Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Morality is not faith and religion is not social control

Writing last week about Dostoevsky's assertion that without God everything is permissible, I wrote that the great Russian author is not arguing in favor of the God of the philosophers, let alone the God of the politicians who seek to use religion as a means of social control. In the final paragraph of his article for Slate about the passing last Friday of Irving Kristol, Christopher Hitchens writes this about the godfather of neoconservatism:

"The neoconservative faction, or should we say movement, is generally secular and often associated with the name of Leo Strauss. Kristol was one of those who never minded saying that he was a Straussian, and Strauss is unusual among the pillars of American conservatism in having been decidedly skeptical about religious faith. Here again, Kristol appears to have been contradictory between an abstruse, elite intellectual and the popular will: If I understood him correctly, he believed that religion was a useful tool for making people behave well, quite independent of whether it was true or not. If that should turn out to have been a paradox with a dry hint of cynicism, he very probably derived relish from it."
This is a case in point as to why Christians in the U.S. and elsewhere must be careful not to become useful idiots in the political game and also to avoid reducing faith to morality and morality to mere values. I think Christians in this country for many election cycles made a Faustian bargain with the political right.


  1. What is faith? Is not possible to reduce faith to anything, otherwise wouldn't be faith. Would be piety with elements of Christianity. Exactly because I know Christ I am not afraid and I am interested in every particular of my life, even in political life. Christ was a great politician and the “change” he brought to the world makes the lately “change” fade away. To be attached to values without looking forward to what happens, without risk of verifying the values in my own life, values remain values and eventually end in the trash can. Values are meant to give a first hypothesis of work, than I need a personal convincement about my life and the life of the others. To be subjected to values and cultural views is a sign of fear and not of knowledge of God. The only problem of all of this is the fact that is a fact! So, it wouldn’t be possible if it didn’t happen already in history and so to have the possibility to learn and to follow. Not only the fact of Christ, but the fact of the life of Fr. Luigi Giussani and the life of the Movement of Communion and Liberation. During the 60’s and 70’s Fr. Giussani never withdrew himself and his friends from the political square, because he was certain of the presence of Christ. Christ lunches me in comparison with everything, because he is the present fulfillment of everything. Thus I can enter in anything certain that He will fulfill what he promised and I can even spend my life in political matters for the good of my people and my nation and the people of the world and of the world. Fr. Giussani was never afraid of political people even very far from his own visions, because he was convinced that Christ could correspond so much to the heart of every man that he was not afraid to meet anybody. Examples are the friendships with Giovanni Testori, Walter Tobagi, Adriano Sofri, etc… Other point: what is the Church? The assembly of the baptized. If we don’t rediscover what baptism is, if we don’t accept to start over personally in the adventure of knowledge, if we take faith for granted, there is no way that we could come out of tunnel. And even your suggestions will remain a flatus vocis. All the best,

  2. Christ is in our midst!

    The thought of Stanley Hauerwas, D.G. Hart and Peter Leithart come to mind. Thanks for this post!

  3. I think Christians (and one has to be careful how you define "Christian" for it does mean different things to different people)have by and large allied themselves with the "left" of the political spectrum. Look at the voting demographics. If by Christian you mean the evanagelicals, then perhaps a majority have voted "right" in the political spectrum.

    The underlying issue for most people of faith in the political arena is the issue of life and its protection. The issues of predominance are of course the death of the unborn through abortion and other means, the euthanasia movement, and finally the immorality of war.

    Christians cannot be only "right" or "left". We are both in many ways.

  4. Chiara:

    Indeed, one must be careful how one defines Christian. To that end, Christians, even Catholics, favor the right, not the left. There is a huge split between people who attend and are otherwise active in church and those who do not, or who rarely do, with active Christians breaking significantly to the right.

  5. everybody is up so early! Thank you.


A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...