Friday, August 09, 2002

Thought of the day: religious freedom
We were founded by pilgrims fleeing an overbearing religious institution. Now religious conservatives (disclosure: I'm a Christian liberal) say our country needs to get back to its roots by listening to our religious institutions. I thought of this while reading Harpers last night and coming across a note about divorced mothers in Nigeria. If you're divorced and pregnant in that country's northern states, you are stoned to death for adultery, no questions asked. A new law will defer the sentence for one and a half years to allow the mother to care for the newborn. As horrified as I was, I couldn't help thinking: this is very compelling enforcement of sexual morality--as opposed to the United States, where, thanks to the sexual revolution, people interlock genitals at the drop of a hat. But is this what the Bill Bennett's of the world desire?

Clearly not, and that's where the irony comes in. These conservatives are so gung-ho about American Freedom as a sort of faith unto itself--the belief that the spread free expression and capitalism will lift poor nations from their depths (also deconstructed nicely in the latest Harper's), as if wisdom and goodness were somehow inherent to free expression and free markets--America itself is proof they're not. But it is this very engine of freedom that empowered the sexual revolution, that empowered the pilgrims to thumb their noses at the Church in the first place--in both cases, people were saying, "I know better than you, and because I love Freedom I'm going to do what I want." Now surely I can locate some middle ground between America's bacchanal sexual mores and Nigeria's Taliban-like oppression, and so can Bennett. But is there not a tension between conservatives' desire to promote freedom and religious authority at the same time?
What do you think?
Yesterday's Thought

No comments: