In a paper delivered as part of an European Baptist Federation conference on human rights Dr Nigel Wright stated:
‘In this paper I intend to argue that whereas civic secularism is not the preferred societal option for Christians, it may well represent the most realistic future shape of advanced societies and therefore has to be reckoned with. Moreover it both offers a number of political benefits that are advantageous to Christian faith and practice and should be maximised, and also presents a context which can assist the churches in maintaining authentic Christian witness. None of this is to minimise the genuine challenges to faith that such a society can pose’.
The paper of the presentation is available on the European Baptist Federation site: Here.
For Wright the preferred social option would appear to be a non-Constantinian Christendom. This would refer to a situation although I am not quite sure how this could ever really be a ‘participating without possessing’, his preferred description for a Baptist relationship to the State.
This being the case, I think if I were to disagree with Wright it would only be in stating more clearly a preferential suppport for the option of ‘civic secularism’ understood as a ‘a political strategy designed to hold together religiously and diverse societies’ without giving privilege to any one ideology (not least those which would deny the free existence and participation of others).
In my understanding, such ‘civic secularism’ need not deny national interests and cultural particularities but would be undergirded by commitments that extend beyond the national, e.g. the Declaration of Human Rights.
I am aware of the critiques which can be made of the Declaration of Human Rights from a variety of perspectives including my own Christian tradition but agree with David Gushee when he said in a soon to be published lecture:
‘Certainly human rights are a far less coherent notion apart from a biblical theological foundation, but in pluralistic discourse we all do the best we can, and in the Christian community we are entirely free to re-anchor human rights language in the best resources of our own theological tradition. Once we have dispensed with our theological reservations about the language and implications of rights claims, Christians ought to be some of the world’s most vigorous champions for the legitimate human rights of our neighbours near and far.’
I can feel a theoretical abyss coming on, where it can rightly be stated that I am actually setting up an ideology, one of ‘civic secularism’ above the rest in the name of denying any dominant ideology. In brief response, I would say yes indeed I am, because I think that this is the best way to defend freedom for people of all faiths and none to live freely and freely live.
Further, if I have a critique of the ideas and values of liberal democracy it is that it needs to be a bit better at articulating, defining, and defending itself as a worthwhile value system.
As a consequence I have a lot of sympathy with this article: Tackling Europe’s Crisis Through Education