One of Andrew's correspondents writes, of this post:

It seems to me inevitable that if you employ what amounts to a religious test for your politics, that the same logic would justify a political test for your religion. If the two are so tightly fused that they become indistinguishable -- if the liberal compromise of acknowledging politics as a sphere to itself, with, in a sense, its own reasons and discourse, is essentially rejected -- then how could it be otherwise?

You see this rejection of liberalism, in the best and truest sense of the word, when people like Ross Douthat use language like this: "...a legislator who happens to support deeply-immoral measures..." I for one think there is a meaningful distinction between being pro-choice and supporting abortion, between allowing others to make choices we find morally problematic and actually urging or even demanding others make those choices. I sincerely believe that there are few things more moral, decent, humane, and dare I say Christian than refraining from using the coercive power of the state to punish those who do not agree with every tenet of your moral system. This is not "relativism" -- this is an ethic of restraint when it comes to politics.



A question for the emailer: Are there any "deeply-immoral" measures that a legislator could support that would merit some sort of sanction from his pastor or bishop? Was, for instance, the Archbishop of New Orleans betraying liberalism's "moral, decent and humane" line between church and state when he denied communion to diehard segregationists? If the answer is yes, I applaud your consistency even as I deplore your theory of the Church's proper role in politics. If the answer is no, then what we disagree about is not whether we should refrain from "using the coercive power of the state to punish those who do not agree with every tenet of [my] moral system" (I advocated no such thing, needless to say), but how deeply-immoral a measure has to be before supporting it would become grounds for the denial of communion. In other words, we have a disagreement about (surprise!) the nature of abortion - whether, like other acts of violence, it's the sort of crime that the civil as well as the moral law should sanction, or whether it's a sin along the lines of gossip, say, or sloth, which the civil authorities can't and shouldn't regulate - not some deep theory of church-state separation that involves a "rejection of liberalism" on my part.

And yes, all of this should go without saying.

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