If it’s not illegal, it shouldn’t be a sin

11 02 2019

This is my flippant “hot take” of the week. I’ve been thinking some about the “culture wars” since my post on Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. For the longest time, I’ve thought it a rather problematic idea that once established religions supported by the state (such as Roman Catholicism) need to “go underground” once their beliefs and morality once backed by power suddenly become persecuted by the same power. Why not just go with the flow then? The Peace of Westphalia brought us the principle of “cuius regio, eius religio” (the religion of he who governs is the religion of the realm). Under that principle came an emphasis on all sorts of things that modern people find repugnant. Sin and legality aligned relatively well, at least on serious sins. Sure, there were always prostitutes who were tolerated, but their behaviors were regulated. People could lie and cheat, but it was still frowned upon as it is now. So is murder (of post-birth people at least) and theft. There was hypocrisy of course, that’s another given.

I think it’s rather stupid, for example, for the Catholic Church to still make people go to church on days when most people have to work. I am talking about “Holy Days of Obligation”. So let me get this straight: back in the day, you created “Holy Days” when people feasted and celebrated but yes, also went to church. Then you lost the hearts and minds of the people, society changed, those holy days became regular days, and you STILL expect people to go to church on their own time? That’s rather silly.  The Church essentially threw in the towel to secularism, but still expects people to pick up the tab.

Of course, abortion is still ending a human life, and fornication isn’t a virtue necessarily. But the Church isn’t going to stop people from divorcing by making it a sin (gasp!). If the Church still had a confessional state, and divorce was illegal, well, that would be far easier to understand. Having a regime where divorce is legal means you will have divorce, and your own people will divorce. You can’t expect people to be mature about it. To echo a sentiment previously expressed, people are only as loyal as their options. If you give them the option to sin, they will sin, because vice is easy and virtue is hard.

I am not letting vices off the hook. I am more saying that it is pointless to separate spiritual implications from secular ones. Nor am I necessarily saying we need to go back to a confessional state. But on certain “below the belt” issues especially, there is almost no point advocating your position once you have renounced your quest for a monopoly on power. You can have fantasies of “going Mormon” of going off and finding your own Zion on the hill with your own rules, but short of that, you’re stuck with the regime you consented to govern you. So don’t act surprised when people persecute you because you hate gays (because, let’s face it, it’s kind of true), you think there are only two genders, etc. You lost that battle a long time ago. I don’t necessarily reject your concerns, but it’s not realistic to expect people to act according to your views if you have no mechanism of coercion. Otherwise, expect persecution, but unlike the early Christians, this was an “own goal” by the Church itself.



One response

10 03 2019

“People are only as loyal as their options”; I’m glad you’re repeating this, because it bears repeating.

Glad you’re bringing up Westphalia; there is, in the background, still the idea that the Church is the sacral anchor for a public culture, and, if the public moves on, will find a replacement –even if it’s a void to be filled in by the individual’s conscience or appetite or whimsy– for that anchor. What fills the role of the spiritual in the secular-spiritual divide once the secular has emancipated itself? Is the secular sufficiently autonomous, or has it found a substitute for the spiritual, or is it haunted by the shadow it has renounced?

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