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Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Church of What’s Happening Now.

People of my generation still remember Flip Wilson’s comedic role as the Reverend Leroy, pastor of The Church of What’s Happening Now.

What's happening is that Flip Wilson's church is the new establishment.

What the uproar over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act illustrates most clearly is that the era of religious tolerance is over. There is a new church in town, and it’s established … and its ministers, bishops and popes are members of the media. Its enforcers are, as always with established churches, the courts and the government.

Centuries ago in England you were precluded from certain professions if you were not Church of England. Members of competing churches were second class citizens and quite often persecuted.   They were not allowed to worship God in their own way.

When the US was established the First Amendment to the constitution was written to prevent the Federal government from designating any denomination then in existence as the official church. The idea was partly a reaction to the religious persecution of unpopular sects in Europe. But it was also based on the very Christian belief that man’s duty to God was higher than his duty to the State, and the State should not get between a man and God.

Quite a bit has changed.

The Left is overwhelmingly secular – in the traditional religious sense - and does not believe that there is a higher power to which mankind owes allegiance. In their view it is only logical that the claim to an allegiance to something greater than the State is considered akin to either delusion or blasphemy. At the same time it adheres to the belief in the dream of the perfectibility – or at the very least improvement - of mankind via the State.

It's an assumption based not on reason but on faith.  The most murderous regimes of the 20th century were based on the belief that the State could create a better human.  The Communists has their "New Soviet Man," the Nazis had their "Ubermensch."  Unfortunately on the way to perfectibility some who resisted the program had to be liquidated under that assumption that you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

Despite the failure of the dream in Germany and the USSR, the faith has not died.  In this country its firmly established in large, influential parts of the culture.  It has all the earmarks of a faith based religion. It's a Church without a supernatural God but the State as substitute. It has all the power of an Established church.  It can get you fired if you don't beleive and threaten to burn you if you deviate from the path.  This Church of What's Happening Now's doctrine is constantly evolving, a Shapechanger, morphing virtually daily as prior cultural norms are discarded in all parts of life, in custom, views of other cultures and religions, in sexual identity, in morality, in language, in the food that we eat and the air that we breathe, even in dress.  As new ones are adopted, they require internal as well as external assent among the flock. And as the new Established Church rules our lives we are required to mouth the words in its catechism and sing the hymns of praise to our new Lords lest we bring the wrath of the clerisy on us.

Yuval Levin in NR:
That religious freedom is not a freedom to do what you want, but a freedom to do what you must. It’s not a freedom from constraint, but a recognition of a constraint higher than even the law and therefore prior to it and deserving of some leeway from legal obligations when reasonably possible…

Madison put the point this way:

It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to Him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.

It is important to note that Madison was making this case not in the context of arguing for permitting the free exercise of religion but rather in the context of arguing against the establishment of any religion by law. His point was that no one ought to be compelled to affirm as true a religious tenet he took to be false and that no one should be compelled to participate in a religious rite that violated his own understanding of his religious obligations. This is not exactly an extension of the traditional Anglo-American case for toleration. It is a Madisonian correction to the Lockean ideal of religious toleration in a society with an established church.
If Christians are now required to place the requirements of the Church of What’s Happening Now and deny the commandments of their God we are witnessing the destruction of the First Amendment. George Stephanopoulos may be the new Reverend Leroy, but do we really want to be subjects of this clown?  

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