Christianity,  Politics

A must-read on religious liberty in America

R. R. Reno is the editor of First Things, and his recent lecture at Hillsdale College on “Religion and Public Life in America” is not to be missed. Reno’s analysis of the current landscape may be the best that I’ve ever seen. I won’t summarize the entire article. I will leave it to you to take the time to read the whole thing. Just to give you a taste, however, here’s the intro:

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY is being redefined in America, or at least many would like it to be. Our secular establishment wants to reduce the autonomy of religious institutions and limit the influence of faith in the public square. The reason is not hard to grasp. In America, “religion” largely means Christianity, and today our secular culture views orthodox Christian churches as troublesome, retrograde, and reactionary forces. They’re seen as anti-science, anti-gay, and anti-women—which is to say anti-progress as the Left defines progress. Not surprisingly, then, the Left believes society will be best served if Christians are limited in their influence on public life. And in the short run this view is likely to succeed. There will be many arguments urging Christians to keep their religion strictly religious rather than “political.” And there won’t just be arguments; there will be laws as well. We’re in the midst of climate change—one that’s getting colder and colder toward religion.

A big hat-tip to Patrick Schreiner for highlighting this article. Highly recommended.

R. R. Reno, “Religion and Public Life in America,” Imprimis 42.4 (April 2013): 1–8.


  • Lauren Bertrand

    A thoughtful, mostly fair article, even though it’s obvious from early point which side Reno butters his bread. The idea of any group–Christian, Jewish, pagan, atheist or otherwise–suffering “dhimmitude” is repellent even to a libertarian-leaning atheist like me. But it is very difficult to reconcile different interests, not just because of the growth of the “nones” (which may be the strongest factor) but because of American religious pluralism. Fundamentally, religious values different just as pointedly as they coincide, and the desire to accommodates it all often results in stalemate…and no one is satisfied. One could argue that secularization is the inevitable outcome of pluralism, but then why is Europe so much secular than the US, despite the fact that it is significantly more religiously homogeneous?

    I had a hard time coming to terms with Reno’s tacit approval of Bob Jones’ restrictions on interracial dating in the interest of preserving religious liberty–hopefully I’m not the only one. Frankly, the history of racial prejudice associated with the Religious Right [manifested by Bob Jones policies, among many others] helps to fuel the Secularists’ anti-religious fervor, even though by most metrics it no longer should. And during Reno’s final three recommendations, when he says the Relgious Nones “tend to outsource their civic responsibilities and charitable obligations to government in the form of expanded government programs and higher taxes” proves he is just as capable of snarky distortions of the secular Left as they are at stereotyping the Religious Right. Still, he doesn’t seem particularly sanguine about the future of religious liberty, and he offers plenty of depressing evidence.

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