Of Geese and Ganders

geese

Despite observations like this or this, critics of two-kingdom critiques like to point out how the criticism of church-state confusion is disproportionately weighted against those who conflate political conservatism with Christianity. Evidently, little if anything at all, is said about left-leaning politicos doing the same thing. One answer is that orthodox conservatism, as opposed to orthodox progressivism, wants to robustly distinguish between the concerns of heaven with the plight of earth. So when ostensibly conservative ideologues begin marrying up religion and politics it is a fundamental contradiction in ways that it really isn’t for progressives. That’s why it gets so much press: it’s like a Catholic bishop questioning papal authority versus Protestants doing so. Which one would make your headline?

But these critics don’t like that sort of answer and are instead more inclined to believe that what accounts for the disproportionality is that two-kingdom advocates aren’t showing all their deceitful cards and are more likely harboring left-leaning politics. First, so what? If a two-kingdom advocate has left-leaning politics, so be it. That’s the point of the doctrine of liberty which resides in the spirituality of the church. Indeed, the charge itself seems to assume that politics does imply something religious and that if one has progressive politics it should cast doubt on his two-kingdom theology. But it’s not a problem until he starts pressing his Christian theology into the service of his ideology. Second, with only some exceptions, most leading two-kingdom advocates have rather conservative political outlooks. So the suggestion that there is lurking some sort of progressive set of politics amongst the two-kingdomites seems to be something of an urban legend.

Nevertheless, if it’s more criticism of the lefty-Constantinianism these critics want, how about this? During the 2008 presidential campaign Bill Maher released his film “Religulous,” a documentary that mocks organized religion and religious belief. The title is a hybrid of “religious” and “ridiculous.” And during the circuit riding to promote his message (funny how self-righteous self-promotion and circuit riding go together), he showed up on NPR along with his director Larry Charles (“Sit, Ubu, sit—good dog, woof!”). At one point during the interview Maher clearly suggested that Sarah Palin was unfit for office, not so much because of any whack-a-doo policy formulations or thin experience, but more because of her religious beliefs and practices. He made reference to a then famous Youtube clip that demonstrated her receiving spiritual protection from an African pastor against witches and the casting out of demons. In his book, he said, that constitutes witchcraft, and do we really want someone with such odd religious beliefs, yea archaic superstitions, at the helm of the country?

What was amazing in that suggestion was just how monumentally Constantinian and “religiulous” Maher was being. Maher is clear and open about his religious beliefs, which is to say his atheistic and secular secularism. And in good lefty form, he was saying that religion and politics go together like nobody’s business, and those who don’t share his particular religious outlook have no business holding political office. But two-kingdom theology has as much problem with this as it would any religious righty doing the same thing. So while Reformed two-kingdom theology would say that Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin (or JFK) have a very long way to go before they can meet around the Table, this religious unfitness has no obvious or direct bearing on their abilities to hold political office. Christian secularism and secular secularism may agree on what role private faith should have in public discourse, but it appears that they agree for different reasons. The former thinks that while private religious belief does follow a believer into the public square he should nevertheless be very cautious about wearing it on his sleeve. The latter thinks private religious belief is silly unless it is his and that when it’s the right kind it also has something obvious to do with both good statecraft and keeping others who don’t have it out.

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This entry was posted in Church and State, Civil religion, Constantinianism, Spirituality of the Church, Two-kingdoms. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Of Geese and Ganders

  1. jedpaschall says:

    Zrim,

    What is interesting to me is the primal urge man as a political creature has to have his views divinely legitimized. Ancient pagans did it, post-Constantinan Christians have basically never curbed the urge, Muslims do, and today’s Athiestic Secularists do (while oddly denying the divine).

    Oddly the NT authors broke away from this primal leaning. They saw the state as divinely ordained, even if all of the political practices of pagan Rome were not sanctioned by God. Apperantly they saw real value in the coercive powers of the state to maintain the rule of law, and restrain wrongdoing. Ironically these same coercive powers that they recognized as good were used by the Empire to execute them. Still they maintain that we submit ourselves to the rule of the fallen state so long as it does not conflict with our duties to obey God.

