Liberals, Law, and the Notion of “Progress”

by walterm on December 3, 2016

It is interesting me how liberal progressive almost to a person say that Christians, a) have no right to impose their views on others, and b) have no right to express their views in the public square. If they do believe Christians have the right to be heard in the public square, they feel any views that have a religious component still should have no say in matters of law or culture. Their views, however, since they are not religious, should be accepted in matters of law and culture. And note that this typically only applies to Christianity. I have often wondered how they can defend this view, knowing that the First Amendment of our Constitution reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Note there is no “separation of church and state” in the words above, which is the typical argument liberal progressives proffer as the reason under the law that Christian views have no place in civil society. The reading, however, is clear.  In the first clause, Congress, as in the federal government, shall make no law that establishes a religion. That does not apply, however, at the state level. States can have official religions, but not even one has adopted the practice. In the second clause, the First Amendment is perspicuous in that the free exercise of religion by citizens shall not be prohibited. Therefore, the Christian, Muslim, Jew, or person of any other faith has the full right to exercise their freedom of speech which includes advocating for policies that they hold dear in government.

So, why does the liberal progressive believe his views are the only legitimate views that apply when it comes to law and government? From discussions with various progressives, and hearing views of prominent progressives on radio and television, their belief is that religious views are, first, false views. Second, they believe religious views are antiquated since they’re based on texts that were written thousands of years ago. People knew far less back then, and didn’t have access to the technology that we have now, so anyone that espouses those views is necessarily backwards and bigoted. Therefore, since religion (in particular, Christianity) is patently false, and even worse, wholly bigoted, religious views have no place in the public square. The only views worth anything are those that have come about as the result of an ever-advancing culture. These views represent cultural “progress” and thus trump “backwards” religious views.

Now the notion of cultural progress today is nothing new, having received great recognition in the publishing of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1959. In this seminal book that has literally changed the world over the past 150 years, Darwin made his argument that history has been about steady evolutionary progress, with the development from lower to higher forms in the history of the universe culminating (at least for now) with man. He marveled at the industriousness and progress of Victorian England at the time, which he used to demonstrate the notion of steady progression towards perfection. It chagrined Darwin, however, that man began interfering by establishing institutions that took care of those who whom he deemed as unfit (i.e., the weak, the sick, or the malformed). Regardless, the notion took and those that accepted an evolutionary view see nothing as transcendent and objective, but everything as fully immanent and subjective.  And thus, morality and law are entirely culturally bound.

I believe it is a demonstrably bad argument to say people hundreds or even thousands of years ago are somehow not as enlightened as we are now. When you look at the rich writings of antiquity, such as those of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Pliny, Augustine, and Aquinas, how many liberal progressives of today will you find that can match their level of scholarship? Or look at the great scientists such as Ptolemy, Eratosthenes, Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton. How many people, with the technology of today, can match their genius? Few, if any. My point is that brilliance and wisdom are timeless, and while every human is a product of their time, people five hundred years hence will look back on the ignorance and backwardness of our eras even though they will still find a few whose brilliance continues to shine, just as people of today look back on the brilliance of those I mentioned above. Progressives of today would do well to learn from and not denounce those who value the wisdom of antiquity. As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” That is wisdom of the ages.


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