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The secular left and the 'disposable' things

Wallace Henley Portrait
Wallace Henley |

Doctrines—even the most sacred—are disposable in the face of utilitarian interests.

That was the newest of secular progressivist dogma as expressed last week when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that allows abortion right up to the point of birth.

Not to be left in the dust, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is endorsing legislation for his state that would allow a baby to die after it is born.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources there was consideration of removing from the oath required of witnesses before the panel, the words, “so help you God.”

It is well known that many on the secular left would like all reference to God removed from official discourse. And, there are those like Cuomo and Northam who would consider sacred doctrine as disposable.

When challenged by his own Roman Catholic Church, Cuomo said, “I’m not here to represent a religion.” Agreed. But life and death decisions regarding the innocent go far beyond opinion, religious or otherwise. And by the way, Cuomo may not be in office to represent his religion, but as a candidate he did not hide his Catholicism. Among his first acts after being inaugurated, Cuomo went to Mass and took communion.

The right to life is not merely Catholic dogma. It is the first God-given right recognized in the U.S. Constitution.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, among the leaders of the Coalition for Jewish Values, said: “Under the guise of progressivism, New York is taking us back to a primitive age when infanticide was also accepted—and the fact that these progressives want to take up euthanasia next should surprise no one.”

Northram’s position, therefore, is sadly right in line with Rabbi Pruzansky’s concern.

“Spiritual disorder brings on political anarchy,” wrote political philosopher Russell Kirk.

Incidents like those cited above confirm Kirk’s thesis constantly.

Spiritual order is established on a consensus around the transcendent authority of the God revealed in the Bible, and in the anchorage of sound doctrine. The assumption behind oath-taking that calls God as witness infers a belief in the Lord’s transcendent authority, and the accountability to it that compels honesty.

A healthy society exists in the equilibrium between permanence and progression, Russell Kirk taught. This is the balance between conservatism and liberalism. Lose that balance, and a nation plunges into insanity. Rigid conservatism becomes the authoritarianism of, for example, the Kim regime in North Korea, for which the preservation of the power of the Kim family is the highest goal. Unleashed progressivism is the terrifying madness of the eighteenth century French Revolution, and its embrace of secularism to the point of radical atheism.

The tension between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists provided the healthy balance in the founding of America. Out of their debate came first the Declaration of Independence, and then the Constitution. The Declaration voiced the passion for liberty, while the Constitution laid out the schemes of order.

Balance requires a point of equilibrium, something sturdy enough to keep the opposites from becoming competing polarities. The balancing power is established on something outside the system. It must be an authority that transcends the two opposing forces and has enough strength and respect to hold them in their place and keep them from colliding in violent warfare for dominance.

This was expressed poetically by W.B. Yeats in 1919:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

The American founders recognized the importance of the strong center. Thus, America would not be a “secular” state in the sense of that which the theoreticians of the French Revolution envisioned a decade later. Instead, in the minds of the American architects—ranging from staid James Madison to adventuresome Thomas Jefferson—God, in His transcendent authority, would be the standard, the reference point, and the preserver of the values that would insure the “domestic tranquility” and wholesome progress envisioned by the founders in the people’s pursuit of “life, liberty, and happiness.”

Hence, John Adams, on the Federalist side, would declare that the new system was made only for “a moral and religious people.” Meanwhile, Antifederalist Patrick Henry, when contemplating slavery, viewed the issue in the context of sound biblical doctrine. “It is a debt we owe to the purity of our religion to show that it is at variance with that law that warrants slavery.”

Neither a John Adams nor a Patrick Henry would consider the transcendent authority of God or the sound doctrine that expresses it as disposables in the face of utilitarian interests.

If the philosophies displayed in the New York and Virginia governors’ casual disregard for sound doctrine and in those who want to remove the accountability to transcendence in the oaths made with God “as witness”, then the political anarchy of which Russell Kirk warned decades ago will intensify the chaos we currently experience.

Dispose of sacred doctrine and the accountability that goes with the recognition of God’s transcendent authority, and the center will collapse, and no one will be safe. 

Wallace Henley is senior associate pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church, and Chair of Belhaven University's Master of Ministry Leadership degree. He is a former White House and Congressional aide, and co-author of "God and Churchill", with Winston Churchill's great-grandson, Jonathan Sandys.

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