I believe this is my first post of this political season that has had anything to do with politics. I certainly have things to say, but, as we all know, facebook isn't always the best place to share our thoughts. In many ways it's a great place. We can all express our opinions freely and have the opportunity to get feedback. But, we all know expressing our thoughts here doesn't always prove fruitful. More often than not, those who agree with us continue to agree and those who don't continue to disagree... we usually fail to persuade those who disagree, but do succeed in creating more division and tension.
No one likes division. But a simple fact of life is that where there is freedom people will disagree on issues. This is normal and healthy. The difficulty is to dialogue intelligently and in an understanding way. We're all tempted to think "only an idiot would think..." and "it's obvious that [fill in the blank] is the right view."
What's interesting is that the vast majority of us agree on most things, we just have a different idea of how to get there. Both political liberals and conservatives want a flourishing, secure, free, vibrant, unified, strong and economically successful democratic nation. We want jobs. We want our kids to have a future. We want liberty. Those are givens, right? Even though there are a few moral and social issues that divide us, we agree on 90% of those too: murder, theft, basic human rights, lying, cheating, loyalty, family... most moral and social issues are not debated. There are only a few that truly divide us (at least politically).
How can we explain why Americans, who want so many of the same things, disagree so strongly about ideas in the following two categories?
- How best to achieve and maintain liberty and freedom.
- "Fringe" moral and social issues. By "fringe" I don't mean unimportant. I mean those issues that don't seem as fundamental and/or clear to us as issues - like murder, theft, right to property, lying, cheating, etc.
The thing is, it is fairly simple to answer this question. The answer lies in the "why." The reasons why you believe liberty and freedom are absolutely necessary and worth dying for are certainly going to affect how you think these things are achieved and maintained. The reason why you believe certain things are good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, righteous or evil will determine what you believe fit into those categories. And so the truly profound question we can ask ourselves is: what is it that provides our why? What justifies it? What explains it? Where do yours and mine come from? And, if our whys truly lead us to different conclusions, and if our whys are the basis for our conclusions, it seems obvious that this is the most profound and fruitful arena of discussion.
I've just been very wordy in my attempt to get us to this point - does your why justify your what and are your whats consistent with your why? If one’s framework is consistent they will align; but, if they do not I think it is fair to say one needs to look at his or her why a bit more closely. I have to ask myself this same question.
So, what does this have to do with the election? Everything.
A person's worldview affects everything. Whether you know what your worldview is or not, you have one. I have one. We all have one. The issue is whether it's coherent and well-thought-out. If a worldview is coherent and justified it will also provide coherent and justified reasons to take specific stances on specific issues. If a worldview is an incoherent hodgepodge of assumptions and assertions (true or false ones)... it's much more likely the stances taken based on this worldview will be: a. unjustified, and b. inconsistent. These stances will be unjustified because the worldview in question won't have the ability to give absolute "oughts" to any particular issue. And these stances will be inconsistent because this deficient worldview by its very nature of deficiency cannot provide a coherent and holistic description of reality and why it is the way it is.
Here's an example of what I mean:
A Deficient Understanding of Gravity:
- Observation: Things fall to the earth
- Conclusion: All things fall to the earth. The earth attracts objects. As far as we could know, everything in the universe is likely falling toward earth.
A Coherent Understanding of Gravity:
- Observation: Things fall to the earth > Study > Large Concept > physical bodies attract each other with a force proportional to their masses.
- Conclusion: Things fall to the earth because the things we observe in our daily lives have much smaller mass than the earth... thus, they will “fall” towards the earth. But, knowing that the gravitational force on earth is an example of the laws of gravity in action, we can also conclude that small things will "fall" toward any planet or large body.
This example helps us to see two things:
- Both the people who hold the deficient view of gravity AND the people who hold the coherent view of gravity are going to agree that things fall to the earth. 95% of the time in our daily lives these two groups of people will come to the same conclusions about the same questions regarding gravity. But, when the conversation gets fringy (we start asking questions about gravity outside the earth)... this is when the incoherence of the deficient view will manifest and differences of view will be clearly seen.
