How Liberalism Abets Sin

People who self-identify as Christian scholars have issued a statement that condemns racism:

Racism should be denounced by religious and civic leaders in no uncertain terms. Equivocal talk about racist groups gives those groups sanction, something no politician or pastor should ever do.

The Christian basis for such denunciation is that all humans are created in the image of God. So far, so uncomplicated.

The statement also includes an affirmation of civil liberty:

Even as we condemn racism, we recognize that the First Amendment legally protects even very offensive speech.

The statement could include freedom of assembly, and freedom to publish. But these Christians see that our laws protect speech even when it is offensive.

Now imagine if the abolitionists had made similar assertions about slavery:

Slavery should be denounced in no uncertain terms.

Even as we condemn slavery, we recognize that the First-Amendment legally protects slavery advocates to express their ideas.

I don’t think that kind of toleration was in William Lloyd Garrison’s playbook.

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; —but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

And so, the problem that proponents of certain moral positions in public face is that in a free society, we make room for sinners.

Even as we condemn adultery, we recognize that we don’t want police going into private homes to see what people are doing.

Or

Even as we condemn the desecration of the Lord’s Day, we recognize that those who try to observe the Fourth Commandment should not receive special protections from law enforcement officials for their beliefs.

Or

Even as we condemn Communism, we recognize that the freedom of association allows the Communist Party USA to enjoy the protections of tax laws and civil and corporate codes.

In other words, a liberal society will not allow government to root out sin. It even protects its practice.

That is an especially difficult aspect that this statement does not address. The authors acknowledge that racism has taken many forms in U.S. history:

Slavery was formally abolished in 1865, but racism was not. Indeed, it was often institutionalized and in some ways heightened over time through Jim Crow legislation, de facto segregation, structural inequalities, and pervasively racist attitudes.

American law and policy have addressed some of these instances of racism — Jim Crow, structural inequalities, voting rights. But can legislation do anything about racist attitudes or the efforts of those who hold them to meet and publish?

Probably. But then you may no longer have a free society.

In which case, what does speaking out do?

Even without liberalism, will always have sin with us. With it, we have different interpretations of sin and so vice receives protection.

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Who Says the U.S. Lacks a Religious Establishment?

From Dwight Eisenhower’s December 22, 1952 speech as president-elect before the Freedoms Foundation’s directors:

I had a friend, a man who really turned out to be quite a good friend, and who suffered for it. His name was Marshal Zhukov, of the Red Army. In fact, his later disgrace came about because of the fact that he was supposed to be too good a friend of mine; . . . We used to talk about the bases of our respective forms of government, our civilizations.

One day he put me back on my heels with the statement: “of course, we have difficulty in promulgating our theory, because we appealed to the idealistic in man and you appeal to all that is materialistic and selfish. We tell a man that he is not to work for his own special rights, for his own privilege and the opportunity of indulging himself in anything from religious worship to earning and saving our property and giving it to his children. We appeal to something higher and nobler,” he said. “We tell him his only glory is in the glory of the body, of the whole group, the entirety of the organism to which you belong. Therefore, we say, don’t worry about earning money. Don’t worry about worldly advancement. Work for the Soviet Union. Work for Russia. That,” he said, “is what we have to say. But you tell a man, ‘why you can do as you please, and there are really no restrictions on the individual.’ So you are appealing to all that is selfish.”

I must say that in just a matter of immediate dialectic contest, let’s say, I didn’t know exactly what to say to him, because my only definition was what I believed to be the basic one, the basic reason for its existence. I know it would do no good to appeal to him with it, because it is founded in religion. And since at the age of 14 he had been taken over by the Bolshevik religion and had believed in it since that time, I was quite certain it was hopeless on my part to talk to him about the fact that our form of government is founded in religion.

Our ancestors who formed this Government said in order to explain it, you remember that, that a decent respect for the opinion of mankind impels them to declare the reasons which led to the separation [between the American colonies and Britain] and this is how they explained those: “We hold that all men are endowed by their Creator . . . .” Not by the accident of birth, not by the color of their skins or by anything else, but “all men are endowed by their creator.” In other words, our form of Government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is. With us of course it is the Judeo-Christian concept but it must be a religion that all men are created equal. . . .

Now, it seems to me that if we are going to win this fight we have got to go back to the very fundamentals of all things. And one of them is that we are a religious people.

This is the speech often quoted for its inane remark about the importance of religion combined with indifference to the specific religion. But in the context of the Cold War and a struggle between an ideology that was explicitly atheistic, materialist, and collectivist, Eisenhower’s recognition of theism’s value, even as confused as it is, makes some sense. His point specifically about theism and personal freedom is a point that not only evolutionists might need to hear, but also Christian critics of the West who blame notions of political freedom for the selfishness and decadence that afflicts the United States. If the choice is between the Soviet communism or Christendom dominated by Holy Roman Emperor and infallible bishop, I’ll stand with Ike. Freedom has its flaws. But it keeps the free on their toes. Autocracy doesn’t leave much room for correction, nor does group think.