Religion and Law in Contemporary US
Bill Long 10/29/06
The Contemporary Scene/The Future
I. The Convergence of Evangelicalism and Conservative Roman Catholicism
A. What Catholicism "Used to Be"--JFK & Religion
B. Catholicism Enters the Religious/Political Mainstream--focus on
Richard Niehaus and The Naked Public Square (1984)
C. The Joint Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics (1994)
II. The "Best Hope" for the Mainline Church--the Rediscovery of Spirituality
A. Richard Foster, Renovare, and the Celebration of Discipline (1978).
B. Discovery of the Spiritual Classics and Disciplines--Readings and Study Groups on the "Twelve Spiritual Disciplines"
III. The Present State/Future of Law in Connection to Religion
A. And the Walls Came Tumbling Down--Moving from a "Wall of Separation" between Church and State to "Accommodation" between the Two--The US Supreme Court in the 1980s.
B. Faith-based Initiatives
IV. America's "Growing Edges" in Religion--The Three "M's"
C. Muslims and
D. Much More to Say....
When John F. Kennedy was campaigning for the Presidency in 1960 he had to quell fears that his Catholicism meant that he would be "taking orders from Rome." Here is an excerpt from a Sept. 12, 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.
"I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisiible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all...."
The following document represents a milestone in a conversation between Evangelicals and Catholics, a conversation begun in 1984 when Charles Colson contacted the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus after the publication of the latter's The Naked Public Square. Beginning in 1992, recognized leaders among Evangelicals and (conservative) Catholics decided to hammer out a statement, ultimately released in Spring 1994 called "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." The most telling paragraph regarding this cooperative engagement was the fifth: "We Contend Together." In part, it said:
"With the Founders, we hold that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The statement that the unborn child is a human life that-barring natural misfortune or lethal intervention-will become what everyone recognizes as a human baby is not a religious assertion. It is a statement of simple biological fact. That the unborn child has a right to protection, including the protection of law, is a moral statement supported by moral reason and biblical truth. We, therefore, will persist in contending-we will not be discouraged but will multiply every effort-in order to secure the legal protection of the unborn. Our goals are: to secure due process of law for the unborn, to enact the most protective laws and public policies that are politically possible, and to reduce dramatically the incidence of abortion. We warmly commend those who have established thousands of crisis pregnancy and postnatal care centers across the country, and urge that such efforts be multiplied. As the unborn must be protected, so also must women be protected from their current rampant exploitation by the abortion industry and by fathers who refuse to accept responsibility for mothers and children. Abortion on demand, which is the current rule in America, must be recognized as a massive attack on the dignity, rights, and needs of women. Abortion is the leading edge of an encroaching culture of death. The helpless old, the radically handicapped, and others who cannot effectively assert their rights are increasingly treated as though they have no rights. These are the powerless who are exposed to the will and whim of those who have power over them. We will do all in our power to resist proposals for euthanasia, eugenics, and population control that exploit the vulnerable, corrupt the integrity of medicine, deprave our culture, and betray the moral truths of our constitutional order. In public education, we contend together for schools that transmit to coming generations our cultural heritage, which is inseparable from the formative influence of religion, especially Judaism and Christianity. Education for responsible citizenship and social behavior is inescapably moral education. Every effort must be made to cultivate the morality of honesty, law observance, work, caring, chastity, mutual respect between the sexes, and readiness for marriage, parenthood, and family. We reject the claim that, in any or all of these areas, "tolerance" requires the promotion of moral equivalence between the normative and the deviant. In a democratic society that recognizes that parents have the primary responsibility for the formation of their children, schools are to assist and support, not oppose and undermine, parents in the exercise of their responsibility. We contend together for a comprehensive policy of parental choice in education. This is a moral question of simple justice."
The contemporary focus on "Spiritual Disciplines" or the emphasis on "Spiritual Formation" emerged from Richard Foster's best-selling 1978 work Celebration of Discipline. In this book he argued for the importance of rediscovering what he referred to as the classic spiritual disciplines in life: the inward disciplines of prayer, fasting, and meditation in the Christian life, the outward disciplines of simplicity, submission, and service, and the corporate disciplines of confession, worship, and celebration. Celebration has sold over one million copies. It was named by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the twentieth century. More recently he has edited, with Emilie Griffin, Spiritual Classics (2000), which are selected readings for individuals and groups on the twelve spiritual disciplines (also including study, solitude, guidance). Here is a statement of what Foster means by spiritual discplines/formation.
"Reading with the Heart"
"Probably one of the most important things we could ask of you as you work with these readings is to slow down, breathe deeply, and read with the heart. Much of our life today is lived at breakneck speed. Often our tight schedules are well motivated. We want to give our families and ourselves the best of everything: sports practice, music lessons, visits to the zoo, good schoolling, stimulating after-school events, family gatherings, church life, and social life. All this has great merit. But if our schedules are so overcrowded that we begin to miss the real meaning of things, we are paying too high a price...."
"There is a technical word for this kind of reading and it might be helpful for you to know it--lectio divina, 'divine reading.' This is a kind of reading in which the mind descends into the heart, and both are drawn into the love and goodness of God. We are doing more than reading words; we are seeking 'the Word exposed in the words,"' to use the phrase of Karl Barth. We are endeavoring to go beyond information to formation--to being formed and molded by what we read. We are listening with the heart to the Holy within. This praerful rading, as we might call it, transforms us and strengthens us.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long