    All of this to say, it would be nice for once if American politics focused more on effective civil governance, rather than whose views God likes better.

  2. Zrim says:

    Jed,

    Yes, the primal urge to have our views divinely sanctioned seems to be a variant of self-justification. We were created to justify ourselves, so it is not a mystery as to why we do this. But post-fall self-justification is a supremely vain project, which by extension, is also what seeking divine sanction for our political views becomes. Curious how some who can see the vanity of the former stumble when it comes to the latter.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “the suggestion that there is lurking some sort of progressive set of politics amongst the two-kingdomites seems to be something of an urban legend.”

    i call the local 2K inspired reformed church “the Libertarian Country Club”. hardly the place for progressive ideas, trust me I’ve tried.

  4. Zrim says:

    R’na, something tells me the guy who bought your house (who’s also behind the urban legend suggestion) won’t also buy your anecdotal testimony. But I do.

  5. Paul says:

    You know, I tried to swear off posting here or dialoguing with Steve Zrimec on any substantive matter (since the rules that govern said dialogue are not adhered to but are used to call me a theologian of glory and a worshiper of false gods and a kicker of sand in the face of others). I was fine with the plural “they” who Steve Zrimec said offered these critiques, even though I knew the “they” was singular (me), and even though I didn’t appreciate the distortion of my comments, I bit my lip and stayed resolved. But in response to “R’na” it was taken out of the realm of the vague and ambigous and put into a more concrete realm. So against my better judgment I figured I’d offer a brief response. I will refrain from making comments which would correct some of the claims made in the post that I disagree with. I’ll simply correct what was said I said and what things I’ll buy.

    It was intimated that I said,

    “But these critics don’t like that sort of answer and are instead more inclined to believe that what accounts for the disproportionality is that two-kingdom advocates aren’t showing all their deceitful cards and are more likely harboring left-leaning politics.”

    Now, besides concealing that there were reasons given why ‘these critiques don’t like that sort of answer”, it should be known that my comment was not even in the same ballpark as this more austere presentation of what I said. I never indicated that I “was inclined to believe this” interpretation of what accounts for the disproportionality. That is a misrepresentation that finds no textual basis in my actual words (notice no quotes are given, readers are expected to take it on Steve Zrimec’s authority).

    “R’na, something tells me the guy who bought your house (who’s also behind the urban legend suggestion) won’t also buy your anecdotal testimony. But I do.

    But of course I buy this anecdotal testimony. This interpretation of me has it that it is now my actual position that all (or the vast majority) of 2Kers are leftists. More than that, it attributes to me the position that I would call the testimony of another a lie (which besides being unchartiable is own of touch with my defenses and highly favoarbale dispotion to the role testimony plays in epsitemology). On what basis does Steve Zrimec assert that I would call another person, let alone Christian, a liar? But more than that, assuming for the moment that Steve Zrimec’s characterization of me is correct (i.e., that I actually believe that what accounts for the disproportion is that, in fact, the vast majority of 2Kers are crypto leftists), how would this testimony rebut that belief? It wouldn’t be good statistics and sociology to take the report of one church as representative of the whole population.

    Speaking for myself, I don’t believe that the majority of 2Kers are leftists, and so I don’t believe that is what accounts for the disproportion, though given the disproportion, one might be excused if he came away with that interpretation. In the case of secular secularist leftists, that does seem to be the case. One did not hear much from them about Obama’s frequent references to God from his chair in the Oval office (but leave them alone for the moment, even though they featured in my comment as well). The only urban legend here is that I affirm a proposition I don’t, or that what I did say was put on steroids so the post could be more interesting.

  6. Paul says:

    Here’s the comment Zrim is referring to (which was on facebook and said mostly in jest):

    “If they don’t watch it, I’m going to start thinking they’re simply partisan and their theology or ideology is just a cover-up for an anti-conservative ideas.”

    Of course you will notice that I never claimed to believe that 2Kers are mostly leftist; indeed, my comment implied that I *did not* think this!

    So there was no “urban legend” promulgated on my behalf. Steve Zrimec made all of that up like politainment makes up or exaggerates the claims of those they harbor dislike for. The urban legend is all of Steve Zrimec’s making.

