At the Law and Religion Forum today, I interview Rusty Reno on his new book, Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society. Among other things, he and I discuss whether a Christian society is compatible with contemporary notions of pluralism, how Christianity might promote a more secure understanding of freedom and lessen the gap in social capital between rich and poor, and why he thinks President Obama personifies our new “post-Protestant WASP elite.”
We live in a pluralistic society. I don’t advocate imposing a set menu of moral standards. But I’m more and more convinced that we need to call out the progressive ideal of self-created meaning. It’s a luxury for the rich (who by the way don’t actually live in accord with the ideal). As a society we can endorse a broad, open-ended moral realism. This may mean accepting pluralism in education, allowing different communities to provide morally rigorous formation for children. It will also mean tolerating disagreements about moral truth. But at least we can dislodge the nonjudgmentalists from their position of smug moral superiority.
Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” What he warns us against is the tendency to imagine that we are immune from the corrupting power of sin, allowing us to judge from above, as it were. The implication is not to downplay moral standards. That quote comes from the Sermon on the Mount, a very strict and demanding part of the Bible! So I’d say that we’re to see a Christian society as a community of mutual exhortation rather than condemning judgment—and rather than relativistic nonjudgmentalism.
You can read the full interview here.