Tag Archives: sphere sovereignty

Separation of Powers and Religious Liberty

I have been interested in religion/faith and politics from as far back as I can remember. Mostly from my early 20’s. These are the kinds of questions I lose sleep over. Not in an anxious sort of way, just in an OCD sort of way. 🙂 One question that seems to come up time and time again has to do with equal treatment between religion and non-religion in the public square.

A number of years ago, I came across the Kuyperian view of things that gave explanatory power to these questions, however, (at least the materials I have read) they didn’t seem to respond to this question in substantial ways.

Kuyper, if you may recall, talked about the different spheres of society, each having distributive authority from God. For an example, the police have their own authority and a union has it’s own authority. Neither authority should be “omni-competent” taking over the other sphere’s authority. The police can’t take over the union and carry out their responsibility nor should the union do the job of the police. This is essentially what Kuyperians say is an injustice. I personally can bear this out with my job and that of Canadian Customs whom, in the past have expected me to do their job for them at times (I crossed the border fourteen times a night on a round trip. I have never had a problem with American Customs in this regard).

What you see here is what conservatives have always talked about and of which you can read in many of the writings of conservative websites and think tanks from some of their brightest thinkers—a separation of powers— plain and simple. I’m all for this because of my view of human nature. I believe that power can corrupt (not that it does so necessarily) and thus too much power in the hands of a particular sphere or authority is detrimental to the common good.

As an aside, Kuyperian political philosophy is actually conservative in this manner and I came to see this the more I delved into sphere sovereignty. Interestingly, I have a friend of mine who comes to LIBERTARIANISM from a Kuyperian position. Yet, Kuyperians will tell you that sphere sovereignty is different from conservatism and surely different from libertarianism. However, the reason I think Kuyper and conservatism are closer is not because of something I’ve discovered on my own but because it has actually been written about in books like Mark Larson’s book: “Abraham Kuyper, Conservatism, and Church and State’’ where he lays this out very succinctly.

It seems to me that where Kuyperians, conservatives and libertarians all lay their heads down is in this area of separation of powers. They may do so for various reasons but one of the underpinning reasons has to do with justice over-all.

Having said that, I think this touches on the first paragraph of the equal treatment of religion and non-religion in the public square stated above. It’s not so much a question of fairness (for life is hardly ever fair) but one of justice. How do we, as a society, do justice to religious belief and non-religious belief in the public square without establishing one or the other? Again, it comes up time and time again in battles that take place in the courts. For an example, the statue of Satan being placed next to the Ten Commandments in a public square-how does a society do justice to both?

An aside: Satanism is most assuredly a belief system and so I would not say it is UNBELIEF, thus I think it would differ from atheism which seeks to be free OF religious experience. Concerning belief and non-belief though, how does a government seek to do justice to both of those?

At the moment, I’m reading, “Secular Government/Religious People” by Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle

I can’t say much about the book because I’ve just gotten into it other than this:

In there, they argue that a “secular government” is not necessarily hostile to religion and establishes an official religion of secularism. Kuyperianism will tell you that in many respects the role of government is to act in a judicial manner between the differing spheres (something the authors recognize). A further implication of this separation of authorities (authorities here can mean the different religious authorities as well) is that government:

“…does not promote religious worship, oversee religious indoctrination, or exercise religious authority. Instead, that responsibility belongs solely to the people and their voluntary religious communities.”

That being the case then, my question is, can the public “space” be filled with religion or no religion? So coming back to our example of belief and non-belief in the public square, would it be the case of government, not endorsing any particular religion per-se, but by allowing religious belief in the public, is that not essentially a violation of government backed religion? Would it violate the rights of those with “no religion?”

The authors as far as I can tell may get into this question but for now they say that each side:

“…ignores half of the “Constitution’s distinctive way of connecting secular government and religious people.”

That is,

“One group exalts the secularity of the state but dismisses the religious character of the people, and the government’s legitimate responsiveness to that character. The other group denies the distinction between the government and the people, and expects the government to mirror and celebrate the community’s (usually the majority’s) religious identity.”

For me, at this point, “no-religion” IS religion. It IS religious. That to me seems to be an important question I hope the authors address. For there really is no violation of establishment of religion when all is religious. If the character of the people is religious, as the authors say, then atheist or theist, a government is ultimately going to violate, at a fundamental level, one party’s religion.


