Friday, November 9, 2012

Private faith v public faith

Men of god(s): Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott
I've my regular ABC column up today, 'Private faith vs public faith'.

I'm arguing that private faith, while an important Enlightenment achievement, is rarely as private as it seems--particularly with politicians and other public figures. A sample:
Private faith is not the end of conflict - tensions remain within and between religions, and between religious and secular citizens. Toleration simply means that no party or citizen is given formal control over anyone's consciousness. It does not protect believers from debate and ridicule, particularly when they have a conscience vote in parliament, or a column or microphone. 
But faith is by no means powerless, because it is never wholly private. It works on the public as conscience, education and association. It works on basic ideas like justice, truth, personhood, nature, sexuality and the use of force. It forms and informs values. "The Gospel is both a spiritual Gospel and a social Gospel," wrote a more 'muscular' Christian Kevin Rudd in his 2006 essay for The Monthly, "and if it is a social Gospel then it is in part a political Gospel." Losing presidential candidate Mitt Romney was a good Mormon when he proudly declared, regarding his governorship, "I vetoed any bill that was in favour of choice." The point is not that every believer is a violent radical or progressive dissenter, but that faith is supposed to influence how believers think, feel and act. 
That this influence is, ultimately, above 'mere' human reason and feeling is a concern. It can take very human biases and preferences, and smuggle them into an invisible metaphysical world. Faith becomes a grand game of 'keepings off'. But I've already discussed this in detail. 
The important point for now is this: when we're told that a public figure's faith is private or personal, this is a prompt for more questions, rather than a final answer.


Rabbi Eisenberg said...

Hi Damon,

Interesting article.

Just a small side-point about one statement you make:

"The faithful believe in supernatural beings, without evidence, and this belief is considered a virtue."

While I'm not an authority on Christianity, this description strikes me as offering a very Christian description of faith, one very at odds with Jewish belief. Therefore it would be appropriate to direct your comments specifically at Christianity, and not at "the Abrahamic traditions".

Rabbi Eisenberg

Damon Young said...

Thanks for your comment, Rabbi.

Is there a good summary, in English, of the Jewish approach(es) to faith?

Rabbi Eisenberg said...

Jewish thought is very broad, and I'm not sure exactly what you are looking for, but a good starting point might be Jonathan Sacks' "The Great Partnership - God, Science and the Search for Meaning". A contrast between Judaism and Christianity is discussed in Chapter 3.


Rolly Christian said...

1 Peter 3:15
"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"

Real authentic Christians should always be prepared for answering questions which are for them a matter of their personal faith.

If they wish to appeal to their "faith" as the reason for doing or not doing something they are then compelled to give answers if asked.

In politics it is possible for Christians to have opposing views or opinions on the Government's direction. Carbon tax is not a matter of moral spiritual faith. Good stewardship of resources including the natural environment is a principal from Scripture to draw conclusions from however. Direct action or another tax. Which is more effective?

For some balance consider the pressure the PM was not placed under to elaborate on why she did not support gay marriage - It was matter of "personal belief" for her.

Ask more questions by all means...unless the ABC swing-left labor media wants to save the PM from any media pressure to elaborate an explanation...

And so the bias swings on...

Damon. Permission to "mock" is not granted. Read the manual note above. I repeat, Permission to "mock" is not granted.

Open, honest, free, spite-less intelligent, discussion is OK for launch. I repeat Go for open, friendly frank dialog. Then you may get some answers, or a better change of getting them.

Be the change you want to make.