By a coincidental providence, tomorrow, on the high holy day of American sports, I am preaching on God’s blessing of the Sabbath day.
The Satanic Temple is at it again, and has unveiled a new abortion ritual that, in their view, “sanctifies the abortion process by instilling confidence and protecting bodily rights when undergoing the safe and scientific procedure.” The Satanic Temple is really a Objectivist-libertarian organization masquerading as a religious group in order to provocatively promote their vision of individual human autonomy. Their goal in this ritual is to invoke religious freedom protections against state obstructions to abortion. The Satanist Temple had previously argued that Missouri’s abortion restrictions were the imposition of Christian values on non-Christians, and therefore violated the separation of church and state. I addressed the subject at the time and agreed with the Satanist claim on the merits, though not the legitimacy of the practice. Why? A society cannot be organized with shared values that are morally or religiously neutral because there are no such values. The attempt at a secular American has only worked because of the preponderance of shared values, which is now unraveling.
The Satanist Temple’s approach to this via claims of religious liberty will again bear this out. Religious liberty in any society only works if that religion’s practice does not violate the society’s understanding of what is right and what are rights, and a secular society has to pretend that these values that transcend religious liberty are morally neutral. That is where the effectiveness of the Satanist’s strategy will be evident – the assertion that abortion restrictions trump the Satanic religious value of bodily autonomy cannot stand on a claim of moral or religious neutrality. Like with the Missouri cases in past years, the Satanists may fail in court, but the exposed fissures in American culture are widening and eventually some political body will rule a law constitutionally illegitimate because of the values it expresses. American culture and laws were premised on Christian values in many ways (e.g. respect for the life of the unborn), but our constitutional framework is atheistic (no laws allowed that establish religion); the less Christian the American people become, the greater the tension will grow between laws that enact Christian values and their constitutional legitimacy.
[[EDIT, June 9th, 2021: An investigation by the Department of the Interior has found that the protestors and parishioners were not cleared in order for President Trump to have his photo-op. This post was built around false information, and I have posted an acknowledgment of that here. I am leaving the original post up in order to maintain the record.]]
The protest outside the White House was apparently cleared by police using tear gas and grenades so that President Trump could go and have photos taken outside St. John’s Church. Leaving aside the question of the propriety of a President using police to disperse a lawful protest for a photo-op, there was no communication between the President and the church prior to his visit, and the church was relegated to a set piece in the midst of turmoil. But worse than that, the police used tear gas and concussion grenades to clear away the church’s clergy from the church property. A President used agents of the state to remove pastors from a church (who were tending to injured people) so that he could pose with a Bible in front of a place of worship. This is despicable.
I grew up in an evangelical world that constantly said that character™ mattered, especially for public officials. The character qualities in mind were always Christian and almost always about sexual activity. The world I inhabited also wrote off most Democratic politicians as lacking character™, either due to their stance on abortion, openness on sexual and cultural revolutions, or being theologically liberal or sterile. You needed to vote GOP, either because the Democrats were godless, or because the Republicans were faithful to God.
Then came 2012. Something odd happened in that election…
Much has been made of Vice President Mike Pence’s comments yesterday to a pastors conference in D.C. The fact that the Vice President publicly endorsed preaching the gospel or that the conference was put on by an organization labeled a hate group have occupied most of the commentary. But what has been missed is his characterization of gospel ministry in the life of the nation…