When I Reach for a Gun

When someone uses “faith traditions”:

John Milbank and Adrian Pabst (The Politics of Virtue, 269) argue that secular critiques of liberalism cannot hit home because “they are incapable of making the key argument that various different faith traditions are able to make—that nature is neither external to humanity, nor should humans ever aspire simply to dominate their own or external nature.”

Well, if you ask me, a faith that goes by “faith tradition” has already inhaled a good degree of liberal secularism. But oh how warm and fuzzy if feels to unite with Hindus, Muslims, and Jews in criticizing modernity.

Peter Leithart adds:

This is crucial. To deconstruct X as socially constructed, one has to be able to distinguish culture cleanly from nature. If that distinction is messy, then there’s no space for the easy deconstructive critique.

But isn’t faith tradition “socially constructed”? And isn’t it a tad messy to disaggregate Christians from Hindus so that once both sides unite to overturn liberal secularism, they can turn on each other? Messy indeed.

So is looking to Milbank as someone who will have your back when you’re teaching the Westminster Confession (and the Divines were English even).

Lordship of Christ Over Every Spiritual Inch

Joseph Moore has a new book out on the Covenanters that argues in part that these radical Scottish Presbyterians make the proponents of Christian America look like posers. Covenanters, for instance, refused to take oaths that included an acceptance of the Constitution because the United States’ legal provisions failed to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ:

Many hard-liners, imitating their Anti-Burgher ancestors, refused to swear an oath implying support of an ungodly government. . . . Founding the nation on the authority of “We the People” represented, the RP’s maintained, a flaw in Revolutionary logic: it removed Christ from his rightful place about the state. The US Constitution was a “manifest dethroning of the Lord and his Anointed from the government. As mediator between God and all humankind, Jesus gave legitimacy to civil governments. Governments, in turn, acted to bring people to knowledge of God’s Goodness and law. Law, then, should be based on God’s word even when that law seemed to harsh for liberal American sentiments. (Founding Sins, 62-63)

For a 2k Protestant, US government poses no such difficulty. Christ is king as both mediator and creator. His creational rule over secular government doesn’t now require the ruler to acknowledge Christ’s rule as mediator. But for comprehensive Christians, making the distinction between redemption and providence is a high wire act forbidden to anyone who wants a safe earthly existence.

For that reason, the comprehensive Christian, if the Covenanters are right, could never serve as an attorney in the United States. How, for instance, could a Christian take the oath required of attorneys in Michigan?

I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan;

I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers;

I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceeding which shall appear to me to be unjust, nor any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land;

I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law;

I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client, and will accept no compensation in connection with my client’s business except with my client’s knowledge and approval;

I will abstain from all offensive personality, and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;

I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay any cause for lucre or malice;

I will in all other respects conduct myself personally and professionally in conformity with the high standards of conduct imposed upon members of the bar as conditions for the privilege to practice law in this State.

No mention of God, no Lordship of Christ.

This means that Moore’s point about David Barton may be as relevant for those critics of 2k who jeer from the cheap seats of neo-Calvinism.

America’s original religious Right, the Covenanters’ . . . centuries-long struggle contradicts suggests that the Constitution hallowed Christianity or allowed for the church to influence the state. European nations before and after the founding claimed their nationhood in part from their religious identity. America did not. The implication was clear. Its failure to honor God in the Constitution made the United States the first government in Western history to disassociate itself from Christianity. The Covenanters created the most thorough, logical, and sustained critique of the Christian America thesis in history by assaulting the Constitution on its own terms. Taken as a whole, this logic challenges the religious Right from its own right flank.

The expensive seats are those occupied by the Covenanters. Every other Christian nation advocate is faking.

Roman Catholic 2k

David Schindler and Peter Leithart would likely disapprove:

If a Catholic makes a speech or writes an article attacking the principles and the methods of say, the Lutherans, that act would not necessarily stir up religious strife dangerous to the public peace. But if a Catholic seeks to penalize a Lutheran because of his Lutheranism through political or legal discriminations; still more, if he seeks the support of others in an organized manner to accomplish those ends, then he is attacking religious liberty in the social, or political sphere, which is the common meeting place of all Americans as citizens. . . .

I know that the dictionary definitions of bigotry are to the general effect that it is “an obstinate and intolerant attachment to a cause or creed.” But unless obstinate and intolerant attachment to a cause or creed becomes active opposition to some other cause or creed it is non-existent so far as the general peace of society is concerned. I may be obstinate and intolerant in my private and personal attachment to the Catholic Church (of which I am a member), yet if I invariably treat with my agnostic, and Protestant, and Jewish, and atheist neighbors, in all that concerns our common relations in society — in business, politic, and all cooperative matters — without reference or relation to their beliefs or behavior in religious matters, while I may be potentially a bigot, certainly I do not, so to speak, commit bigotry. If all of us so behave, there can be no bigotry in action. But notoriously, all of us do not so behave, although such behavior is the practical ideal of the nation of the United States of America. (Michael Williams, The Shadow of the Pope, 1932)

So when Roman Catholics or Neo-Calvinists call for “all of me” comprehensive Christianity, do they destroy any possibility of a common realm shared by all sorts of believers and non-believers? And do these “all of me” Christians believe that if I am getting along with people who do have the same “all” in “all of their identity” I am guilty of bad faith?