My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

17 August 2006

Ignoring History

From an interesting interview with President Jimmy Carter:

Yes. That would be certainly satisfactory to me personally, and I think most people believe that enough time has passed so that historical facts can be ignored.
(He's speaking of whether or not Germans should be allowed into the UN peacekeeping force headed to Lebanon, but the quote is precious. I wish we could ignore the historical facts all the time!)


File under "Francis Schaeffer's Two-Story Thingamajig"
Francis Schaeffer and Nancy Pearcey wrote/write a truckload about how our society is keeping Christianity under wraps by restraining people's faith to an "upper story" of life, where it can bring personal peace and fulfillment, but not real change in the world around us (that would be the "first story" of facts and realities that can be brought to bear on others around us).

In an editorial in the WSJ today, Roger Scruton discusses "Islamofascism" and does, quite honestly, a great job of exploring questions many people have about the "religion of peace" (it's worth reading just for the first half). But then he says this:
Christians and Jews are heirs to a long tradition of secular government, which began under the Roman Empire and was renewed at the Enlightenment: Human socieities should be governed by human laws, and these laws must take precedence over religious edicts. The primary duty of citizens is to obey the state; what they do with their souls is a matter betrween themselves and God, and all religions must bow down to the sovereign authority if they are to exist within its jurisdiction.

Much could be said; this is a perfect example of what Pearcey and Schaeffer are talking about. "What you do with God is your business, but don't let it affect me. Now...let's get on to making laws that are purely areligious." Nothing humans do is non-religious. Everything we do is an act of worship to one god or another. Every law we make is a religious law (pssst - remember that the Supreme Court has acknowledged secularism as an official religion).

Perhaps more problematic is the assertion that religions must "bow down" to the authority of the state if they are to exist there. The church should indeed obey all laws that don't require disobedience to God; likewise, the church doesn't have direct authority (i.e., ability to enforce its will) over the state. But where is the ultimate authority in this discussion? Is it not with Christ, who is the King of the Nations? Aren't all leaders exhorted to "kiss the Son, lest He turn and you perish in the way"? We need to spot and name comments like Mr. Scruton's for what they are: reflections of our society's version of tolerance for Christianity. As long as we don't evangelize or preach Christ's kingship or call the nations to repent or call for laws based on Biblical morality, we're fine. But a faith that is merely personal is not the faith Christ has called us to.


DZ said...

What a freakin' idiot. I can't believe we ever elected such a moron to the presidency. I particularly like his statement "...historical facts can be ignored." Additionally, his statement ""I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon." is a total misstatement of fact. The entire country was not bombed. In fact out of the total population of Lebanon (3,826,018), about 1,000 people were killed (.000261%), of which many were Hezzbollah fighters; Hardly the "entire country". If Israel had indiscriminately bombed civilian areas, there would have been significantly more innocent loss of life. Carter is a traitor.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. Carter is an example of the American relativism, an idea many Europeans appreciate but if they are not careful will eventually bite them. His reference to ignore history is appeasing for a man who did nothing regarding the 1979 hostage situation. At that time, no one who counted would have blamed the USA to attack Iran. However, Carter whimpered and not acted. Thus, he provided momentum for Islamic nutcases who denigrate their masses and scapegoat Israel in a stealth manner. In regards to Cuba, read Arenas "Before Night Falls." If Carter was a true humanitarian, he would understand why people would be happy if Castro died. Let Carter be a citizen of the world, to this second-generation Hungarian-American, he would always be the most sheepish and naive leader we ever produced.

Jared said...

Re: Carter - I really just loved the inanity of the quote. The interview does reveal quite a bit about his politics, though, doesn't it? Not that I like him much, but I'm not sure I'd call him a traitor...but the statistics you quoted are quite interesting. I've struggled with not totally agreeing with Israel's actions myself. I do think we sometimes turn a blind eye to int'l realities because our ties with Israel. But there's the sacred cow of American politics again, eh? (pun slightly intended)

Ellen Olivetti said...

Germans guarding the Israeli/Palestinian border? That's one historical fact I don't think will ever come to be! I know enough Jewish people to doubt that they will ever adopt the "let bygones be bygones" theory.

MarkPele said...

That would put his other quote in context: "Under all of its predecessors there was a commitment to peace instead of preemptive war. Our country always had a policy of not going to war unless our own security was directly threatened and now we have a new policy of going to war on a preemptive basis."
Hmmmm. Bosnia? Korea? Vietnam?

MarkPele said...

BTW: The Supreme Court does not think that it has recognized Secular Humanism as a religion. I'm too lazy to look up the two cases, but the first case was a Secular Humanist who refused to pray (or something like that). Officially, although the Supreme Court appeared to call it a religion, their decision was that freedom of religion also meant freedom from religion. So, the issue was never solved. In a recent case where a state passed a law requiring equal time for teaching creation and evolution, the Supreme Court struck down the law. The state ostensibly wanted to pass the law on the grounds of neutrality - evolution is a central tenet of secular humanism and creation is a central tenet of Christianity, thus they sought to be neutral by teaching both. The Supreme Court in a flash of brilliance (my tongue is hurting from saying that) officially declared that the definition of religion requires "belief in a supreme deity" It might even be supreme PERSONAL deity. So, what is religion? Islam, Judaism and Christianity. What isn't? Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism, Mormonism and pretty much every other belief system.

I'm just waiting for a test case - some Hindi student who gets told that he can't take vacation to celebrate a feast or go to the temple. It'll be interesting to see how the courts wriggle around that one.

Jon said...

A key Supreme Court case for this discussion is Emerson v. Board of Education at Ewing, where, in 1947, Justice Black was the first to apply an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, which included the phrase "a wall of separation between church and state." Before then, the Court had relied on the language of the First Amendment itself, which imposes an inherent impossibility in the space between its two clauses: If you carry either clause to its limit, you necessarily toss out the other. The 1947 ruling paves the way for the later arguments about freedom from religion and appears to make the First Amendment clear where it is not.

MarkPele said...

Ever since that case, the state has been put in the intractible place of being areligious, when everything has a religious purpose.

Here is a more detailed explanation, borrowed from Wikipedia.

The phrase "secular humanism" became prominent after it was used in the United States Supreme Court case Torcaso v. Watkins. In the 1961 decision, Justice Hugo Black commented in a footnote, "Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others." Such footnotes, known as obiter dicta, are simply the personal observations of the judge, and hence are only incidental to reaching the opinion.

The decision for a subsequent case, Kalka v. Hawk et al., offered this commentary:

The Court's statement in Torcaso does not stand for the proposition that humanism, no matter in what form and no matter how practiced, amounts to a religion under the First Amendment. The Court offered no test for determining what system of beliefs qualified as a "religion" under the First Amendment. The most one may read into the Torcaso footnote is the idea that a particular non-theistic group calling itself the "Fellowship of Humanity" qualified as a religious organization under California law.