Monthly Archives: March 2014

Religious Parties and Democratic Legitimacy

My latest, at the journal Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy

Thinkers committed to an ideal of public reason are suspicious of religiously informed political activity as it undermines democratic political legitimacy. This paper considers Jürgen Habermas’s recent shifts on this question in light of the history of Europe’s religious parties in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These parties made a real and lasting contribution to Europe’s democratization and their history suggests ways in which Habermas and other defenders of public reason misunderstand the nature of democratic political legitimacy.

via Taylor & Francis Online.

(You probably need a subscription or university library to access it.  If you don’t have those, let me know and I can send it to you.  It’s riveting stuff!)


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Gushee and the Civil Order

This is just embarrassing.  There’s really no other word for it.  David Gushee is a very bright fellow.  I often find myself in some disagreement with him, but he’s at least thought-provoking.  I guess he is here, too, but more in the “what in the world is he thinking?” kind of way.

Gushee’s argument, such as it is, seems basically that Christians who object to serving same-sex weddings would do well to remember the advice of Scripture that talks about intra-Christian disputes and refuse to exercise their rights to legal and political redress when threatened with sanctions for violating anti-discrimination statutes.

First, note that the Scriptures he refers to are about those within the Christian community who find themselves in disputes, not about the relationship between Christians and the extant legal and political order.

Second, there’s nothing un-Christian about working to reform the legal and political order to make it fit better with one’s conception of justice.  Every Christian tradition, even those that deign to participate in the political order (as some Anabaptists would say), think that Christians should encourage that order to be more just (though they disagree on what that “encourage” should consist in).

But Gushee’s short essay is really rather pernicious, because it encourages Christians who are the subjects of injustice to simply sit down and take it.  And what’s worse, he does so in a way that makes it a virtue of the Christian life.  What’s awful about this is that there’s something true about this.  It’s true that Christians sometimes will be the objects of injustice and how we suffer that injustice matters.  We are asked to endure that injustice, endure it with patience and, indeed, love.  But that doesn’t mean we do not try to redress the injustice.  As Joe Carter has tweeted, one implication of Gushee’s view is that Dred Scott shouldn’t have sued for his freedom.  We could extend this. Why not say that women who are abused shouldn’t use the law to stop the abuse?  Or nurses coerced into participating in abortions should just submit?

The possibilities here seem endless but they all end in rather unsavory territory: when pressed by our sort of political order to participate in or suffer an injustice, Gushee’s view is that we should simply suffer then injustice and do it in a way that shows our love for the perpetrators of the injustice.  And sometimes we should probably simply suffer that or, rather, we will inevitably suffer injustices and there are better and worse ways to do so.  But the notion that this precludes the redress of that injustice via political or legal means is absurd and Gushee should know better.



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