- People who have insufficient reasons for their views are still often correct about what we all see and hold to be true. But, when hard-pressed, their reasons for their views won't hold up to the challenge.
Bringing this back to the concept of the "ought" we can say that an object "ought" to fall to the earth because we know that physical bodies attract each other. A person who has deficient view will agree that an object falls to earth, but can only tell you that this happens and not why. Of course we don't really think of "oughts" when it comes to the laws of physics... but I think the point is illustrated well in that arena. The true "oughts" and "whys" that we care most about have to do with morality/ethics and, in this case, methods of achieving and maintaining liberty and freedom.
Understanding the whys for the oughts is essential. If we have poor whys, we are all left picking low-hanging intellectual fruit, e.g. things fall to the earth. Murder, theft, lying, cheating... these are low-hanging moral/intellectual fruit. It's plain to see that these are poor behaviors. We don't disagree on these issues in the same way that we do agree things fall to the earth. Social moral issues like abortion, gay marriage, marijuana legalization and the like are where we tend split. And this is because it is here that things become less obvious. They will be more obvious to individuals who have a coherent framework in which to place them, e.g. gravity as a concept, not just an earthly observation. It is when we approach issues like these (as well as other liberal/conservative political/fiscal issues) that the coherency and sufficiency of a worldview is tested.
My goal is to be sensitive here, but honest. Let's use abortion as an example as we look at it from two different worldviews. We all have unique perspectives, but I'll have to generalize for the sake of the argument. I'll use the gravity illustration alongside it.
Issue: Falling of Object to Earth
We all agree (low-hanging fruit): Things fall to the earth
Larger Concept: Division occurs here
- Some think it is the earth itself that uniquely attracts. This will lead to different fringe conclusions.
- Others know that the earth's gravity is an example of the laws of gravity. This leads to different fringe conclusions than the first view.
We all agree (low-hanging fruit): abortion is not ideal and ought to be avoided if possible
Larger Concept: Division Occurs here
- Some believe abortion is wrong because it falls under the category of murder. Leads to different fringe conclusions.
- Others simply think it ought to be avoided when possible. But, there are times when it is acceptable. Leads to different fringe conclusions.
Possible Naturalistic Secular/Liberal Worldview Stance on Abortion:
- Stance: Abortion ought to be avoided when possible. But, it is acceptable in certain circumstances.
- Reason: We value human life in general, and this includes that of the unborn child. We ought not to end life if avoidable.
- Likely Justification: Life has value and is worth preserving when death is avoidable. But, the "value" of a fetus is likely less than that of the mother if one must choose which to preserve. We "know" that the mother is a living person. The "life" of the fetus is slightly less clear and the obvious choice is to preserve the threatened life of the mother (in cases of danger to mother in pregnancy, for example).
- Fringe Implications:
- It is, at the very least, sometimes acceptable to abort a fetus (various circumstances would apply).
- It is the choice of the mother (and perhaps a doctor in some circumstances) about what is the best option to take concerning her own life and that of the fetus/unborn child.
- Because it is widely accepted that murder is morally reprehensible and that abortion is not always reprehensible, abortion should not be considered murder. To conflate these would be inaccurate in some way. The life of the fetus is, in some way, not equivalent in value to the life of the mother. If it were, we would not view abortion as acceptable in almost any circumstance.
Possible Conservative Christian Worldview Stance on Abortion:
- Stance: Abortion ought to be avoided entirely.
- Reason: We value the life of all human beings, including an unborn child. All human life is worth protecting when possible.
- Justification: Human lives are ultimately valuable and worth preserving because we have inherent value endowed by our Creator. If we are made in his image and created by/for him, it is not our decision to make regarding whether an unborn child has the right to live or not. Human rights apply to the unborn child because he or she is a human being. This human being's developmental stage is irrelevant to the inherent rights and characteristics it has as a human being.
