Tuesday, March 8, 2005
The 'wall of separation' casts a shadow.
James Carroll, the Boston Globe's liberal Catholic op-ed columnist, praises America's separation of church and state but points to the way it has also been "distorted into a terrible dichotomy that undercuts both politics and belief." He praises Jefferson and the other Founders for embracing a theory of government that "required the state to be religiously neutral":
Far from an insult to faith, the "wall of separation" was a guarantee that each citizen, free of public coercion, could worship at the altar of conscience – or not. This foundational idea of American democracy protects political freedom of a diverse citizenry but also creates space within which authentic religion can thrive. The courts are right to keep the line sharp, and new democracies around the world are right to draw it.
But he argues that we have taken this basic concept in dangerous and illiberal directions:
Early on, "church and state" became a euphemism for the separation of the private realm from the public – the separation of morality from law. "You can't legislate morality," Americans told each other. Because the language of morality was associated with religion, the discourse of "secular" politics became ethically hollow. . . .
[D]rawing a bright line between morality and the rest of life has become the American way.
He adds that this divide has also encouraged a split between reason and religion, trivializing the Christian tradition. There's a little too much packed into one column, but worth reading. ("The Dark Side of Secularism," James Carroll, Boston Globe 3.8.05)
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 8 March 2005 at 8:37 AM