Todd Aiken and the challenge of secularism
I haven’t followed the implosion of Covenant Seminary alumnus and Republican representative Todd Aiken’s political flame out. About the only thing I can say about it is that Aiken said something stupid. Of course, he’s a politician. Most politicians are better at the art of getting elected than they are at the art of thinking. They pay other people to think on their behalf and other people pay them to vote on their behalf. Okay, that was snarky–forgive me.
It is interesting to read the responses to Aiken’s gaffe because they expose the real religion of American society–a secular, liberal faith in the autonomy of the individual and the bracketing of religious claims to knowledge outside of the public square. When I say religious, theological is closer to the point. Secular society has effectively come to understand religious or theological knowledge as something other than what it is–that is, knowledge. It is opinion or, worse, some manifestation of a Nietzschean will to power.
L. Z. Granderson writes,
Some social conservatives talk of protecting religious freedom, but what they are really seeking is a theocracy that places limits on freedom based on a version of Judeo-Christianity that fits their liking. That language is also being considered for the GOP’s national platform. Some speak of fighting abortion because of their religious convictions and then belittle the trauma caused by rape.
Granderson here describes in a via negativa the fundamental tenets of the secular society–which is an alternate gospel, an a-gospel as it were.
So what does Granderson’s society look like:
It is free of religious or theological knowledge. Such knowledge can only produce a “theocracy.”
It places no limits on the autonomy of the individual. The limitation of the rights of the individual to pursue what pleases him is oppression–any form of restriction to self-definition or self-actualization is a form of violence fit to done away with.
This is a profound challenge to Christian people. Why? Because the view that Granderson is espousing is a rival gospel and a rival religion. As Christians we’re told that we are to have no other God than God. And yet, the dominant social theory of today and our dominant self-understanding in the political sphere enthrones each of us as god–a profound idolatry.
There is no knowledge that is not first theological knowledge–grounded in an embrace of or a rejection of the God in whom all that is consists. The issue for Christians is how to live faithfully in a post-Christian world where each of us is seen as the sum of our appetites rather than a being made in the image and likeness of God.