- Fringe Implications:
- It is likely never morally acceptable to abort an unborn child (there may exist very rare exceptions).
- It is no more the right of the mother to abort her unborn child than it is to kill her two-year-old child. The value does not lay in the age of the human being, but in the fact that it is a human being.
- Because the unborn child is a human being and murder is the unjustified/unlawful killing of a human being, the abortion of an unborn child is murder, and thus morally reprehensible. Circumstances relating to how the unborn child was conceived or whether he/she will have disabilities does not disqualify the unborn child from being considered a human being any more than these same circumstances would disqualify an adult or infant from the same identity.
This is an example of two types of people who both agree that it is better to avoid abortion when possible. Yet, we can clearly see that because they have different justifications for their respective stances they end up disagreeing on the finer points of the issue - when it gets to the larger concept. The larger concept here is the value of life and how this value is justified. Where is the why found in the value of human life? I didn't provide an in-depth look at this in the points above. And, even though the points given were fairly meaningful, if we aren't able to understand the most fundamental of foundations for our views we will continue to talk past each other. It is only when we get to this fundamental layer that we can at least finally say, "I agree to disagree" in a meaningful way. I briefly explained the justification for the "conservative Christian" view but did not add much in that way for the "secular liberal" view. But, this was not an accident. To put it bluntly, it does not have one.
The naturalistic secular-liberal worldview represented above started in a place where we all agree: human life has value. It is tempting to consider this a foundational place to start. But it is not. The naturalistic liberal worldview cannot give a coherent justification for the inherent value of human life. It can only describe it, much in the same way that any person with eyes can describe to you that things fall to the earth. It's accurate to a point, but it is incomplete and comes with no justification. And if it has no coherent justification we cannot be expected to subscribe to its conclusions or expectations. As you probably know, I am a Christian and I believe the Christian worldview to be true and accurate. But, at this point I am not even trying to argue for the truth of Christianity at all. We're talking about worldview. In a liberal, secular, and naturalistic understanding of reality there can exist no ultimate or absolute good or evil, right or wrong, righteousness or evil... only what is. It is not right that human beings survive as a race, we simply prefer it. It is not truly wrong if a human life is taken, we are simply troubled by it. And we can know this how, you may ask? We can answer this quite simply. For something to be absolutely right or wrong it must comport with or violate something absolute. When a life is taken, what absolute is being violated in a naturalistic worldview? There can be none. The most you could say is that the taking of a life is wrong because we: a. Have agreed that it is wrong, or b. Generally don't prefer to have our own lives taken from us. So, in this case, the taking of another's life is not wrong because it violates a moral truth, but that it ignores the preferences of others (specifically the preference to continue living).
Let's go there. Are we as human beings obligated to comport to the preferences of others in all circumstances? The obvious answer is no. But it is natural to say that when it comes to killing we ought not do that thing. But the question remains, what is it that truly puts killing into a unique category that ought to be respected and honored absolutely, as opposed to being forced to wear red shoes because everyone prefers you in red shoes. One can go as deep as we can possibly go into this secular naturalistic worldview and still not find an answer other than "It's just wrong" or some variation of "I don't like it." Empathy is the lord of this view. As much as I may agree with many of the conclusions of this worldview, it greatly lacks sufficient justifications for holding them. There is no why, and so the whats will be unjustified, incoherent and inconsistent.
Let's apply this logic to the abortion example above and then come back to how this relates to the election and politics in general.
