Secularism and its discontents

That’s the title of the cover essay of the Dec. 27 issue of National Review by Ramesh Ponnuru (I don’t think it’s available online). Ponnuru’s essay is relevant, I think, to the debate between Hugh Hewitt and Jeff Jarvis on whether Christian faith is under attack in this country. Ponnuru addresses this issue in the context of political debate, rather than in the context of Christmas celebrations and other public displays. He makes a strong case that liberals are seeking illegitmately to discredit and disqualify policy arguments that rest in whole or in part on religious beliefs. For example, Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic, has argued that it is wrong for religious conservatives to base their views and arguments about public policy on theological premises because, in doing so, they appeal to reasons that are not “accessible to people of different religions, or no religion at all.”
Ponnuru has more time for this argument than I do, but he does state the essential point — when liberals make this plea for “open debate,” they are really trying to rule things out of the debate, to shut down the discussion. Once again, it’s about attempting to marginalize Christianity for political gain. And the attempt is made under the false pretense that religiously based arguments are insufficently accessible. As Ponnuru explains:

The contention that blacks, like whites, were made in the image of God and thus deserve fair reatment was probably “accessible” to more people when it counted than were purely secular arguments. The vast majority of Americans do not find such religious rhetoric alientaing, and in a democracy that ought to count for something

Finally, I should note the parallel between the kind of “disqualification” argument that Beinart makes and the argument Democrats made for disqualifying judicial appointments who take a pro-life position based on deeply held religious beliefs. I blogged about this issue here, here, and here in connection with the battle over William Pryor’s nomination. If you check the links, you will see that Hugh Hewitt was out in front on this issue too.
HINDROCKET adds: Newcomers to Power Line might not know that this is an ecumenical site; Deacon and the Trunk are Jews, while I am a Christian–a boring, middle of the road Lutheran. (And these days, my old friends will be astonished to know, a Sunday School teacher.) So, thanks to Deacon for holding up “our” end of this debate. I have some thoughts on the subject too, which I will try to post over the next few days.


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