Urging the government to assassinate someone vs. urging
7barksda at jmls.edu
Tue Aug 23 20:05:48 PDT 2005
Bobby Lipkin writes
" Christianity as a totalizing doctrine requires religion/morality to be the foundation of one's system of beliefs and values."
This statement suggests that you thinking of Christianity as a philosophy in the sense of reasoned decisionmaking from abstract principles. Under this view, every position one reaches must flow logically from the "principles of Christianity." (kind of like criticizing an originalist for reaching a non-originalist conclusion ). Thus every statement that a Christian would make would be an assertion of a religious principle - namely the particular principle that permits the Christian to assert that the statement is true.
I can only speak for my own understanding of Christianity, not anyone else's. But, I don't understand Christianity to be a doctrine, in that sense. That is, the idea of religion as an abstract foundation from which you logically deduce your way to right or wrong conclusions doesn't seem the right way to look at it. Rather, I see Christianity as a faith, whose basic tenet is surrender to God. So, a Christian would not trust in his or her own ability to reach true or correct moral conclusions as a matter of deductive logic from abstract principle - but would trust in the superior knowledge of God. God then reveals truth to people, whose job it is to walk in God's direction, answering to God. Now certainly religious teachings are ways in which God communicates with people. And, one of the things that God gives to people is the ability to think and to reason. So I am not saying that people should not reason from these principles, or should not seek to develop considered views on particular issues, whether political or otherwise. (which I think was Mark Scarberry's point.) But religion is just a way in which God communicates his (her) will to people.
Maybe this is really what bothers me - your statement suggests that people have power over religion, rather than the other way around. People do not have power to create religious truths. Only God does. Faith is still totalizing -- if by that you mean that Christians should always act and think in a manner which is consistent with their faith. But, I think it would be arrogant for a Christian to essentially assume a reverse power - a power to, by their own actions, modify their own religion.
Certainly, every statement God makes is a religious statement - because God's will and God's truth is religion. But, I don't think every statement people make necessarily has a religious character simply because the person is religious. You can accuse them of hypocrisy - that is of making statements that are inconsistent with their religious faith. But that is different than saying that the statement itself is inherently an assertion of a religious doctrine or truth.
The person might just be rattling off at the mouth. A case of logorrhea (sp?) or foot in mouth (aka foot in Robertson) disease.
( or maybe not - this brouhaha gets the Cindy Sheehan story off the front page - smile )
From: RJLipkin at aol.com [mailto:RJLipkin at aol.com]
Sent: Tue 8/23/2005 8:42 PM
To: Barksdale, Yvette; CONLAWPROF at LISTS.UCLA.EDU
Subject: Re: Urging the government to assassinate someone vs. urging otherstodo that
In a message dated 8/23/2005 7:56:03 PM Eastern Standard Time, 7barksda at jmls.edu writes:
But one cannot conclude that his statement was an expression of his religious belief, merely because he is a person who has (or at least claims to have) religious beliefs.
Certainly, Robertson's outrageous remarks are not an expression of Christianity as I understand it or as others explain that faith to me. But as I understand Christianity it is a totalizing view. (Indeed, much discussion on these Lists often centers around some members insisting that secularists (or other religionists) marginalize Christianity by privatizing it.) As a totalizing view, Robertson should, as a conscientious Christian, insist that any significant judgment he makes, especially about life and death, follows from his religious faith, or at least his understanding of his religious faith. The only alternative explanation, or so it seems to me, is that he made a mistake; he misspoke. It is not possible, in my view, for Robertson to say, as Rick suggests, that he was speaking politically not religiously. Why? Because, again as I understand it, Christianity as a totalizing doctrine requires religion/morality to be the foundation of one's system of beliefs and values. Hence, one can't have political values (or one cannot make political judgments) that are inconsistent with one's foundational religious/moral values. A totalizing doctrine, a foundational doctrine (not necessarily the same things to be sure) commits one to testing all one's judgments to see if they pass muster according to one's doctrine. This applies to religious doctrines and to secular totalizing doctrines as well.
If you want to explain Robertson's remarks by saying he's flawed, as we all are, that's fine. But until he says that, I can't see how he could avoid being committed to the view that his political judgments must express, from his own point of view, his religious convictions. By "his religious convictions" I mean how he understands Christianity not how Christianity should be understood.
What would Robertson say if asked whether assassinating Chavez follows from his Christian faith. If he says yes, he makes my point. If he says no, then we must ask him how he renders his religious faith compatible with his political judgments. He must say either oops I made a mistake; they are not compatible (admitting he was wrong from his religious perspective in making his remarks in the first place), or that his Christianity is not a totalizing doctrine, but rather applies only in a selective manner. I can't see Robertson saying the latter.
Robert Justin Lipkin
Professor of Law
Widener University School of Law
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