Salvation of the Whole and Justice for All

From Chapter Twelve of Greg Boyd’s book, “Benefit of the Doubt.”

“The Cross-Centered Kingdom
An Invitation without Clutter
In an earlier chapter I noted that the way to know what a person or people group really believes is not to ask them but to watch. Christians frequently say, “It’s all about Jesus,” but our actions betray us. Judging by the amount of time, energy, and emotion that many put into fighting a multitude of battles, ranging from the defense of the literalness and inerrancy of the Bible to the war against gay marriage or universal health care, one easily gets the impression that Christianity is about a lot of different, equally important, things.”

This is probably the one thing that irritates me the most in Greg’s writings but also in some discussions between online friends, myself and Greg on the Open Theism Discussion Boards that we participated in years ago. His ethics–especially as it gets closer to the street level. Isn’t it interesting that this is a dig at the “Christian Right” or their issues? But if we were to bring up things like how best to help the poor or issues like war, I may definitely not get the same “dig.”

Now, Greg might say something like this would apply to both the right and the left and that would be fair enough in terms of the point about it all being about Jesus. However, when Greg speaks in this manner (mentioning these specific examples) he essentially betrays His political leanings. But more than this, he shows his anabaptist hand when it comes to politics in general. As if THIS is how evangelicals SHOULD do politics. In other words, it is not so much his political leanings but rather when he says: “Judging by the amount of time, energy, and emotion that many put into fighting a multitude of battles…” For Greg, it is all about God’s love. That we are made for that love. We are to reflect that love back to God, thereby participating in the triune Godhead but we are also to reflect it towards each other. Thus, these battles will be on the back burner.

I want to parse this out a bit though and say that as important as that is (which nothing can be more important than loving God), it is not robust ENOUGH. Let’s look at three political positions and then work from there.

A. Christians going with a merging of the Church and state. In other words, you can go from the extreme Dominion Theology, Kingdom Now, Reconstruction type theology to the more conservative Religious Right (as well as the Left, though generally it is the Right) in which Christians will attempt to bring the Bible to bear on society. This will be every thing from trying to implement actual biblical laws into modern day society to weaker or blander versions such basing particular laws on “biblical principles” ie., the Religious Right/Left, ie., Pat Robertson, James Dobson to Jim Wallis types.
B. Christians will not become involved with politics in the same sense mentioned above. They will generally be removed from it for two main reasons–eschatology or pietistic reasons. For the first it’s kinda like saying, “What use is there in rearranging the furniture on the Titanic when it’s going down? Let’s concentrate on saving souls.” The latter is more what Greg would hold to. He would say that one should not be involved in politics because it is “power over” and not “power under” as “quintessentially expressed on the cross.” In other words, we don’t force or coerce people to obey our Christian ethics. It’s not to say that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics and try to influence from without. It is only to say that we should not be forcing others to follow Christian ethics via making laws that would do so. Without getting into full fledged post on this point, I will say not only do I think this is confused but IT IS basically a position that is held to and practiced on the basis of scripture. That is, even though it is not like option A above it is still a position informed by scripture.
C. Lastly, there is the position that I hold to which doesn’t go with either A or B though it is still informed by scripture and has a long history within the Church. Catholics call it “subsidarity” and Reformers call it, “sphere sovereignty.” Though there are major differences between the two sides, the idea is that God has called the state or authorities (it’s not necessary to say which form of authority is derived from God) just as he has called other aspects of civil life into being, ie., schools, hospitals, families, churches, libraries, banks, etc, and given them authority.

Now, given that God has called these different spheres into being, this means that God has called them to be responsible. He has given them a responsibility to carry out their authority, doing that for which they are called for.

[As an aside, I realize that there are some objections to this of which I won’t respond to in this post ie., how is civil society called into being when it is that which humans make? Is a particular form of authority legitmate? If not, how is it called into being by God? What makes this particular form of authority legitimate over another form? Suffice to say, I’m simply noting that civil society is something that God ultimately brings about and, regardless, each sphere is still to be responsible for it’s own authority as opposed to another ie., a police authority is not a family. A family is not a police authority, etc.]

