Friday, April 22, 2005

The Pope and God at Yale

The election of the new Pope has brought with it a new chorus of "Everything is Absolute, Nothing is Relative)" sing-song melodies from those who pant for absolute totalitarianism, whether of the political or religious variety.

Lindsay has a concise one paragraph put-down of the right's "pluralism plus tolerance equals relativism" straw man, here.

But the notion of absolutes, especially when defined by conservative authorities, has some problems, too. First, the Focus on the Family types are ironically pretty selective about what is absolute. According to the right, absolutes are mainly about (1) sexual mores in general, and the control of women in particular; and (2) blindly obeying the Republican Party. Issues pertaining to social justice and individual liberties get treated as second class citizens. Second, conservative and religious authorities have often been frighteningly wrong about just what exactly it is that is absolute and right. Christopher Hitchens reminds us of some of those here. Author Sam Harris raises additional queries here. Basically we Christian "people of faith" have frequently stunk up the joint of society with our ignorant and intolerant prejudices.

I believe Christianity in general, and we Christians in particular, have a mission for the world, but our too frequent, and suspect meddling in specific policy matters and party politics has muddled our purpose and lost us legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world.

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