Because the secular liberal (and, again, specifically naturalistic) view on abortion cannot even justify the absolute value of human life, the problem is not that its whole argument breaks down, it is that it does not take its view far enough. If the true value of the unborn child cannot be justified, why do we place any restrictions on abortion at all? The simple fact is that we all recognize that abortion is, at least in some way, an unfortunate thing. But if it is unfortunate, and even regrettable, why is this the case? If the life in the womb is not inherently and ultimately valuable, an abortion would not be unfortunate. And, the very fact that the vast majority, if not the lot of us, believe it is unfortunate speaks to the actual value of the unborn child, which the naturalistic worldview cannot account for. The only possible reasons it may offer for the "unfortunateness" of the act is some sort of familial/emotional/biological attachment to the child, not that the act is a violation of a true absolute wrong. The most logical implication of this worldview is that we ought not restrict abortions at all, and even to discourage them is to encourage something which is unjustifiable (the preservation of individual lives, even at great cost). The problem with this is it just doesn't sit right with any of us. Perhaps it is because the views that follow from a secular naturalistic worldview do not comport with reality, and thus should be abandoned. Although, it would be entirely consistent for a naturalistic secularist to simply agree that there ought to be no constrictions and carry on. The problem is that this seems wrong... and we're left asking why.
On the other hand, we can look at the conservative Christian worldview's stance on the subject. My argument here though, again, is not to prove Christianity true. It is to argue that it is the type of worldview that is sufficient to offer proper reasons and justifications for the why. If it is true that there exists a personal and eternal God who has created us, He is, by definition, the absolute standard for morality and ethics. Any system of morality we may or may not have would be contrasted with the inherent standard of the creator of the system we call reality. And, if this God has made known to us his moral law, his character, and ultimately the reason we exist, the reason why life is valuable... we have a standard and worldview with which to make judgments based on the created purpose for life. In the end, I believe Christianity provides the only worldview capable of both explaining reality accurately and justifying what we know to be true about morality.
Using these two worldviews (of course there are others) we are left with two options:
- Nothing is truly right or wrong, only what we prefer or don't prefer (for whatever reason is given).
- There does exist true and absolute right and wrong.
If the second view is true, it is in everyone's best interest to pay attention to these absolutes for a number of reasons. If the first view is correct, there are yet two more options which follow:
- Live as though there are absolutes, even though there are none and they cannot be justified.
- Live according to the implications of this worldview: there are no true moral absolutes and I am absolutely free to do what I please without justified judgment or restriction from others.
It is obviously true to us that this second option of naturalism is untenable and unlivable. I challenge you to think of a single person you have ever encountered that truly holds this view. This leaves the first option under naturalism, the idea that there are no absolutes but we ought to live as though there were. This is an example of that basic and fundamental level which I believe we all need to come to regarding each and every one of our views on any issue. This is the level at which we can possibly say, "I agree to disagree." The problem is that this naturalistic worldview, which many hold, is clearly deficient. It does not validate our most treasured values nor does it justify them. It is here that we can then ask, is this view worth holding?
Bringing the abortion illustration full circle, we can ask ourselves which worldview both accurately describes and justifies our emotional and moral grounding in the value of life (and the limits, or lack of limits, that follow from it). The challenge to you and to me is to honestly ask whether the worldviews we hold are capable of providing sufficient reasons and justifications for our views. And, secondly, to ask whether the views we hold follow from a substantive and comprehensive worldview at all.
I've simply used the issue of abortion (could I have picked a more controversial topic?) as an illustration. It may be clear how my argument relates to social moral issues, but what about politics in general? What does this have to do with how best to achieve and maintain liberty and freedom? First of all, achieving and maintaining liberty and freedom can mean a lot of things... what I mean by that question is this: do we best achieve this goal, generally, through a traditional conservative approach (less restriction, smaller government, lower taxes, etc.) or through a more liberal approach (more restriction, bigger government, higher taxes, more government programs, etc.)? And what does a worldview have to do with this? Right out of the gates it seems clearer to see how my previous argument applies to outright-moral issues than it does to this side of politics that has more to do with taxes, fiscal strategies and government regulation.
I am not going to go into this side of the political equation quite as in-depth as with the other. But let's dig in. The Declaration of Independence is a great place to start.
