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.