Essay / Culture

A Serious Definition of the Religious Right

What is the religious right?I suggested that people should stop using the phrase if they cannot define it.One of my students challenged me to give it a try. I have done a parody definition, but here is a serious attempt.A person is a member of the “religious right” in the United States if and only if, he:a. believes basic human rights are given by the Creator God. These rights include:

1. life (hence strong support for the “culture of life” from conception to natural death) 2. liberty 3. ownership of private property.

b. believes that liberty is found in an absolute freedom to do what is right and not in the freedom to do what is wrong. There is no fundamental right to do harm or evil.c. believes that “right and wrong” can be broadly known by reason and by divine revelation. Divine revelation is knowledge and can be used in the secular realm. However:

1. the “secular” realm (as opposed to the Church) should allow religious pluralism as much as possible since God allows for freedom of conscience.2. limitations to religious liberty are so serious that a Christian legislator should pass as few laws as possible (in order to protect life, liberty, and private property) so as to avoid offending the conscience of the minority.3. limitations on human knowledge, even with divine revelation, are so severe in our fallen state that no human institution should be “sure” of itself. Therefore, such institutions should always remain modest in size and err on the side of letting the guilty go free in order to avoid the false persecution of the innocent.

d. believes that given human nature and a pluralistic society that a small central government is the best means to obtain a good society.e. believes that the Kingdom of God will not come in this life. There will be no utopia. Humans are so fallible that no one institution can be trusted with too much power. Church and state must always check each other in influence.f. believes that of late the “secular” sphere has been hi-jacked by “secularists,” those who think religion does not provide useful knowledge, and who would exclude religious knowledge from public debates.

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