So, one may ask, “What does this have to do with what Greg is saying?” Let’s look at these in this order:

A. First, Greg looks at salvation in a pietistic fashion. He basically follows the ‘ol, “Let’s save souls and that is how we’ll change a nation” argument. Isn’t that basically what he is saying when social issues are secondary to the “pure gospel” which is loving God first? Gay marriage is second to loving God? Universal health care is less important than loving God? I submit that that there is a false dichotomy here. Salvation is definitely about loving God yes. But loving God is not intangible. It has to be worked out in the concrete. Frankly, there is no such thing as loving God outside the concrete. Salvation will also include this world. It will include saving this souls but also being concerned about someone’s health for example.
B. Second, (and of course this is related to the first), if salvation is about the “whole of human life” then it will be concerned about institutions such as marriage. If God has called these different spheres into existence, then God is concerned for justice done to them. And if that is the case, then justice will insure they have the room to carry out their responsibilities before God whom gives them these responsibilities in the first place. And in order to do that, each one of these spheres needs to be differentiated. A family is not a government. A government is not a library. A library is not a hospital. A hospital is not a church. A church is not a military and so forth.

So what we end up with here is where Greg will say, that we should do justice in the world (which he doesn’t connect to salvation, for the most part, though he gives hints to it in early writings ie., God at War) but is apparently oblivious of the connections to the bigger salvific picture.

Big point here: If I’m going to be concerned about justice not only will I see it in connection with salvation of the whole but I will see all spheres equally. In other words, I won’t simply be concerned about same sex marriage MORE THAN education. I will be concerned about justice for both. I won’t be concerned about abortion more than say, the poor or ensuring that we have regulations in place for which we can sustain life as a whole. I will be concerned about both. Don’t get me wrong. Yes, we may prioritize, say, life issues over same sex marriage, but we will still be concerned about justice for all based on the idea of a “principled pluralism” outlined above which is based on a theology that God creates, gives some authority over to his creatures and expects them to be responsible with that talent he has given them.


The Thaw, A Chat With A Friend And Possibly A Better Way

This past week I’ve been having a conversation on facebook with a long time acquaintance from back in my church youth group days. It’s a good conversation about Christianity and politics. He comes from the liberal tradion, wheras I come from from a sphere sovereignty/principled pluralism position. And even though we are pretty much completely at odds with each other, I really do enjoy having these conversations because at the least I gain more of an understanding of his position and at the most my thinking becomes more clarified at certain points. Maybe we don’t walk away having changed each other’s opinions but we are “sharpened” through such fireside chats.

The whole conversation started over the video that you may have heard from called, The Thaw

This is a rather tacky sort of video if not for the simple reason that it’s a bunch of teenagers and teenie-boppers whom have barely left the womb making political statements like they have it all figured out. Now, back in the day, when I was 16, I myself wrote in defense of Jim Bakker’s “PTL Club.” It made me feel good defending all the “good” things that Jimbo and Co. were doing with everybody else’s money and especially having my church pat me on the back made me feel extra special as I believed Being on Jim and Tammy’s side meant being on God’s side.

Needless to say, I was wrong.

I was wrong if not for the simple reason of hindsight and how much I’ve changed in my thinking on many things. In the video here we have a young kid who is what 11? 12? 13? who says he is going to let his little light shine in step with the rest of his Christian peers.

20130523-203612.jpg
How old is this kid anyway???

Regardless, I’m really not in favor of using children for any political proganda whatever side of an issue one may be on. Children, unless they are a prodigy, really don’t grasp complex issues. And, as with myself, may likely changed and become solidified in an opposite point of view as they get older.

Anyhoo, back to my long time acquaintance. My question to him was, in light of, “The Thaw” as poky as it was, was if government could ever overstep its’s boudaries. After some back and forth banter this was my last response to him:

OK…still don’t think you’ve responded to my question but I’ll ask it with an example. You have a Baptist denomination. Said Baptist denomination says as a part of their beliefs that children are not allowed to be baptized. They have their theological reasons. Is it not possible for government in his situation to say, “No, we will tell you that you have to teach and practice infant baptism.” Now, you may say that there are laws in place that stop the government from doing such things but I find that beside the point. Government, (in the U.S. at least) USEto have a state religion. Not just Christianity but a Puritan type of Protestant Christianity such that even those Christians who disagreed with it were pretty much considered illegal.

