Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sam Brownback on "The Place of Religion in Public Life"

Sen. Sam Brownback writes at InsideCatholic:
As questions abound concerning the role of religious faith in the political process, it seems an apt time to reflect on the proper place of religion in our American culture. Few issues in recent years have been as controversial or have evoked as much heartfelt emotion on all sides of the question.

There are some assumptions in politics that seem to persist despite all the evidence against them. The notions that religious conservatives are trying to impose their faith on the country or that Christianity poses a threat to liberty are often accepted as facts without a great deal of questioning. This seems to me far from the truth of the matter, however.

In my experience, it simply isn't the case that people of faith are trying to impose their faith upon anyone. Rather, they -- like everyone involved with public life -- simply put forth a particular vision of how we ought to order our lives together. Far from threatening liberty, this can be an essential part of it.

Religious believers should not be excluded from the public debate. Rather, all people should be allowed to bring their vision to the table. Indeed, it is essential to include those who can ground their arguments not simply in terms of interest-group politics but in a vision of human dignity and its transcendent character.

For this reason, Christians should not be forced to leave their faith at the doorstep of public life. In fact, the contribution they can and should make to the political process demands that people of faith bring into the public realm their beliefs about the dignity of the human person, the importance of marriage for a virtuous society, and the need to work on behalf of the weak and vulnerable. An authentic faith will never persecute anyone, since at its core it respects the essential dignity and religious freedom of all human beings.

I want to go even further, however. I think the public square has to be a place that not only allows faith but encourages it. A society based solely on reason, without any reference to transcendent faith, has been tried -- and has utterly failed. The great threat of the second half of the 20th century -- atheistic communism -- has shown you cannot ground a society on human reason alone. It will close man in on himself instead of directing him outward in love.

[Read the whole thing]

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