Monday, November 26, 2012
Faith Is not Voodoo
I couldn’t help but think about that incident this week as I read two bits of news. First, in the Ninth Circuit’s ruling on California’s Proposition 8, the majority opinion ruled that the initiative failed the “rational basis standard,” meaning it was based on irrational thought, rooted, apparently, in religious irrationality in particular. Second, in a transcript of an exchange at Vanderbilt, the chief academic officer of the institution scolded students who wished to allow their religious faith to influence their decision-making:Where did we go so wrong that people would come to view us as TOTALLY irrational? I would argue that the root of the problem lies in the fact that we treat our faith as if it is there to serve us. It's one of the qualifications we need to fit into a certain place. Or, we think is is part of the path to prosperity. Or, we think we need it to bring up our kids right. Or, we thin we'll feel good about ourselves becasue Jesus loves us. Those are the same reasons other people pursue other things - nothing in this approach to Christianity sets it or us apart from the rest of the world. The only thing we take seriously in this approach to our faith is ourselves. What if we actually took our faith more seriously than ourselves?
Now let me give you another example, and this would affect all of you. I’m Catholic. What if my faith beliefs guided all of the decisions I make from day to day?[At this point, the crowd applauds the idea that people should live according to their faith.] No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! [Disagreement from crowd.] Well, I know you do, but I’m telling you that as a Catholic I am very comfortable using my best judgment as a person to make decisions. As a Catholic, if I held that life begins at conception, I’d have a very big problem with our hospital. Right? Would I not? . . . I would, but I don’t. . . . We don’t want to have personal religious views intrude on good decisionmaking on this campus. They can guide your personal conduct, but I’m not going to let my faith life intrude. We don’t want to have personal religious views intrude on good decision-making on this campus. They can guide your personal conduct, but I’m not going to let my faith life intrude.The spirit of those views toward faith is the same spirit of my classmate, that faith and rationality are mutually exclusive terms. The gravity of the articulations of the view, however, is stunningly different. A classmate may look askance at me, but a federal appellate panel and an institution’s senior officer for intellectual pursuits have real teeth that can gobble up the rights of persons of faith (and not just Christians, I might add; such animus crosses all lines of belief). For those of us who are devotees of both history and literature, we recognize, with a shudder, this line of thinking starts with the ad hominem retort, “Oh yeah? Well, you’re crazy!” and ends by populating gulags (mental illness being a primary grounds for imprisonment by dictators) with candidates for sanity retraining (i.e., one’s conformity with the dictator’s views). Persons of faith know that the only path to true reason is that of faith, for the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and without that canon standard, we are left to our own devices to account for right and wrong. In the end, we choose whatever matches our covert desires to become tyrannical mini-gods. Without the external standard of revealed faith and knowledge, we are left to create yardsticks that are based on the various lengths of our own individual feet and such a lack of objective measurements leads to a world that is filled with chaotic and conflicting architecture.
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