Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Window onto John Locke

Here is Yale professor Steven B. Smith on the opening chapters of John Locke's Second Treatise of Government.

I suspect that this was filmed in an empty auditorium for Yale's online offerings because there is no interaction at all between Prof. Smith and anyone else in the room. Also, no one laughs at his jokes (although that has happened to me before in a full classroom).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Stirring Up Religion on the Trail

My column this week, "Santorum Stirs Up Religion," looks at the prudence not only of trying to philosophize or theologize in public, but of doing so in the wrong setting and at the wrong time. (I've this point in a recent column as well.) Rick Santorum took a double digit lead in Michigan and turned it into a single digit loss because he let himself get off message and took up the religion-in-politics topic.

That's a good topic, of course. He made some good points, though ineptly. (It wasn't his fault. It was a bad venue, or the contraints of time did not permit him to elaborate sufficiently. But he should have known that. So it was his own fault.)

He complained in an interview with George Stephanopoulos that JFK's 1960 speech on the separation of church and state--or perhaps personal religion and policy making--makes him want to "throw up." People of faith, he said, should be able to bring their faith into the public square, borrowing John Richard Neuhaus's phrase. (The religion question comes at the 13 minute mark.)

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Well, sure. Good point. Christ is Lord of his people in their entire lives. You cannot dichotomize your soul. But his timing is off. When people hear this, they take him to be unfocused and undiscipline...like Newt Gingrich, but not as smart.

And the tone is all wrong. It's angry and carping. That seems to be a habit of his. He struck the same tone when he rebuked the President for wanting people to go to college. "What a snob!" A sour note to say the least.

This assertion of a Christian right and necessity of taking his faith into politics is fair and good, but it is a delicate matter and not one to handled justly in a highly political atmosphere. Actually, the political reach of the Christian religion is deeper still. This Christ, this King Jesus, is not content to be a mere tribal deity. Christians cannot say, “Oh, don’t worry. It’s a Christian thing. It has nothing to do with you.” Christ’s redeeming eye is toward not only “whosoever will,” but the whole of creation. Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper put it this way: “No single piece of our mental world is to be sealed off from the rest and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Jesus claims whole nations (Ps. 2, I Cor. 15, Rev. 19).

It further complicates the political picture if you think your church leadership speaks authoritatively for this Lord Jesus. Notice that in his comments Rick Santorum passed from speaking of “church” involvement in “the state” to “people” of faith entering “the public square” as though they were the same thing. But this is a distinction with enormous political consequences. But the interviewer, George Stephanopoulos, did not press the matter and Santorum did not offer an elaboration.