Our country was not founded by individuals who had ambiguous worldviews. I am not going to argue that they were all die-hard evangelical Christians. That simply isn't the case, though many were Christian. Let's take a look at the reasons and justifications the founding fathers gave for human rights:
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
The foundation and justifications for the rights and powers we hold dear are clearly and unavoidably grounded in "the..Nature's God entitle them" and regarding the self-evident truths, that all men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." We must start again at the foundation, where our founding fathers were wise to begin. The very reason that we have unalienable rights is due to the fact that they are endowed to us by a type of entity who has the ability to endow such things. And it is only because this endower is eternal and unchanging that these rights can be rested upon. For if these rights were only endowed by other men or governments, these men and governments may pass away and with them our endowed rights. By very definition they could not be considered unalienable.
- incapable of being repudiated or transferred to another; "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights"
-intrinsic, intrinsical - belonging to a thing by its very nature; "form was treated as something intrinsic, as the very essence of the thing"- John Dewey
Man is incapable of truly taking away something which belongs to a person by his or her very nature. Nor can he add something. It is a logical impossibility. It is an absurdity. And it is only within this theistic framework that these endowed rights can exist in the first place. And so, to talk about what rights we deserve or don't deserve, and what we consider to be violations of these rights, cannot be properly addressed without understanding where these rights come from. To do so would be akin to discussing where we ought to drive our wheelless cars.
The purpose of our government is to preserve and secure, among others, the rights of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" that have been endowed to us by our Creator. Two things become clear now:
- To deny the existence of a rights-endowing creator is to take the legs off the chair you're sitting on (to deny the justification for your rights). These are not only the rights you fight for, but the rights you use while you fight for them.
- Our country's entire perspective on liberty, justice, democracy and the rights of its citizens is founded upon the concept that we are created and endowed with these rights by this creator.
Whoah! This sounds a bit too close to a violation of what we commonly call the Separation of Church and state! This is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the amendments. The concept of the separation of church and state is found in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
It's also worth reading this next summary, which puts it better than I'd likely fair.
"In the United States, the term is an offshoot of the phrase, "wall of separation between church and state", as written in Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. The original text reads: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." Jefferson reflected his frequent speaking theme that the government is not to interfere with religion."
It's clear to see a few things here:
- The "separation of church and state" is simply the idea that Congress cannot make "law respecting an establishment of religion," nor can it prohibit people from belonging to or exercising their own faith...
- Jefferson's main concern was not that Religion ought not affect government (to protect government from religion) but that " government is not to interfere with religion," that is, the intent is to protect religion from government restriction.
So, it is clear that the foundation for the rights of American citizens is grounded in a creator, and that this does not reflect a violation of the "separation of church and state" as defined by our founders. Why did I bring this up? To further solidify the fact that our precious rights come from what most people would call a "religious" origin and, secondly, that this is not a bad or dishonest thing; in fact it's the very line of reasoning our founders used to establish our rights and found this country. Our founders came to the what of unalienable rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because they had a why capable of supporting this structure, and only because their why necessitated this structure. These rights do not only follow from this worldview, they emanate from it. They scream to be realized.
In contradistinction to this worldview, there is the liberal-secular-naturalistic worldview. My point is not that people who live out this naturalistic worldview don't desire for men and women to possess these same rights... in fact, they probably have a better reputation today in regards to the fight for individual rights. And yet, their worldview itself offers no justification or concrete reason why we should possess these rights. They are right to fight for them, and we'd agree on this, but the foundational why is completely missing. It is not only the case that specific individual human rights do not follow from this worldview, but they will often be inconsistent with this worldview. And yet, naturalists persist in this cause (rightly so).
Let's look at an example:
Human Right: Freedom of Speech (found in the 1st amendment to the constitution)
Liberal-Secular-Naturalistic Worldview of Man:
- Man is a highly evolved and intelligent animal who came to be so through mutation and adaptation over millions of years through the processes of evolution/natural selection.
- Man was not "created" by an intelligent creator.
- The chief "aim" of man, and of any animal, is survival (and those animals which pass the test of natural selection do so): survival of the fittest.
- It follows that the chief "aim" of any government ought to be the preservation (survival) of its people. This is consistent with the overall worldview of man's purpose.
