Senator Rick Santorum: Charge to Revive the Role of Faith in the Public Square
It should not make us uncomfortable to call something evil if that's what it is. Having convictions doesn't mean that we don't understand the complexity of the world -- it means that we are able to prioritize the pursuit of truth and justice and call evil what it is.
Our American civilization has reflected a most healthy union of faith and reason. From long experience, we know that faith for its own sake, apart from love of truth is only a sentiment, and that reason for its own sake withers into rationalism. Neither is autonomous. If I have faith only in myself, I belong to a very small religion. And as for the right use of reason, let's remember what G. K. Chesterton said: "A madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason."
In his Regensburg address, Pope Benedict XVI contrasted the Judeo-Christian revelation with the concept of God held by some outside of the Judeo-Christian world as aloof from reason. He also discussed those societies which would attempt to live without God, as in secular Europe or Communist China. In the secular West, he said, "... the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it."
The movement in our country to fly on "one wing," reason alone, will ultimately undermine the very foundation of our country -- freedom. America is rooted in the founders' belief that free people, whose God-given rights are protected by a government that allows the individual to pursue their dreams and reap the fruits of their labor, would build the most just and prosperous society in the history of man. They were right; freedom was the key ingredient in the American experiment. Our founders understood it was relatively easy to establish freedom in our Constitution, the harder task was to create a system that would maintain it against the corrosive force of time. The author Os Guinness describes how they accomplished this as the Golden Triangle of Freedom: "Freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith and faith requires freedom and around again."
That freedom requires virtue was explained by the political philosopher Edmund Burke, who wrote: "Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites ... Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."
Virtue requires faith because faith is the primary teacher of morality. That is not to say that one cannot be virtuous without faith, but for society as a whole faith is the indispensable agent of virtue. Faith requires freedom. Why has America remained a deeply religious country averting the road to secularism traveled by our European brothers and sisters? Again Madison's "true remedy," the combination of "free exercise" and no religious state supported monopoly, has created a vibrant marketplace of religions extolling everywhere the word of God to inspire people to fulfill His special plan for each of us. Our founders' inspired brilliance created a paradigm that has given America the best chance of any civilization in the history of man to endure the test of time. Time, this time now in American history is putting that to the test.
I will conclude with a final consequence of what started here 50 years ago by bringing in one of the Catholic Church's foremost American advocates for religious freedom, John Courtney Murray. He advised us that the first two articles of the First Amendment are "not articles of faith, but articles of peace." What was Murray getting at? E Pluribus Unum -- out of many one. Our founders believed that if they fostered religion and the Judeo-Christian moral code we would achieve something that was never before seen in a country with so many competing faiths -- a truly tolerant, democratic and harmonious public square.
On June 12, 1775, Congress' first act was to urge a national day of "public humiliation, fasting and prayer" for which it commissioned "ministers of the gospel of all denominations" to participate. On the assigned day, Congress attended services at an Anglican Church in the morning and a Presbyterian meetinghouse in the afternoon. The following year they convened at Philadelphia's "Roman Chapel" and later a Dutch Lutheran Church. This is the vision. A vibrant, fully clothed public square; a marketplace of believers and non-believers where truth could be proffered and reasoned, and differences civilly tolerated.
One of my favorite sayings is: "We don't appreciate what we have until it's gone". For over 200 years we have been blessed with a country often described as a melting pot. The fire that helped to gently melt us together into a country where people of different faiths and cultures come together in our dynamic democracy to peaceably find common ground -- is that first freedom -- the true remedy.
What the movement spawned here 50 years ago seems to disregard is that repressing or banishing people of faith from having a say in government creates alienation which could lead to disaffection and conflict as we have seen in other countries around the world. Think about all of the people in this country from different cultures who if they lived in their native country would be sworn enemies. Yet when they come to America they are inoculated with something that enables them to work together on the school board and neighborhood associations.A key ingredient in that inoculation is the freedom of conscience that ameliorates the fear, frustration and mistrust that comes from repression.
Kennedy's speech was historic because it did offer a teachable moment. In the short term it accomplished a great good by helping to put an end to Catholic bigotry. Unfortunately, its lasting impact not only undermined the essential role that faith has successfully played in America, but it reduced religion to mere personal "belief" and helped launch a cultural revolution, proclaiming loudly that on matters of moral consequence, reason has no truths it can discern, nothing of moral significance it can claim to know, much less contribute to the public debate.
That's the "faith" that is being offered by those who want to change the time tested Golden Triangle of Freedom. You'll see it in the public square today, and it's popular because it pretends to impose nobody's values on anybody. Yet it's an illusion because it uses a cloak of "neutrality," "objectivity" and "rationality" that results in the imposition of secular values on everybody while marginalizing faith and those who believe as "moralizing theocrats".
Kennedy concluded his Houston speech by saying he did not "intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election." The sad fact is he could have stood by his beliefs and won; he chose not to. Instead he charted a course that has won many elections, but has put American civilization at risk. I have always felt comfortable to be on the path our founders took, the one that is now less traveled and invites the most criticism. I do so because I believe we all have an obligation to be good stewards of this great inheritance that generations of Americans created with their last full measure of devotion.
That's why we should feel so blessed to be here at a time when the land that God has so richly blessed is being put to the test. Many generations are never called to do great things, make great sacrifices to maintain liberty. We are the fortunate ones who have the opportunity not only preserve but build on the founders' vision of freedom supported by virtue which in turn is supported by a vibrant faith -- a mutually strengthening interface of church and state that with our collective effort will keep America that beacon of hope that shining city on the hill.
Bless you and may God continue to bless America.
Rick Santorum is a senior fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center and former U.S. Senator (R-PA).
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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