the forest for the trees, but I can't help but notice that, if there were no benediction, there simply wouldn't BE anything resembling what you call an "unofficial state church", and no religion would get special preference from the government.

What you really seem to complain about is the fact that Christians like yourself are "out", and more liberal Christians are now "in". That's what happens when you mix church and state and hitch a ride on the winds of political change, and since you obviously had no problem with the arrangement when your group was "in", I have zero sympathy for you now that you're "out".

If you reconsider, you might see the advantages of what most atheists (and even a few Christians) advocate when they say religion and government should be separate.

James H said...

Brian I totally get that if there was no Benediction there would be no problem. However that is not the world we are in.

That being said I have never complained about "liberal" clergy speaking at public events even though you think you have "outed" me. Liberal Clergy has been speaking at events for years even those of some GOP folks as a sign of unity. In fact I have been the first to defend some folks speaking that at times the Right has not been popular with

Brian Westley said...

Um, did you read my comment? I wasn't talking about "outing" you, I was talking about how your group is now "out" and other groups are "in", an entirely different usage of the word "out".

And I would interpret your post as complaining about liberal clergy speaking at a public event, as you agree with the quotes from Moore's article where speakers like Giglio are no longer welcome and presumably replaced by someone with more liberal views.

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