For some time now the positions of the two national political parties regarding religious and moral issues have been getting farther and farther apart. At least since the time of Rev. Jerry Falwell and his proclamation of the Moral Majority, the Republicans have been our partners in the culture war (the Christian position), and the Democrats our enemies (the secular-atheistic position).
Now it seems the resolve of FIRST THINGS is also wavering ("Our Challenges," August/September). Right after we lost the presidential election in November 2012, R. R. Reno's editorial was critical of the Republican party. Now, in the August/September issue, he again writes that we do not want to be identified with the Republican party, that we do not want to be seen as joining the GOP.
FIRST THINGS, then, is in a pickle, because the COP has joined FIRST THINGS. On issue after issue--subsidiarity, educational freedom, life issues, sexual morality, the value of religion in society, the right to religious freedom, etc.--consistently, the Republican party holds the Christian position and the Democratic party the anti-Christian one. Openly, explicitly, President Obama and his administration, with the support of the Democratic party, are the standard bearers of the forces of secularism, atheism, and immorality.
What is the sense, then, in trying to distance ourselves from the Republicans? What that would mean is that we are abandoning our allies. And the result may be that we would continue to lose, the secular-atheistic Democrats would win, and the moral standards of society would continue to deteriorate.
Luis F. Caso
R. R. Reno, George Weigel, Ephraim Radner, and Eric Cohen offer much food for thought in their assessment of the challenges that FIRST THINGS and the movement it represents face today. Permit me to offer a brief reflection on behalf of the younger side (those under thirty) of that movement. While we can see firsthand some of the trajectories mentioned in these essays--for example, an increase in liturgical sobriety within Christian churches and an increased hostility toward religion outside them--the endpoints of those trajectories form the world in which we begin our engagement with public life.
This means that, in many respects, we find ourselves in the shoes of the early Christians. When we talk with our friends and colleagues, we are keenly aware that we represent a minority position. Some of our beliefs are acceptable, others unfathomable. This, in turn, has two implications. First, like the early--and, for that matter, medieval--Christians, we must be eager to appropriate all that is good in secular culture. For example, we should discard political liberalism and the protection of human rights and the environment no more than they discarded Platonic or Aristotelian philosophy. But, like our forbears, we must be willing to redefine the terms and provide new foundations in light of the truth of God. We can speak of freedom and autonomy, but must also talk of nature and duty.
In the old comedy The Princess Bride, one character says to another, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it...