Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Naked Public Square?

Lawsuit Threat Cancels Christmas Concert (to benefit African children)

These kinds of stories are becoming more frequent around the Christmas holiday.  Some Christian group or church somewhere does something about Christ on Christmas, some atheist group complains, public officials get worried and the public display of a Christian Christmas is somehow muted.  Each circumstance is different, but there is an underlying assumption that needs to be challenged.

The atheist public square is not a religiously or morally neutral public square.  It is a false assumption, though a powerful one in our culture right now, that removing religious influence from culture somehow makes it more ‘neutral’ when it comes to religion and morality.  Atheism as a public disposition (what some have called the “naked public square”) is just as much a religious and moral statement as is the expression of Christianity.  

Why would I believe that public discourse where God is not a possibility is better than one where God is?

I have had several conversations in which people want to claim that atheism is the “objective” point of view simply and humbly aimed at the truth of the matter, while Christianity is opposed to reason and inquiry and forces belief on people.  This is a position argued for by the so-called New-Atheists, but it lacks the value of sustainability.  In arguing against the worldview of Christianity and for the worldview of atheism, people accept, both explicitly and implicitly, a set of moral and religious beliefs.

Instead of, “there is a God,” or, “there might be a God,” their assertion is, “there is not a God,” or, “there is probably not a God.”  Every one of those propositions will have consequences in the public square, and to deny that is to plead a special exemption for your point of view.  So if each assertion about ultimate reality has public consequences, then what is each believer to do?

Stand up in public and present the best case you can for your point of view.  If each has consequences that affect our lives in powerful ways, and they all do, then it really matters how they are presented to everybody else.

What should we avoid doing?  Exactly what is revealed in these kinds of stories – whine about Christians, squeeze them out of the public discourse, and pretend everything will go along as usual.

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