  7. Zrim says:

    Paul,

    Actually, your recent suggestion that 2Kers might harbor leftist politics (and is perhaps why there is relative little criticism of lefties who conflate the kingdoms) isn’t really anything new. Many 2K critics speculate this way, so it wasn’t as much of a personal pile-on as it was that you most recently made the speculation and it rattled around in my head.

    But more than this, what I find interesting is how the speculation is assumed to rack up demerits for 2K. So what if a 2Ker has leftist politics? Is that supposed to mean something? I could say that most anti-2Kers have rightist politics. But beside the fact that the Wallis’s and Sider’s and McLaren’s and Obama’s of the world aren’t righties, so what? The problem isn’t the abiding politics, the problem is suggesting God has any or that there is a straight line from politics to true religious devotion.

    Like I told you before, my lefties doubt Bush’s Christian devotion on the grounds that his politics suck and are “unChristian.” Phooey. If doubt exists it should be on the grounds of his Methodism, not shock and awe or the Patriot Act.

  8. Paul says:

    Steve Zrimec said: “R’na, something tells me the guy who bought your house (who’s also behind the urban legend suggestion) won’t also buy your anecdotal testimony. But I do.”

    Steve Zrimec said: “Many 2K critics speculate this way, so it wasn’t as much of a personal pile-on as it was that you most recently made the speculation and it rattled around in my head.”

    But I guess I’m used to your self-justifications. Btw, it is another dishonest move to call me a “2K critic” as I am 2K. Oh, when I pointed out this disproportion, you said, “You agree and have wondered why that it too.”

    I leave the rest alone as it has nothing to do with anything I said. But if you must know, the problem a 2Ker would have with being leftist is the same an atheist would have, a regular Joe farmer would have, a hip urban artist would have, an elderly widow would have, or a billionaire would have.

    At any event, I was just pointing out your dishonest portrayal of me and setting the record straight. There’s no need to have a rational discussion since you have made it clear that you don’t play by those rules of thought if they happen to go against you.

  9. Paul says:

    Zrimec said: “your recent suggestion that 2Kers might harbor leftist politics (and is perhaps why there is relative little criticism of lefties who conflate the kingdoms)”

    My recent suggestion: “If they don’t watch it, I’m going to start thinking they’re simply partisan and their theology or ideology is just a cover-up for an anti-conservative ideas.”

    Again, it is clear that Steve Zrimec has misrepresented me again. Why do people get upset here when people are “rude” but not when they lie?

    (Btw, the politcally savvy among you will note that “anti-conservative ideas” doesn’t equate to “left-leaning politics.” Indeed, on the political left there are conservatives, whether social or fiscal or both.)

  10. Zrim says:

    But if you must know, the problem a 2Ker would have with being leftist is the same an atheist would have, a regular Joe farmer would have, a hip urban artist would have, an elderly widow would have, or a billionaire would have.

    But my point is that the suggestion seems to be that a 2ker’s leftist politics has some relevant bearing on the legitimacy of his 2K. Maybe that’s not you, but that seems to be what others suggest. Otherwise, I’m not sure what the point is in even mentioning the ideology and theology in one breath. But what you said was:

    “If they [Christian secularist-2K-spirituality of the churchers] don’t watch it, I’m going to start thinking they’re simply partisan and their theology or ideology is just a cover-up for an anti-conservative ideas [sic].”

    I’m quite sure it’s the result of my being the world’s worst known reader, but that sure sounds like 1) being ideologically partisan in a certain direction is a bad thing. (When someone suggests another is “covering up” it usually means he thinks the other is up to something suspicions or bad. Is it bad, which is to say un-Christian, to be anti-conservative? Maybe you think so, but I don’t), and 2) the theology is suspect because of it.

    Your whole point has been that 2Kers don’t criticize Christian leftism enough, at least not nearly as much as Christian rightism. You go from that observation to the conclusion that they might just be political leftists. I have tried to explain one reason for the disproportion, in addition to showing you where criticism of Christianizing leftism by 2Kers exists (on top of doing some myself here, which is the point of the post, btw). Predictably, you don’t like it, you want more “fair and balanced.” If you don’t watch it, I am going to start thinking you don’t like anything that is said because certain people say it and it’s all a cover up for a weak grasp of a professed 2K.

