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Reducing Religion to Ethics

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Wednesday, I argued that George Weigel was complicit in the secularization he denounces because he, and others like him, have been reducing religion to ethics for many years now. It has been suggested to me that I tease out precisely what I mean by this idea of reducing religion to ethics.

The American Ur-text of the phenomenon of reducing religion to ethics is a text often cited by those who seek to demonstrate how profoundly religious the American founding was, George Washington’s Farewell Address, in which we find these words:

Rotondaro on Income Inequality

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At Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Fred Rotondaro lays out the big picture on income inequality. I wish he had been on CNN last night. They had someone from the Wall Street Journal who made the point, factually correct but grossly misleading without context, that the wealthy have been paying a great and greater share of federal taxes in recent decades. He failed to note what Rotondaro points out - they are paying more because they have garnered almost all of the income growth in hte past thirty years. The middle class is not paying more because they are not making more.

Clark on Entitlements

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Meghan Clark is fast becoming one of my favorite young theologians. She has a post up at PoliticalTheology.com about entitlements that makes, with greater theological sophistication than I am capable of, one of the points I have been trying to make here: Yes, people, as people, are entitled to food, shelter and health care. She also usefully debunks the "false dichotomy" between person/private charity and government assistance. Good stuff.

Redistribution & The Parallel Universe at Fox

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It was clear that the strategists in Mitt Romney’s campaign thought that they had something damaging on President Obama when they released a copy of a tape, made fourteen years ago, in which Barack Obama, then a state senator, told an audience that he was in favor of some level of redistribution, at least enough to “give everybody a shot.” The Romney campaign released this video in response to the emergence of Romney’s now infamous “47%” comments. Alas for Romney, not all “secret” tapes are created equal.

I do not need to add anything to the large body of commentary about why Romney’s comments were wrong about the facts, and morally offensive to boot. The fact that you have prominent Republicans distancing themselves from Mr. Romney’s comments tells you all you need to know about their political consequences. But, I am more interested in why the Romney campaign thought the Obama tape about “redistribution” would serve as an effective counter. After all, government has always been involved in some kind of redistribution of wealth. That is what taxes do, take from some and give to projects or programs that will benefit others.

Weigel & Secularism

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George Weigel decries the influences and the effects of secularism in his latest column. Secularism worries me too. But, what I find ironic is that Mr. Weigel, as much as any contemporary Catholic writer, has been complicit in the march of secularism. How so?

Weigel invokes Charles Taylor’s observation about “exclusivist secularism” once thought to be a strictly European affair, the consequence of fights between conservative Catholics pining for the return of the ancient regime and those who associated that regime with the Church and, consequently, saw in the Church an enemy. In America, Weigel warns, the threat of secularism may be less direct but it is no less lethal.

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