Monday, August 18, 2008

Is Rick Warren wrong about religion and politics?

I'm sure there exist good reasons to criticize Rick Warren, but, as Francis Beckwith has pointed out, Andrew Sullivan doesn't appear to employ any in his recent critique. Here is the comment from Warren that got Sullivan's dander up:
I believe in the separation of church and state, but I do not believe in the separation of politics from religion. Faith is simply a worldview. A person who says he puts his faith on the shelf when he's making decisions is either an idiot or a liar. It's entirely appropriate for me to ask what is their frame of reference.
I don't know if Warren's categorization ("idiot or liar") is truly exhaustive, but it can't be far off the mark. Here's Sullivan's response:
The entire basis for Western secular government, which rests on the capacity of people to distance absolute truth from political affairs, is based on idiocy or lies? I wonder if Warren has ever read Locke, or Hobbes, or Machiavelli or would even understand the term secularism if it knocked him square off his pedestal.
Machiavelli? Now there's a great guide for our policymakers. But the question is not, as Sullivan suggest, whether Warren has read Locke or Hobbes or Machiavelli, as Beckwith suggests, but whether Sullivan has read Warren. In fact, in addition to these authors, Sullivan ought also to read Thomas Paine, who makes a parallel point at the beginning of Common Sense:
SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.
Warren seems to be assuming much the same distinction as Paine: that the separation of religion and government is not the same thing as a separation between religion and society--or politics, or the public square, or whatever you want to call that province outside the strictly governmental.

No comments: