Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The least government is the best government

i) From what I've read, I think Christian pundits defending the RFRA are fumbling the debate. They are casting the issue as a "religious liberty" issue. 
Now, up to a point, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. However, what "religion" connotes for Christians and what "religion" connotes are many Americans are two very different things. The impression that many Americans have of religion–or Christianity in particular–is based on Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, &c. 
When, therefore, they hear the word "religion," or "religious liberty," that has instantly negative connotations. Given the hostile caricature of Christianity which constitutes their frame of reference, they think the suppression of religion is a good thing. 
As such, I think Christian pundits need to adjust their strategy. Casting the issue in terms of religious liberty is counterproductive if opponents think religion is the source of the problem. You need to consider the pop cultural connotations of "religion." 
That doesn't mean we should avoid discussing religious liberty. But the defense has been too one-sided in that regard. We need to place the issue in a larger context:

i) We should discuss the principle of limited government. The least gov't is the best gov't. We should restrict gov't to things that only gov't can do and ought to do.

A lot of people think that so long as something is a good idea, if, in their mind, that would improve society, then gov't has a mandate to do it. Problem is, the more you empower the state, the more you disempower the public. You are ceded power to gov't officials. That means they have power over you, which they will exercise at their discretion, not yours. 

It's not just a "religious liberty" issue. It comes down to the question of whether we want to live in a police state. Do we want police, prosecutors, and judges constantly monitoring the transactions of private citizens? Must we submit a daily itinerary for their approval? Should we constantly have to give an account of our actions to the authorities? What about the fundamental right to be let alone? 

It's not as if we're talking about the denial of essential goods and services. The "discrimination" in question is hardly a life or death matter.

ii) This argument has the practical advantage of exploiting the gender gap. Many men across the political spectrum are temperamentally libertarian. Because the system is stacked against men, they are very sensitive to gov't overreach.   

iii) Apropos (i-ii), the freakout over the Indiana law reflects the same mindset as the education establishment gulag, where the speech, beliefs, and behavior of students is constantly policed to ensure unquestioning conformity to the ruling class. Speech codes. Trigger warnings. Microaggressions. White privilege. Male privilege. 

It's extremely stifling. What is more, the same totalitarian mindset spills over into off-campus thought-policing. What students say or do at home, on Facebook, in off-campus housing, is subject to the same surveillance and disciplinary measures. 

The reaction to the Indiana law is an extension of that totalitarian impulse. Is that the culture we want to live in? Where dissent is punished. You are not allowed to express disagreement, or even remain silent. You must verbally affirm the current liberal orthodoxy. You must enthusiastically participate in activities endorsed by the current liberal orthodoxy. Your livelihood depends on it.

iv) We also need to educate people on what the alternative to religion–or Christianity in particular–amounts to. What was life like before missionaries introduced Christianity into the world? It was a world by and for the strong. Women, children, the elderly, the sick, the developmentally disabled, were the losers. 

v) Likewise, what are the consequences of atheism in principle and practice? We need to start quoting atheists in their own words on moral and existential nihilism.

In addition, we need to remind people of what secular regimes do, viz, Maoism, Stalinism, North Korea, the Khmer Rouge, the Red Terror. And in our own time, consider abortion, "after-birth" abortion, involuntary euthanasia, &c. 

Secularism creates a very dangerous society for everyone except the ruling class. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised by the amount of attention the Indiana legislation is receiving. It'll be interesting to see if Governor Pence withers, dithers, or takes a stand on principle.