Friday, November 9, 2012

"You Only Have as Many Rights As The Political Capital You Own"

So this is one of those conversations where the hair starts standing up on the back of your neck.  I've excerpted one string of comments from a longer conversation, first prompted by Cardinal Dolan's letter of congratulations to President Obama on his reelection. 

Cardinal Dolan was writing on behalf of the USCCB the usual letter to the winner of a presidential election.  My Friend objected that Cardinal Dolan's stated intent to stand for religious liberty meant that the USCCB had declared it would violate the conditions of retaining tax-exempt status and claimed to take a stand for the separation of Church and state.  He was rebutted, in part by folks pointing out that the Church was not in any danger of violating its 501(c)3 status by its religious freedom campaign and that when it came to marriage, etc., the USCCB is putting money and support into campaigns based around issues in the realm of natural law, not simply religious doctrine.  This ensued--my emphases added; other commenters redacted for the sake of brevity.
My Friend (MF): You say natural law as if it exists and isn't just something invented based off of interpretation of religious scripture and anecdotal evidence.

Me (M): Yes, MF, I do--because you haven't got a snowball's chance in hell of ever defending universal human rights if first you deny the existence of natural law. Because Lewis lays out its universality pretty darn well in The Abolition of Man. Because it's the foundation of this republic, and once it's denied, all that's left will be power and the imposition of will by force. Because it's the basis of treating humans like humans, the end of slavery, the end of misogyny, the end of homophobia. If you deny the notion of natural law and remove it from its place as the bedrock of our politics, then minorities of every sort are likely to have a very, very hard time of it.

MF: Rights are man made. So is the notion of right and wrong. We have a few different innate drives as animals. We generally do not murder, or steal, etc. Because we are creatures that dislike cognitive dissonance. However our social constructs for the most part are fluid as are political constructs. May I remind you that human sacrifice is featured in the Bible and in fact has been shown as wanted by Yahweh, yet also is condemned by Yahweh. Now to our modern standards the notion is foreign and evil. As is the majority of Biblical history. Natural law as an argument is a neat way to justify the sliding scale of morality when it comes to positive law. However it is a philosophical illusion. The harsh truth is that mankind lacks natural law and that you only have as many rights as the political capital you own.

M: MF, check out The Abolition of Man sometime. And read up on natural law theory.

"The harsh truth is that mankind lacks natural law and that you only have as many rights as the political capital you own."

So in your worldview, churches and religious folk retain religious freedom only so long as they have the political capital to retain it? What incentive is there, then, for churches to stay out of politics? But of course--this is why you fight any seeming intrusion of churches into the political realm tooth and claw--because they're fairly decently organized and if they ever worked as a bloc, they'd be nigh on unstoppable. So it's to your political gain to see the weakening and dissolution of churches, or at least to the conversion of church doctrine to accord with your political interests. Such churches are acceptable political allies since the notion of separation of church and state is only to be used against those you oppose, right? MLK, fine. Cardinal Dolan, warrior against women. Since there's no good and evil, only power, and those too weak to seek it, it's not wrong for churches to be wedded to the state. They just have to take the politically correct positions in order to do so.

Am I reading you correctly?
As can be guessed from the quote I paraphrased in there, I was forcibly reminded of this:
Really, what he's expressing here is the heart of the via moderna, the "modern way"--will over intellect; nominalism over realism, ending in the dictatorship of relativism and the culture of death.  That doesn't make it any less creepy when someone just lays out it there on the line.


Kevin J. Bartell said...

I remember Scott Hahn talking about that. IIRC, it was at one of the Coming Home conferences - a talk called, "Forerunners of the Reformation." It's stuck with me, enough that I watch the DVD again once or twice a year, to make sure it stays fresh in my memory. You've hit the nail on the head as regards the root of the problem.

Of course, if there is no natural law, then not only are there no objective rights, but neither is there any such thing as justice or equality. If your correspondent goes about demanding either for persons of alternative attractions, he is clearly doing so under false pretenses, for he believes in neither.

Furthermore, there being no natural law, rights, or justice, it follows that political capital is necessary only for those with insufficient power to impose their will by force. What's to stop my side of the argument from destroying his to get them out of our hair, apart from the fact that they may outnumber us? Or what's to stop his side of the argument from destroying mine to get us out of their way, apart from the fact that we probably have more guns?

You see where such a mentality can lead. God help us, if enough people start thinking this way.

Caspar Ignatius said...

Yup! We agree. The Pope brought all of this to the clearest possible exposition when he talked about the dictatorship of relativism, especially in Values in a Time of Upheaval.


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