  11. Paul says:

    Steve Zrimec, thanks for your comments. I respond below:

    ]]]But my point is that the suggestion seems to be that a 2ker’s leftist politics has some relevant bearing on the legitimacy of his 2K.[[[

    For starters, why not try showing that is the “suggestion” rather than announcing it. You know, like: “He said A, and if he said A, then B, therefore he suggested B.”

    Secondly, and I’m not claiming that this is the case, but it seems clear how a political ideology might be a problem for the legitimacy of a theological position. Here’s one way: Since it is incontrovertible that: that which implies that which is false is itself false, then if, say, leftist ideology was false, and if a position within 2K entailed said ideology, then 2K itself would be false. So it would certainly not be a problem for someone to suggest that just in case they also had an argument for that suggestion (an argument that made use of the principle I just laid out, for instance).

    So I’m not quite sure the merit of your comment. You simply hint at some “suggestion” without demonstrating it, and then you seem to express incredulity over the thought that a political ideologue could bear on the legitimacy of a theological position, which, as I showed, should merit your credulity instead.

    ]]]Maybe that’s not you, but that seems to be what others suggest. [[[

    Really, who? Do you have sufficient sources so you’re not picking on a straw man? Can you draw out the implications from their comments and show everyone that you’re not hyper-sensitive of criticisms of 2K? Given that I’ve demonstrated that you’ve misrepresented me, you’ll need to forgive my skepticism.

    ]]]Otherwise, I’m not sure what the point is in even mentioning the ideology and theology in one breath.[[[

    I would have thought this was rather obvious. For example, if you have a group that claims to hold to a theology that is not partisan, yet it is really just a cover-up to get off partisan critiques, then this seems rather hypocritical. So, that’s just one way someone might want to mention both in the same breath. Furthermore, it certainly isn’t that far-out to wonder about the disproportion between the two since when I raised the point you said you agreed and have “often wondered about why that was so too.”

    Next, you quote me and then offer some commentary. So to provide the context I’ll quote myself and then your commentary:

    “If they [Christian secularist-2K-spirituality of the churchers] don’t watch it, I’m going to start thinking they’re simply partisan and their theology or ideology is just a cover-up for an anti-conservative ideas”.
    Let’s look at your comments on the above:

    ]]]but that sure sounds like 1) being ideologically partisan in a certain direction is a bad thing.[[[

    I guess the first thing to wonder at is how you derived this reading. Your reading is that my claim makes the general claim that “being ideologically partisan in a certain direction is a bad thing.” But surely that is not contained in the comment.

    Second, nothing in the comment can properly be read as issuing in a judgment.

    Third, it certainly can be a bad thing to be “ideologically partisan in a certain direction.” So one wonders not only how you got your reading but even given your reading why incredulity would be expressed. Surely it is obvious that affiliation with certain political parties and sharing their ideology could be a bad thing.

    Fourth, as my comment (and its surrounding context) makes clear, the “they” were both Christian secularists and secular secularists. So your commentary was off.

    Lastly, I do happen to think that it is a “bad thing” (though not for any “cover-up”) to align yourself with leftist ideology. So what? Surely you wouldn’t want to be on record for claiming that it is a “bad thing” to hold the political ideology that partisanship for certain other political ideologies is a “bad thing”, right? That would be contradictory. So, this first point fails for several reasons.

    ]]]Is it bad, which is to say un-Christian, to be anti-conservative? Maybe you think so, but I don’t[[[

    Perhaps this will help with our understanding gap: I never ever think it is sufficient to respond to a point with “Well I don’t think so,” and I am never, ever bothered by the mere existence of people who hold different views than my own. I’m after arguments. I’m after reasons to suppose peoples’ beliefs are true. What either you or I “think” happens to be irrelevant.