So, if a Church wants to say that something is a sin (which ESSENTIALLY THAT IS WHAT CHURCHES DO, though there may be quite a bit of variance on HOW they will go about doing so) government has no right to say to said church, “You can’t say that it is a sin.” Government has no right to act as the religious conscience of a body of believers. So, when I asked this question about whether it is possible for goverment to be able to act expansively in this way, the answer is, “Yes. They CAN and at times they do.”

I’ll put up another scenario but pretty much saying the same thing. Say, you have all religions sitting at the “public square round table.” The Christians come along and say, “We think everyone ought to honor God through Jesus Christ. Let’s get the government to ensure that this happens. We’ll only have “religious holidays” (no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny) and people can only worship on Sundays. They must all go to the a Church that teaches, thus and thus. Stores and malls will remain closed on Sunday to give people a rest based on our belief that God “rested” on the seventh day.” Now imagine if government enforced this. IN THIS INSTANCE this would be government priviledging one religion above the rest. Not only a particular form of Christianity over-against other forms but Christianity in general over against other religions ie., when Canada decided to endorse Sunday shopping, many conservative Christians bemoaned the fact that she was becoming post-Christian. But many Christians are of a religious conscience that this is not important for various theological reasons. So, in their eyes, this is not a real threat to the idea of Canada being post Christian.

And that is all I’m trying to ask. Can a government over extend it’s boundaries becoming the religious conscience of the Church in general and churches in particular. I’m also asking can government act in such a way as to treat all religions equally and fairly not priviledging one religion above the rest. The answer to that question is also, “Yes, they can treat all equally and fairly not priviledging one over another.”

The third question is, “Can this be done on the basis of Christian conviction? Again, lastly, “Yes. Christians can allow for other religions (and sin, not saying that other religions are sinful) to co-exist. One can see this in scripture as well as advanced via developed theological understandings of a history of Christian political thought as well as an “all ready/not yet” understanding of Christian doctrine, ie., as Christians, we live inbetween the times. After the ascension and before the eschaton. Thus we don’t live in a triumphal, Christian theocracy in a sense.

—————————

Now, let me address some of your other issues. Which though important basically ended up being used to avoid my questions.

A. Religion is not protected itself but the freedom to choose is, ie., human sacrifice.

First, the law is there to protect not simply the freedom to choose, but the freedom to EXERCISE your religion. The freedom to PRACTICE it. Guess, what, that freedom goes outside the church building. In other words, when it comes to the public square, I don’t hang my religious hat up at the door (as if that is even possible). In saying that (and in saying everything else I’ve said on this thread) religion is not absolute. This again, is something I say, based on an a priori religious conviction concerning government and politics. What I mean by that is this: Based on my religious conviction, God has a place or role for government or governing powers. Part of this religious conviction is that government’s role is to ensure life. It does this through a variety of ways. Conservatives are short-sighted on this because when it comes to abortion, they look only towards saving the unborn but don’t think much else about ecology, water supplies, health insurance, strong families and communities (and the list could go on) for the SUSTAINANCE of human life. So, “…governments bear responsibility to uphold the peace and welfare of the political community. Therefore, they have authority both to prohibit certain actions that degrade or destroy human life and to restrict conduct that disrupts public concord. These legitimate acts of government must apply universally to all citizens. On occasion, therefore, governments may be obligated to restrain or prohibit certain practices even though some citizens consider them proper to the exercise of their religions.” (Center for Public Justice). Now, in one sense, guess what? This applies to agnostics and atheists. But in another MORE ULTIMATE SENSE, you can’t have both Christians and atheists views being the GROUND for this. You can’t have Christians who say this and atheists who say the opposite of this–exclude all religion from the public domain on all levels. Those two are antithetical to each other and the twain shall never meet. Sorry, I think the atheists should lose here. All that would be happening under an ultimacy is one view being priviledged by another. What would you rather have? An ultimate view that dictates all religions should be banned from public life (perhaps even private?) or one that recognizes that people are religious (and can’t help but practice both privately [in churches] and publicly [because religion ultimately spills out beyond your home and place of worship] as well as recognizes that one sees atheists and agnostics (both in one sense religious themselves) as having rights to be free from religion ie., if they want their own schools, teach their kids that there is no God, have their own clubs, etc? I say the second one is the way to go. In such a case, there is no imposition of my Christianity or religion upon the agnostic or atheist. In the ultimate sense yes. In the less ultimate sense no. But it goes both ways.