The question is now: does freedom of speech emanate from this worldview? Does this worldview justify this freedom? (We will all recognize that expression of speech like libel, slander, copyright infringement are exempted)
Scenario: American citizen wishes to express views (views which are protected by freedom of speech laws) which promote ideas with the likely result of disunity, perhaps revolution (and with it much death), perhaps even philosophical ideas that may cause other men and women to wish not to survive.
Scenario in Naturalistic Worldview: Because the most ultimate "good" of naturalism is survival, the individual's rights must be measured against the survival of the group. If at any time the survival of the group is threatened (even legally) by an individual within it, it follows that the survival of the group is enhanced by taking away this individual's right to publish these materials. This worldview does not possess the ability to justify the protection of individuals' civil liberties at the cost of the larger community. And yet, members of this worldview do so (rightly). The appropriate question is why should these individuals not seek a worldview that justifies their values?
Conservative Christian Worldview of Man:
- Man is a unique creature among animals. Though he is an "animal" in the strictest sense, he is a creature made in the image of his creator for a purpose.
- He is endowed by this creator with specific value because he belongs to and was created by Him. This creator has made known to us that he values us not only as a group, but as individuals made in his image.
- He is endowed by this creator with certain rights according to the moral laws and character of the creator.
- This moral law is eternal because it reflects the nature of the eternal law maker.
Scenario: same as above (freedom of speech)
Scenario in Conservative-Christian Worldview of Man: Though a person with this worldview will very likely pursue and value survival, this value is inherently subordinate to the ultimate "aim" of man - to know, love, and enjoy God. Because this is the ultimate why of this worldview, all other whys will emanate from it. If this creator God values human life on an individual level and seeks to protect this life (commandment against murder, among other things), and if it is also true that persons subscribing to this worldview seek to love and respect this God, they will also seek to protect that which God desires to protect. It follows from this worldview that each individual has inherent value, even outside the scope of his positively contributing to or detracting from the survival of the larger group. It follows, further, that no person or government ought to squelch or undermine the value or rights of any individual, regardless of the circumstances (within the law). And so a conservative Christian is acting consistent with her worldview when she seeks to protect the human or civil rights of others, regardless of whether she agrees with how this other person chooses to exercise these rights. This is the power of law in action, specifically law built on a solid foundation.
Members of either of these two worldviews value civil and human rights. The key distinction, though, is the conservative Christian worldview dictates that these rights are inherent and endowed to every human by our Creator, while the liberal naturalistic worldview only possesses the faculties to say these rights are endowed by our government or society. It follows from the former worldview that the primary job of our government is to recognize and protect the rights of its citizens that they possess by nature, while the latter must establish and create them. It follows, further, that a government based on the first worldview does not have the power or authority to create or remove these rights, only to recognize and protect them, while the second must create them and thus has the inherent power to remove them.
It follows naturally from the conservative Christian worldview, then, that our government ought to limit itself to the promotion and protection of its people's safety and inherent rights. It ought not go further because it is not the type of thing that has the authority to take it any further (knowing it exists to protect, not create). But, it does follow from a secular-naturalistic worldview that the government ought to take the role of "endower," and not simply protector. For who would provide these rights if not our government (by government we mean a representative authority of and for its people)? And, as I pointed out regarding the implications this view brings regarding abortion rights, the problem is not that the liberal naturalistic argument simply breaks down, it is that it does not take it far enough. It would be much more consistent for a people who desire a government based on naturalistic tenants to stop pretending these tenants are something like what we call “sacred.” It would be much more consistent to affirm that its citizens only possess individual rights when these rights are expressed in a way the government desires. And, if any individual poses a threat to the greater good of the survival of its society, even in expression of philosophical ideas, to either eliminate this person are strip him of his basic rights. The current of this worldview is to give the government more and more power to define what is good and worthy of protection, even if this government is an elected body. And, the more power this governing body has to define what our rights and “goods” are as a society, the less our individual rights will count or be protected. This government body, which again, by definition, would be the endower of rights, would be right to possess this power. The logical endgame for a government based on naturalistic tenants is absolute power over its citizens. Not only power to do “good,” to protect, and promote survival... but to carry out whatever it deems necessary to accomplish these things - the reason being, it cannot base any of its promoted values on anything justifiable other than survival. To do otherwise would be inconsistent.
