Thursday, May 05, 2005

Brooks On Religion and Politics - Yeah, What HE Said

The timing of this editorial by David Brooks in today's NY Times (may require free registration) could not be more appropriate to the discussion going on here about the role of religion in civic life. Brooks recalls Lincoln's statement to his cabinet that God had landed on the side of the slaves, and that, if handed a victory at Antietam, he would issue the Emancipation Proclamation. The key passage, and one that reflects, I suspect, the current state of affairs quite accurately, is this:

Today, a lot of us are stuck in Lincoln's land. We reject the bland relativism of the militant secularists. We reject the smug ignorance of, say, a Robert Kuttner, who recently argued that the culture war is a contest between enlightened reason and dogmatic absolutism. But neither can we share the conviction of the orthodox believers, like the new pope, who find maximum freedom in obedience to eternal truth. We're a little nervous about the perfectionism that often infects evangelical politics, the rush to crash through procedural checks and balances in order to reach the point of maximum moral correctness.

Those of us stuck here in this wrestling-with-faith world find Lincoln to be our guide and navigator. Lincoln had enough firm conviction to lead a great moral crusade, but his zeal was tempered by doubt, and his governing style was dispassionate....

One lesson we can learn from Lincoln is that there is no one vocabulary we can use to settle great issues. There is the secular vocabulary and the sacred vocabulary. Whether the A.C.L.U. likes it or not, both are legitimate parts of the discussion.

Just so...

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