B. You say that you find my fear of government becoming godlike to be unfounded. What I mean by that is really omni-competent and expansive in areas that are the proper domain of individuals or institutions. Maybe an example will suffice. Been talking about this for sometime now.

Education. I think the responsibility of educating of children is PRIMARILY left up to parents. This is not to say that if a parent is not properly educating their child that the government should never step in. But again, ULTIMATELY, it is the parent who has the GOD-GIVEN RESPO NSIBILITY to teach a child aside from the basic three R’s according to their values, tradition and histories. In Ontario, we have basically two school systems. Public and Catholic. Now, say you have a black muslim mother with four kids. She doesn’t like what she sees in the public schools. They’re teaching things that she doesn’t agree with morally (cramming moral beliefs and practices down her children’s throats) as well as cramming down her children’s throats a “national history.” Basically, a one size history that fits all. But in her thinking, it leaves out some substantial elements to her own personal muslim history. After all, who the hell is the government to say, “Hey, our view of history is the correct one.” Sure, they may, in part do this because her they want to have a unified country. However, what has happened is the opposite especially in the schools themselves. They become legal battlegrounds instead of places of education. To add insult to injury? What the government in Ontario has done is say, “Listen, if you want to educated your children according to your values, traditions, and histories? You’re going to have to pay for it yourself–on top of the taxes you already pay for the public schools.” In effect, what the goverment has done to said black muslim mother is treat her and her children as a second class citizens.

If you are a non-religious person, you can send your children to public schools. Your tax dollars go to those schools. If you are a Catholic, your tax dollars go to your system if you want to deem them there. But everyone else? You can’t put your tax dollars to your own parochial, home school, private system. If you want to do that, you have to not only pay for the public school but also the private on top of the public in order to educate your child as you see fit. That’s not government’s responsibility. It’s responsibility is to undergird those who have the PRIMARY responsibility, the parents. Not detract from that. I’m not suggesting as conservatives do to “get government out of the school.” No, I’m suggesting that government has a role to play in the education of children. It’s role is to BACK the parents. As it stands now, the government thinks of itself as an octopus with tentacles that expansively reach beyond it’s boundaries over into that which is the proper sphere of others.

Now, we can talk about how we are how government is suppose to represent the people and if she doesn’t well we can change her. I’m not exactly sure what anyone would mean by that. Change a democracy to a communism? Change the regime in power? Or simply reform the existing structures through legislation such that government is prohibited from expanding in this way. I’d think that the last option is the better one as government is not completely omni-competent in every area just yet. I would say she hasn’t gone that far completely. She does, at times recognize her boundaries while at other times fails to do so. So a lot of the time there is this ebb and flow when it comes to government omni-competence I think.

Lastly, with regard to the HHS Mandate, it’s not like Catholic organizations were providing contraceptives in their health plans. So these employees didn’t have them to begin with. Rather, they were mandated to go against their beliefs. The other thing is, the government itself provided an exemption KNOWING this was a problematic for religious organizations. Again, this video I put up earlier is helpful in explaining this. It’s the second one down: http://new.livestream.com/calvin-college/events/2039287


Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof: The Affordable Care Act And Other Threats To Institutional Religion

I want to put up a video that I just concluded watching. As far as I’m concerned you can see some troubling issues going on with regard to government and religion–specifically, how government is doing the EXACT OPPOSITE of what it’s supposed to be doing in protecting the free exercise of religion beyond the four walls of a church or the privacy of your home. Religion just doesn’t work well when it is confined by another religiously based ideology that pretends to be neutral but is anything but.

In this video, Theis’ talks about the issues in the context of religious charities. Religion as defined by the government according to Theis is:

1. Churches and close affiliates.
2. Hire people of it’s own religion.
3. Religious organization must serve members of it’s own religion.
4. The main purpose of the religious institution must be to inculcate religious values.

Later on Theis says: “Jesus himself couldn’t pass muster. That’s because of who and HOW he helped.” This would stand Christ’s admonition to serve your neighbour from the parable of the good Samaritan on it’s head. Think about it.

Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof: The Affordable Care Act And Other Threats To Institutional Religion


Slippery Slopes, Causation and Liberalism

I told the girl behind the counter at the cafe I visit on my lunch break at work that I was thinking of becoming a Catholic because of the social changes that are taking place in our society. Possibly a due to a purely psychological reason though. Just feel the need for a “safe harbour” amidst those changes. Hopefully, this post will help you see why.