“Whoah! This sounds extreme!”, you might be thinking. “No American believes that!”, you might be thinking. I have two responses to what you may be feeling at this point:
- There indeed are individuals who believe in this way.
- You’re also right: the VAST majority of us don’t truly desire the kind of government or nation I just described.
Therein lies the problem:
- Liberal-secular=naturalistic individuals who have this sort of perspective on government are actually thinking in a much more consistent way with their worldview than those who do not share these same radical governmental views.
- We know that the VAST majority of those whom we’d accurately and fairly call secular liberals do not hold these extreme views. Their views do tend toward the left, they do tend to promote a bigger, stronger, more powerful government... but not to the extent I just described. The problem is that they ought to if they want to live consistently.
This immediately strikes us as over the top, too extreme. You’d be right to think so. If this type of government is not what we desire, why hold to a worldview where this type of government follows from its foundational assertions? You must ask yourself which you are more committed to: your worldview or your individual social/moral/governmental views on particular issues...
If you are committed to a naturalistic secular liberal worldview, I challenge you live it out to the fullest and don’t hold back. Stop pretending that life is sacred - it is not. Stop pretending that your individual human and civil rights are inherently yours - they are not. Stop trying to limit the power of the government at all if you believe it is our best hope for survival and flourishing. Stop pretending that anything at all fits into the categories of absolutely right or absolutely wrong - these categories are imaginary. Don’t call murder evil, simply call it a crime.
I doubt that you, the reader, are interested in doing any of those things. The challenge then is to ask yourself why? It seems wise and prudent that you pursue a worldview that leads to conclusions and views that you can both justify and hold in consistency with your worldview.
Likewise, if you are committed to a Christian worldview, I challenge you also to live it out to the fullest. Have the guts to call what is evil evil and what is good good and know why you do so. Ask yourself whether your views on morality and government emanate from and are consistent with the Christian worldview or with a naturalistic-secular worldview. Do you take your cues from the revealed word of God or from a secular culture which cannot provide a solid foundation for the views it holds?
My two-part thesis here is this:
- A consistent Christian worldview leads to a conservative political perspective. And, a consistent naturalistic secular worldview leads to a liberal political perspective.
- The logical outcome of a naturalistic-secular worldview produces a governmental system which must enforce values it cannot justify or rightly uphold (if it is a free democracy).
The first point won’t be a shocking announcement to anyone (whether you agree with it or not). But, what we typically don’t do is take these perspectives to their logical extremes.
Perhaps the most surprising thing that many liberal naturalists could stand to learn is that, for the Christian, it is actually desirable that we live under a “secular” government. This is a good thing. By secular government we mean a government which does not promote or prohibit any specific religious faith or practice and which operates in a fashion of “separation” from any specific religious faith. But, and here is the caveat, if we hope to live in a nation with rights grounded in a solid worldview, this secular government must ground itself on one which is theistic (and specifically one which holds that God has revealed himself to mankind). You’ll notice this is exactly the type of government that our founders established. It is not a theocracy, nor do we wish it to be so. But it does recognize that which offers a firm foundation for our liberty.
It ought not be the desire of American conservative Christians to seek to make this an official “Christian nation.” But, rather to promote and vote in ways that are consistent with the eternal values and truths we hold to be true as Christians, and upon which we believe this country finds its foundation. It is poor thinking to believe that a country based on certain tenants would be wise to abandon the foundations which support them. And this is precisely what the average liberal-naturalist desires to see happen. If our country continues to deviate from the justified foundations which provide our liberty, we will soon cease to have it in any meaningful sense.
