Monday, December 3, 2012

Radner takes, as usual, the narrow way, the hard road

     "What [William] Cavanaugh and contemporary antiliberal revisionists do not address, then, is the fact that the [profoundly Christian] notion of religious tolerance over and against religious violence was later overthrown by the ongoing and spectacular failures of Christians especially in the midst of and in the face of violence in which they participated:  it is this that has inflated a narrative into a 'myth,' but one for which the greatest blamea term I use deliberatelylies with the churches themselves.  Although he studiously avoids addressing the constructive question of preventing or resisting violence, even if he had, he would not be able to offer the right answer:  that is, that churches must reorient their practice more fully, not less so, to the needs of a stable and accountable liberal democracy.  Christians in the West are realizing how difficult this is, at least if they wish to keep the integrity of their gospel intact.  Cavanaugh's worries are proving well founded, as the liberal state itself betrays its founding principles for the sake of a self-consciously 'godless' ideology that increasingly itself engages the rhetoric of violence.  In some sense, the churches are now in a place where they are responsible for maintaining the integrity of civil society that must include religion.  But before this challenge, they must prove themselves a better witness than their past (and present) has too often demonstrated.  Maintaining the integrity of the gospel in a pluralistic democracy is hard.  But it is a difficulty whose overcoming is nonetheless the necessary means by which, as it were, churches will save their souls in the face of their own violent complicities.  And any call away from the facing of this task is dangerous distraction."

     Ephraim Radner, A brutal unity:  the spiritual politics of the Christian church (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2012), 55-56.

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