Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Battle

Is the secularism of today really neutral, or is it instead a State-supported stealth religion, attempting to secure a greater role in our thinking? Bill Clinton’s US Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, described the battle in which modern secularism is now engaged:

• The underlying battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernist fanatics; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe human beings owe blind allegiance to a higher authority; between those who give authority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is no more than preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe truth is revealed solely through scripture and religious dogma, and those who rely primarily on science, reason, and logic. (Hunter Baker, The End of Secularism, 18)

I appreciate the fact that Reich was willing to admit that this “underlying battle” is actually being waged. It seems that most secularists will deny this fact, deceptively claiming that they are just trying to be neutral. He has also laid out the fundamental battle lines with clarity, although not without considerable distortion. He writes that those who believe in a “higher authority” are “blind” in their allegiance to Him. Not only is this inaccurate, but it is also very degrading, suggesting that we are mindless.

Likewise, although Reich correctly suggests that our prime interest is in eternity, he pejoratively claims that we “believe that human life is NO MORE than preparation for an existence beyond life.” Hence, he wrongly portrays us as uninterested in this life. Instead, it is our belief in eternity that lends meaning and purpose to our existence here.

Although Reich is correct to suggest that “scripture” is our highest authority, it is not correct that we “believe truth is revealed SOLELY through scripture.” We believe that God also communicates His truth to us through our mind, conscience, and His creation.

Clearly, these subtle and negative misrepresentations are all part of the “underlying battle” of winning hearts and minds. What are the other weapons of this battle? We need to answer this question, for if we fail to see their arrows, we will fall victim to them. Professor of Politics and Law at Vanderbilt, Carol M. Swain, argues that secularism has successfully and hypocritically banned religious speech:

• A fundamental principle of [secular] academia is that religion is a private matter, never to be discussed in the public square. Citing Scripture and other religious texts is out of bounds – even though it is permissible for politicians or other public figures to quote their favorite philosophers, educational experts, rock stars, or new age gurus…Of course, this taboo against Scripture advantages the cultural elite…(Be the People, 43-44)

This is hypocritical! The secular elites have their own religion. Reich eloquently articulated it – a belief in the supremacy of the individual and of science. This is a religion that has taken captive even the minds of many Christians. For example, one Christian teacher confessed to me her discouragement with her students. They had all gleefully admitted that they regularly cheated on their exams. She then spoke highly about a values program that had been initiated at her school, which asked students to consider whether cheating would best help them achieve their long-range career goals.

I then asked, “Isn’t this program merely more of the same, promoting the welfare of the individual as supreme? Aren’t you merely reinforcing the secular religion which has gotten us into this trouble?”

She responded angrily, “What do you expect me to do? Do you want me to take out my Bible and start talking about God and what’s eternally right and wrong? I work at a public school!”

If it is a public school, why then is it committed to the religion of secularism that exalts the fulfillment of the individual above everything else? This is a double-standard! Secularism can secretly institute its own religion, while banning every other religion by erroneously claiming that the public square has to be neutral. According to Swain,

• Law professor Steven D. Smith argues that public discourse needs to be freed from the constraints imposed on it by secularists…Unable to use religious language and hemmed in by their own rules, Smith argues that secularists smuggle in religious concepts but call them by other names, such as liberty, freedom, or equality. This, Smith says, creates a “secular cage.” (44)

All talk of values and ideals is religious. We a stuck in a “secular cage,” where the songs of secularism are the only ones permitted to be sung. Perhaps we need to become more conversant with our own melodies, at least enough to confidently sing them out loud.

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