    However, yes, I think there are at least a few anti-conservative ideas that are “unChristian.” Even Darryl Hart says that the Bible gives us some idea of what a government should support, and those things happen to be conservative in nature. Moreover, I think at several key junctures natural law yields results that are part of conservative platforms and which ostensible leftists reject and fight against. This is an odd feature I have noticed in some 2Kers’ patterns of thought. They laud and promote natural law but seem loathe to follow its dictates or ask that others do so.

    Now, I’ve been vague as to what these points are, and I can be. The reason I can be vague with you Steve is that you frequently overstate your case, casting it in absolutist terms. You indicate here more than once that it is absurd to think any political position can be “bad” or “wrong.” So I merely need to suggest reasons to deny your extremism.

    ]]]and 2) the theology is suspect because of it.[[[

    Again, my comment suggested no such thing and you have not shown that it does, you’ve merely announced it.

    Second, my comment explicitly denies that I think that 2Kers are in fact leftists.

    Third, I already showed how a theology could be suspect if it entailed a political view point that was false.

    ]]]Your whole point has been that 2Kers don’t criticize Christian leftism enough, at least not nearly as much as Christian rightism.[[[

    Right, I made that true observation which you agreed with.

    ]]]You go from that observation to the conclusion that they might just be political leftists.[[[

    I do not at all. Look, Steve, if you’re going to make charges like this, and throw around logical terms like “conclusion,” then I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to show the steps in how you derived that “conclusion” from what I said, otherwise you’ll need to refrain from flamboyant and overreaching rhetoric like this.

    ]]] I have tried to explain one reason for the disproportion,[[[

    Of course your explanation, if I buy it, only covers some cases of 2Kers repeated mockery of political conservatives–that of conservative political officeholders. It does not account for the weaighted attacks and mockings of conservative politainers, and conservative average Joes. Indeed, many times the criticisms of conservatives given by 2Kers have nothing to do with religion at all! For example, I recall your critique of conservative abortion arguments that make claims about the racism involved in the whole deal. I have seen Hart and Stellman do the same. So Steve, I don’t think your theory is good. Even if I bought it, it fails at the things a good theory needs—like that of explaining all the relevant data.

    ]]](on top of doing some myself here, which is the point of the post, btw). Predictably, you don’t like it,[[[

    Of course this is simply more dishonesty since, first, you didn’t “predict” anything and, second, I didn’t “like” you post because you over exaggerated what I said and misrepresented me.

    ]]]you want more “fair and balanced.” If you don’t watch it, I am going to start thinking you don’t like anything that is said because certain people say it and it’s all a cover up for a weak grasp of a professed 2K.[[[

    Of course this comment totally backfires since it is predicated upon your premise that I came here to post because I didn’t “like the content of your post” when the paper trail shows that I came here because I didn’t like being lied about.

    Secondly, the “weak grasp” charge seems problematic when placed next to your comments regarding my representing of the 2K position on the Ordinary Means podcast. Moreover, Jason Stellman tried the same thing, asking me to lay out 2K before he would interact with me. I laid out the position and he had not one critique of it. Third, I may have even read more 2K books than you, some of them more than once. Fourth, you have never demonstrated any “weak grasp” of 2K. Fifth, you yourself have said that “it is an entailment of 2K that we can disagree with each other,” but for some reason that seems to mean, “So long as you agree with me, Steve Zrimec.” Sixth, many of my comments on 2K, specifically some you disagree with, are agreed upon by fellow Outhouser, RubeRad. So does RubeRad have a “weak grasp” of 2K? Seventh, 2Ker David Gadbois (member of DVD’s church, trained by DVD himself) has agreed with me in many of my concerns and critiques of how you express 2K. So does David Gadbois have a “weal grasp” of 2K? I could go on with the names, but I’ll assume this has been sufficient. So this “weak grasp” sophism doesn’t cut it.

    Moreover, I have at several times and in several places indicated my approval and appreciation for both David VanDrunen and Michael Horton, and I have also indicated that I am after good arguments or reasons to believe assertions you make are worthy of giving my assent, having a positive cognitive attitude toward those propositions. So it seems more likely that I don’t like (agree!?) with things you have said because I think that they are false or insufficiently supported. So I just can’t accept this analysis you’ve given.

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