In this election we had the choice between two major candidates who both espouse a Christian worldview. Though Mitt Romney is a Mormon (and I personally do not consider Mormonism Christian - that’s another discussion), his worldview type is similar in many ways to classical Christianity in that most of the same values emanate from it. Though I would disagree with Mitt Romney concerning the truths of his faith, I would likely agree with him on any specific issue that will face our country because my impression is that his political views (at least those he ran on) are consistent with his worldview.
On the other hand, Barack Obama, who also identifies himself as a Christian does not hold political views which I believe are consistent with the worldview he espouses (for reasons detailed in my previous arguments). This causes me to wonder about the answers to two questions concerning him:
- Does Barack Obama truly hold a Christian worldview (or at least one consistent with its values and beliefs)? And, if Barack Obama does hold a Christian worldview, why is it that his political views are inconsistent with this worldview?
- Does Barack Obama not hold to a Christian worldview? If not, why is it the case that he claims to?
These two questions leave me with answers that are both unsatisfying. If the answer to the first question is yes, I’m left with a candidate whose political positions are inconsistent with his worldview. If the answer to the first question is no, we come to the second question. And, if the answer to this second question is yes, then I’m left with a candidate who has intentionally misrepresented himself and I cannot trust.
Here’s the thing, I like Barack Obama. He seems to me to be a good guy. He’s likeable, intelligent, and charismatic. He has a great sense of humor. And, I truly and honestly believe that he wants what is best for this country. The problem is that I don’t believe his answers about how this is accomplished are consistent with his worldview, and if he possesses a different worldview than the one has espoused than he has mislead us all. Though he espouses Christian beliefs, he operates as if secular naturalism were true. I cannot vote for a leader for this country who is either a known liar or who unapologetically promotes values and policies that violate truths of his worldview. He is either untrustworthy or inconsistent. He doesn’t strike me as untrustworthy, merely inconsistent.
Though I disagree with Mitt Romney on many important life questions, I believe that he would have promoted policies and values that are consistent with his worldview and mine.
I will end this absurdly long essay with the challenge I presented earlier to both conservatives and liberals alike:
- Ask yourself if your worldview provides a sufficient and accurate why for your whats.
- Ask yourself if your whats are not only consistent with your why, but does your why demand them.
If you find that your whys and whats are consistent - don’t hold back. If they are inconsistent, I think it’s time to reevaluate both your worldview and your stance on both: a. specific issues, and b. politics in general.
It is only when we get to this fundamental level of worldview, the level that informs and determines our thoughts on how things ought to be, that we can finally say, “I agree to disagree” in respectful and meaningful way. Only at this level can we truly say, “I understand where you’re coming from.”
Thanks so much for reading. I welcome your thoughts.
Written: April 27, 2013
Written: April 27, 2013
Notes and Caveats:
- I understand that many people fall somewhere in between these two categories of “liberal-secular naturalists” and “conservative Christians.” This goes without saying. But, all of these “in-between places” will borrow from either one extreme or the other, creating a sort of middle. And, if one finds himself in the middle, it’s very much liking standing at the top of a pointed hill. You’ve got a leg standing on either side and a mountain poking you in the groin. It’s natural that at some point you will slide down one side or the other.
- I also understand that many Christians are not “conservative.” In no way am I arguing that politically liberal Christians are not truly Christians. My argument, though, if I can be this bold, is that their “political liberalism” is, in most forms, inconsistent with classical orthodox Christianity.
- It also goes without saying that Christianity is not the only religious worldview that we must consider as a theistic foundation for a form of government/society. This would be another discussion. Christianity, though, is the most relevant religious tradition to examine regarding faith and politics in the U.S. I also happen to believe it is the only consistent, coherent and truly justified religious tradition (in essence, true). That, too, is another discussion. But I will say this: in my opinion, all other major religious traditions (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) lack both the evidence to be strongly considered and the consistency to cling to. I exclude Judaism in this list because Christianity is a continuation of the Judaic tradition.