On Monday I was listening to “Kresta Live” with Al Kresta interviewing Francis Beckwith. As this portion of the show was ending, an annoucement came on for “Catholic Exchange.” The announcer was talking about President Obama’s “evolving stance” on marriage. I went to the Catholic Exchange website and looked up the article that the announcement was about. You can read that here:

http://catholicexchange.com/180-degrees-the-clintons-progress-on-same-sex-marriage/

Essentially, the idea behind the article is that if the President was evolving then it would have meant that the traditional idea of marriage that he moved FROM was wrong and if THAT is the case, then same-sex marriage might be wrong. That is, making it exclusive for heterosexual and homosexual couples. Next it might be something else. Polygamy, polymory or incest between consenting adults. According to the article, the problem with evolving or progressing is that it never stops. In one sense this may not be true as some would argue that it would stop with marrying, say, your toaster.

Now, this argument, which we call the slippery slope argument has been dismissed by SSM advocates. Everything from mere dismissal to dismissal via scientific studies (so far). That is, scientific studies that show why incest would or should not be socially acceptable. One young Catholic gal wrote on her blog about how Catholics are bemoaning and grieving the loss of Christendom as an era in America and how that needs to be respected here:

http://sexualauthenticity.blogspot.ca/2013/04/what-i-mean-by-acceptance.html

What I want to suggest here is why I think the slippery slope is still legitimate in this context ( it’s not as if the slippery slope as an argument per se is invalid, as there have been many policies that have gone down the slide of the slippery slope after all).

Over the past ten years I began looking at sphere sovereignty because I resonated with much of what Richard Mouw spoke about (I definitely see him as being more of a “generous orthodoxy” type because much of what should inform the contextualization of the gospel is tradition and I still think the “younger evangelicals,” a term I first heard coined by Robert Webber, though more liturgical are predominantly ahistorical) as well as on the behest of Jim Skillen. So you start drawing the connections between who’s who and sphere sovereignty. Another name very much associated with sphere sovereignty is my online friend, David Koyzis. You begin to find out that Abraham Kuyper was the father of sphere sovereignty and that Herman Dooyeweerd was a largely instrumental in the philosophical area.

As I began reading Koyzis’ work (his book as well as his blog) he spoke about liberalism being in five stages and thinks that we are more than likely in the fourth stage but you can see the fifth stage being worked out presently as well. His prediction is that after the fifth stage we may likely return back to stage one. I won’t go into detail into each of the stages that Koyzis writes about, but I do want to write down the stages and then share a few quotes from his blog to inform us about how liberalism works out. So the stages are:

1. The Hobbesian commonwealth
2. The night watchman state
3. The regulatory state
4. The equal opportunity state
5. The choice-enhancement state

Now, Koyzis goes on to say this (from his blog with links)

“Each stage beyond the second sees a progressive expansion in the reach of the state, as sovereign individuals, desiring to pursue their own ends, continually alter the terms of the social contract when these ends demand it. At the second stage, the parties to the contract wish to keep government as small as possible, but as the combined effects of their self-seeking lead to inevitable abuses, government is called on to rectify these. Because liberalism recasts political community as a voluntary association, there is no fundamental reason to oppose the state’s expansion as long as the citizens wish it. Thus at its third stage, liberals come to expect government to curb the large corporate concerns. At its fourth stage, they call on government further to secure equal opportunity. And finally, in its fifth stage, corresponding to the last four decades, liberals call on government to cushion the impact of a wide variety of personal choices whose consequences would otherwise be destructive.”

http://byzantinecalvinist.blogspot.ca/2004/11/development-of-liberalism-joe-carter.html

“In my Political Visions and Illusions I trace the development of liberalism through five stages, beginning with the Hobbesian commonwealth, through the night watchman state, the regulatory state and the equal-opportunity state and finally to the choice-enhancement state. My argument is that the cultural shifts of the 1960s marked the transition between the fourth and fifth stages — from a focus on the expansion of material opportunities through state intervention to an emphasis on expanding the human capacity to choose, period. In the choice-enhancement state, government undertakes to maintain a benign neutrality towards a variety of personal lifestyle choices, ostensibly on the grounds of freeing individuals from oppressive constraints on their freedom. Hence Pierre Trudeau could claim that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, a conclusion difficult to contest on the surface. Yet personal choices are not without consequences, not only for the individuals themselves but also for their immediate and extended communities. These consequences are by no means equal in their impact on the larger society, with some more evidently diminishing of human flourishing than others. Therefore, in order to maintain the illusion of equality of lifestyle choices, the state is called upon to compensate for these unequal consequences by means of the very welfare state programmes established during the previous stage of liberalism for different reasons.”

