Christians need to facilitate dialogue without arguing politics and religion.
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This is the third installment from our interview with Dr. Jay Richards; click the links below to read the previous ones:
Political events of the past few years, particularly regarding the HHS contraception mandate and religious freedom, have deeply divided American Catholics. Today, we publish an excerpt from our conversation with Dr. Richards in which he discussed how we might begin to dialog with progressives, both inside and outside the Church.
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The Practicing Catholic: You write about how orthodox Catholics may find that we have more in common with faithful Lutherans, for example, than we do with “progressive” Catholics who act like secularists. Give us some suggestions how we dialog with those who find comfort among the dissidents.
Dr. Richards: It is funny, and we talk a lot about that irony. We’re at a protest outside of Planned Parenthood, and we tend to find people who are more of kindred spirits than some our fellow Catholics. The bad news is that, you’d think if we’re appealing to fellow Catholics, we could just refer to an encyclical or Church teaching to establish the issue. However, I’ve not found that’s very effective because, frankly, there are some “progressive” Catholics – I don’t know what’s in their hearts – but whose intellectual moorings I do think are more secular. What we have to do in those cases is use the same arguments that we present in the book that you should make in the public square.
For instance with marriage, if you argue why the federal government should recognize traditional marriage in its laws and practices, we as Catholics are not going to cite the Bible or Humanae Vitae or something like that. We’re going to need to make arguments that you’d call secular arguments or public arguments based on natural reason and natural law, such as the things we talk about in the book. The institution of marriage, for instance, is a pre-political reality, just like the individual is a pre-political reality. It has a particular nature and properties apart from the government. The government doesn’t give us our rights as individuals, it merely recognizes them. Just so, a limited government should recognize the pre-political reality of a family, which is universal and perennial in every time and culture.
Fortunately, we can make those kinds of arguments without appealing to anything from the teaching of the Church or Revelation. Whether that’s persuasive or not is another thing. I do think our target audience for this book and for all of us ought to be the person in the middle who is open to arguments. If somebody is a deeply committed secular leftist, we’re just going to frustrate ourselves. I think the majority of the American public is still open to these sorts of questions; we hope they’ll find these kinds of arguments persuasive.
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