Tuesday, June 3

I love him, I love him not

I've never really paid much attention to Andrew Sullivan. I know who he is, of course, and he links to Tom from time to time and Tom links to him.

Scott over at Politics of Scrabble has a complimentary post of Sullivan and I was intrigued enough to start the first video.

I was very impressed, at first. I wrote:
hmm. never listened to Sullivan before. didn’t know he’s British.

from the outset, i love his premise that people make mistakes and conservatism wants to firewall some of those things off.

so, conservatives eschew centralized government or markets because it increases the chance of being wrong. ‘experts’ are more often wrong than the people closest to (and i would add most invested in, self-interest-wise) the activity in question.

not sure about your ‘post-post-modern’ definition. pomo itself doesn’t have a lot of content, in my experience. it’s wicked good at tearing down modernism, but really can’t build anything itself.

but maybe you’re right, because he obviously wants to go forward without Truth as a guiding principle, and that’s definitely postmodern.

regardless of where he fits in the postmodern shift, i liked what he had to say …

until he goes totally off the rails on the fundamentalism thing (second video).

more on that on my own weblog.
Here's the more:

Question: Is it true that the Constitution was trying to set up a separation of Church and State that kept religion out of the State, or were the Framers trying to keep the State out of the Church?

Because, you know, it's not possible to have law without moral input. And we're talking early 19th century thought here.

My hypothesis is that the deification of the separation of Church and State is a contemporary construct.

This goes with my agreement with Richard Neuhaus' assertion that the Church does not impose its morality, it proposes what it regards as the best way. And people and governments and legislators are free to choose.

Obviously I'm not arguing for the opposite of Sullivan's view of the separation of Church and State, but a different interpretation of what I think was the Framers' true intent. Of course I don't want State-mandated Christianity. But I do want us to recognize that our morality has to come from somewhere.

Now, I think he overstates the role of fundamentalism (even as broadly-defined as he uses it) in religious life today. I agree that certainty coming from religious conviction is a problem, especially in politics. But I think the problems with Republicanism that Sullivan bemoans, and that I largely agree with, come from garden-variety politics and the electorate and pandering.

I'm much more in line with Pope Benedict's orthodoxy (Sullivan labels him a fundamentalist) than Sullvian's hope of independent human conscience. He should apply his doubt to that, too. Then he caricatures both the Catholic Church's view of end-of-life issues and papal infallibility.

I'm happy to grant political problems as a result of Fundamentalism, but there's no way it has the expansive consequences Sullivan wants to give it.

In fact, he's revisionist in his vision of Christianity, what he wants it to be. There's little of the kind of wholehearted doubt that Sullivan values in the history of Christianity. There are surely places for doubt, but not thoroughgoing doubt, certainly not doubt that views all other faiths equally (which I suspect is where Sullivan ultimately goes). Any such definition of Christianity is modern and postmodern and conveniently cuts off the past, say before Schleiermacher.

So I give Sullivan partial credit. I like where he starts out. I just think where he ends up is a total train wreck.
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