Towards A Good Samaritan World

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

THE GRAND INQUISITOR

Andrew Sullivan overreacts:

"President Bush said yesterday that he doesn't 'see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord,' but that he is always mindful to protect the right of others to worship or not worship." So, out of his beneficence, he won't trample on others' religious freedom. But the White House? That's for Christians only. No Jews? Or atheists? Notice also the evangelical notion of a personal "relationship" with the Lord. That also indicates suspicion of those Christians with different approaches to the divine... The president surely needs to retract the statement.


C'mon now, Andrew. When I imagine what it would be like to be president, the first thing I think is: I would need a much healthier prayer life before I would even think about it. Thinking and reasoning have their place, and I feel like I can do those decently well on my own, but leadership requires making decisions of huge consequence-- and you don't have time to think them over properly first! Intuition is required. And with every decision, nay every word, reverberating around the world and potentially affecting millions of lives... it would break me, psychologically, unless I could rely on the feeling of a relationship with God (far stronger than I have now) for emotional support. That's me. And apparently that's Bush. Others may feel differently.

Bush isn't calling for a constitutional amendment to bar atheists from the presidency. He's saying, I guess, that he wouldn't vote for one. His opinion. Can't the president express an opinion, Andrew?

It's because of posts like this that I've renamed Sullivan "The Grand Inquisitor" in my blogroll.

[UPDATE: In response to a reader who made a similar point, Andrew explains his position:

One of the tasks of liberal citizenship is to eschew our religious convictions as guides to the equality of other citizens. It is, in my view, a failure of the liberal temperament to regard some who have a different faith or no faith as somehow less qualified for public office, let alone the highest public office.


This is a popular but untenable view. It represents an extreme variation on the doctrine of separation of church and state, according to which the barrier between church and state must exist not only at the institutional level but also must regulate the mind of every citizen, inasmuch as he or she engages in public affairs. It is unfeasible not only because the mass citizenry could never be trained to do this, but because the the church-state distinction could never be articulated in a cogent way at all: religion and citizenship overlap in too many ways. The effect of Sullivan's view if implemented (held by many others as well, of course) would be to reduce Christians to a second-class citizenship where they must practice self-censorship throughout most of their lives. Already, Christians and other religious people are taxed to educate their own children in a manner that marginalizes, undermines, and sometimes directly contradicts their beliefs.]

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