http://byzantinecalvinist.blogspot.ca/2006/06/sixties-and-evolution-of-liberalism-two.html

“Liberalism has moved through more than one stage beginning with Thomas Hobbes and culminating in its most recent manifestation in North America. The eschatological vision of liberalism may be less obvious than in Marxism, but it can be said to consist of a society in which everyone acquires equally a maximum degree of personal autonomy, by means of either a small government getting out of the way or, more recently, an expansive government actively intervening to increase the range of personal options available to all.”

http://byzantinecalvinist.blogspot.ca/2009/11/confessions-of-progressive-christian.html

“Although I do not treat consumerism per se in my Political Visions and Illusions, I wonder whether its political manifestation might not correspond to what I have called the choice-enhancement state, that is, the fifth and latest stage in the development of liberalism. There is an undergirding assumption in our culture that it is good for individuals to have an expanding array of choices set before them, much like a buffet table with a variety of edible delicacies to tempt the palate. Politically this assumption translates into two possibilities: (1) government should free up the economic marketplace to allow individuals to pursue their own rational self-interest; or (2) government should intervene to expand the number of choices available to individuals and to compensate for the inevitable negative side-effects of those choices. In any event, it is taken as axiomatic that governments should not pursue policies supportive of some choices over others, lest it become an oppressive legislator of the good life. That choice might entail obligations or responsibilities does not enter the picture. Over the long term this is a recipe, not for freedom, but ultimately for tyranny.”

http://byzantinecalvinist.blogspot.ca/2005/04/consumerism-and-choice-enhancement.html

That right there is the slippery slope folks. It is liberalism that opens the door for autonomous individuals to make more and more lifestyle choices. Choices which tell the government to “get out of the way” in order to make those choices or asks it to act as some “neutral arbitrator” (though it isn’t acting neutrally under this liberal scheme of things) to increase the range of choices that one would be able to make aka., polygamous, polymory, incestuous, etc. Once the “bitter fruit” of these choices has been tasted, liberalism asks government to step back in to deal with the fallout. Ultimately, the slippery slope argument should be understood against the backdrop of this historical motif. I think one could say that it really is not a question of a slippery slope (yes, things will lead from one thing to another in the particular issues), but of causation. And contra the Catholic gal above, it’s not so much that I would bemoan this sad state of affairs as much as I bemoan the fact that contemporary society is quite oblivious to the philosophical underpinning for said state of affairs.


Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Rights and Laws: Arbitrarily Defining Everything?

My little rant for today.

It seems to me that gay rights activists are using the back door of civil rights to argue their case. Essentially, they are putting the cart before the horse. Here is how it works. First there are civil rights. Civil rights are about equality before the law. Then you have family law, marriage law, maritime law, etc. These laws deal with specifics and make PREJUDGMENTS about certain things. For example, through the legislative process, we come to make a law that says: “All families with children deserve tax breaks.” Civil law/rights would say that someone’s civil rights have been abrogated if a family with children did not receive a tax break. A family with NO children cannot say that their civil rights have been violated. If they did, they would have to show how this is so.

Well the same thing goes for marriage. Marriage law makes a PREJUDGMENT about what a marriage is–what it consists of. One cannot claim that their civil rights are being abrogated if they don’t fit an a priori definition. Law at a base level is about defining things. This is this and is not that. This is that and not this. It is not about arbitrary definitions. This whole debate, in my opinion, needs to be understood against that backdrop. The reason I say that is because it is an injustice when law, dealing with ANY matter does not define things properly. If you don’t think this is an issue? All you need to do is look up the “Pullman Strike” of 1894 where paternalism, in which a company viewed it’s employees as “family” was at least partly to blame for the mess caused there. You can read that here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_Strike

Thus, I would be worried about a government or law that arbitrarily defines ANYTHING.