Liberal gerrymandering

I may have found a website that’s very relevant to a current preoccupation of mine: Postliberal Thought. For instance, apropos of my particular concern for religious freedom, what if the very definition of “religion” in our liberal order is gerrymandered in favor or the state waxing, religion waning?

To think that the liberal state allows for “freedom of religion” in some sort of metaphysical sense is quaint. In fact, the State is indifferent to particular religions because they operate within the stability of the juridical, public category of “religion,” and such variations are by definition socially irrelevant …

Within late liberalism, then, one has freedom of religion precisely to the extent that the State has defined religious content, per se, as not mattering to its order; as something private and so indifferent, like one’s favorite color. As soon as this is not the case, as soon as an opinion or action is understood to impinge on the rights of other legal personae or to affect their public options, these opinions or actions cease to be considered properly religious and are therefore eligible for regulation by the State, a phenomenon clearly on display in State action against bakers or florists who decline to participate in same-sex weddings …

It is imperative that we recognize the tautological nature of this discourse … “The secular” is really nothing more than a name for societies that use or operate “religion” in this manner – as a kind of holding pen for these private, personal actions that do not yet affect the State.

Within late liberalism, then, religions are simply voluntary associations relevant to particular aspects of their members’ private lives. As soon as a religion verges into non-religious aspects of members’ private lives, it becomes a cult; if it verges into coercion, it becomes a terrorist organization; if it mobilizes for political action it becomes a political party; and if it starts manufacturing and selling goods, it becomes a business. In a liberal order, these actions are generally understood as perversions because within its categorical schema the content of religion doesn’t belong in certain aspects of the private or in the public realms of politics or economics. So, liberal States tend to effectively outlaw such perversions. Or else, they must redefine the public to include them and the religious to exclude them … Hospitals matter socially and so they simply cannot be, in essence, religious – and so they must be eligible for direct state regulation. Such constant redefinition is the ongoing project of liberalism’s discourse on religious liberty which is necessarily as much about defining religion and keeping it in its proper private realm as it is about protecting it from public disturbance. The late liberal notion of religious liberty is ultimately about the maintenance of the irrelevance of the “religion” category itself. Religion is by definition free and can be identified as whatever we are free to do.

Religion is just one type within a whole category of similar phenomena, “morality” being perhaps the most fundamental. For example, for many decades now Christians have attempted to mount an effective opposition to what they have called “moral relativism.” What is meant by this concept? Christians can’t really mean that our late liberal opponents don’t believe in right and wrong. We know that isn’t the case … And yet, many Christians continue to talk about moral relativism. Why?

This behavior becomes intelligible when we understand that similar to religion, in the everyday liberal vernacular, the word “moral” is restricted in application to things that society is more-or-less relativistic about … It’s not that society has relegated all “lifestyle” choices to the relativistic category of morality. Light up a cigarette in polite company to prove that is not the case. Smoking is not a “moral” issue, it’s a public health issue, like obesity, and so an appropriate object of public disdain and censure. Rather, particular behaviors have become “moral” precisely because they are understood as socially irrelevant. The relativism comes before the morality; relativism is a criterion for the category … The word “morality” comes to mean something like: “things that we all know are relative and socially unimportant but concerning which Christians have historically tried to oppress us and would again if given the chance.” In this way, the late liberal concept of morality includes within it both moral relativism and the story of Christian opposition to moral relativism. And so, when Christians argue against “moral relativism” as if it were a real thing, they reinforce not only the liberal segmenting of human action into moral (i.e. relative) things and amoral (i.e. political) things, but the marginalization of Christianity as an ultimately tyrannical dogma that has been overthrown, but which remains a threat. They are paradoxically profoundly liberal in their illiberality because liberalism requires them for its internal coherence.

… One can “define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” as long as one’s determination of that meaning, as D.C. Schindler has put it, amounts to nothing at all– at least nothing social. Liberalism provides a tidy, closed circle. This is what the so-called pluralism of liberalism ultimately amounts to. It is, in fact, a profound homogenization and enforcement of orthodoxies.

Andrew Willard Jones, What if the liberal concept of religion is the real problem?.

This blog was not light reading, but was very worthwhile. As I try to get some handle on American post-liberalism, I think I’ll be spending more time at Postliberal Thought.

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At the end of this blog appeared some utterly unfamiliar Latin, which I though might be fraught with meaning:

Cras mattis consectetur purus sit amet fermentum. Integer posuere erat a ante venenatis dapibus posuere velit aliquet. Aenean eu leo quam. Pellentesque ornare sem lacinia quam venenatis vestibulum.

So I ran it through Google translate:

Tomorrow a lot of tomato chili carrots fermentation. Whole to lay a previously sterilized protein was put outdoor bananas. Jasmine lion than football. Kids football television skirt and poisonous gas.

So I guess these guys aren’t always hyper-serious.

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