Also About Refashioning America
A fair number of people who might be said to lean right — libertarians and moderates and such — would do well to consider a review of the current standing of Catholic charities by Archbishop Charles Chaput, of Denver:
When we look closely at Church-state conflicts in America, we see that they now often center on a group of behaviors—homosexual activity, contraception, abortion, and the like—that the state in recent years has redefined as essential and nonnegotiable rights. Critics rarely dispute the Church’s work fighting injustice, helping community development, or serving persons in need. But that’s no longer enough. Now they demand that the Church must submit her identity and mission to the state’s promotion of these newly alleged rights—despite the constant Catholic teaching that these behaviors are personal moral tragedies that can lead to deep social injustices. …
In squeezing the Church and other mediating institutions out of the public square, government naturally assumes more power over the nation’s economic and social life. Civil society becomes subordinated to the state. And the state then increasingly sees itself as the primary shared identity of its citizens. But this is utterly alien to—and in fact, an exact contradiction of—what America’s founders intended.
Those who find their sympathies drawn to forced assertions of individual liberty have a tendency to miss the ways in which rules that allow for true plurality — even to the point of allowing individuals and organizations to discriminate in ways that we might not like — safeguard their own preferred freedoms. The reason big-government types like the notion that the government is the nation’s “shared identity” is that, on that basis, they see a path toward reworking that identity with a direct application of their influence on the government.
It’s a dangerously attractive notion to conceive of America’s uniqueness as deriving from its non-ethnic unity. We are a nation of laws, to be sure, but that is only a positive, constructive innovation if the laws are not leveraged to define culture in the way that ethnicity traditionally has.