We have a fresh opportunity to reflect about Secular Faith.
At this point professor Mark A. Smith isn’t going to speak about his views on Secular Faith but he also speaks about how culture has trumped religion in American Politics too.
Mark A. Smith
He is professor of political science and adjunct professor of comparative religions at the University of Washington. He is the author of two books: The Right Talk: How Conservatives Transformed the Great Society into the Economic Society and American Business and Political Power: Public Opinion, Elections, and Democracy. beside his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics.
Q: Your research focus on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics, Secular Faith Such a claim might seem controversial at first, I want to know how you see Secular Faith.
MS: Secular Faith attempts to explain what happens over a period of decades and even centuries as the culture changes and religious leaders must decide how to respond. Those leaders have been mostly been Christian in American history, and so I place my emphasis there.
Q: Although the Church exists to save people, not to bless the means of their damnation, The Catholic Church does not ordain LGBT clergy and has not changed its official positions on the morality of homosexuality, When Pope Francis recently asked about homosexuality, he ushered in a new era for the Catholic church I wonder how you see these situations.
MS: I think Pope Francis has changed the tone of the discussion even though he hasn't changed any official doctrines. As you note, the Catholic Church rarely changes its doctrines. However, its leaders can change how often they talk about various matters, and they can change the ways they discuss them. Thus, Pope Francis has responded to the recent upsurge in support for gay rights, both in America and around the world, by softening the Church's rhetoric around the subject.
Q: This is recognized in Scripture where gay men are said to receive in their bodies the due penalty for their error (Romans 1:27).
How the principles of God’s Word must have been bent to suit vocal minority groups.
MS: On a first reading, several biblical verses seem clear in condemning homosexuality. However, starting in the 1960s, some Christians began interpreting those verses in a new way. According to the new interpretations, the Bible does not condemn committed same-sex relationships but rather only the kinds of homosexuality that existed in the ancient world, such as pederasty and male prostitution in pagan temples. Of course, other, more conservative Christians do not accept the new interpretations and continue to insist that the Bible forbids any kind of homosexual behavior.
Q: Could you elaborate on how various Christians challenged older interpretations on issues such as divorce and women’s rights?
MS: In a manner similar to homosexuality, the Bible--again, on a first reading--appears to take conservative stands against divorce and in favor of traditional, male-dominated families and societies. However, as the number of divorces in America grew, and as a the women's rights movement sprang up in the nineteenth century, those traditional readings came under fire. Some Christians began to see the Bible in a new light, as being more accommodating toward divorce and more accepting of gender equality.
Q: How have Christian leaders regularly revised their teachings to match the beliefs and opinions gaining support among their members and larger society. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”—1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NKJV)
Do you think texts like this will have been changed or omitted?
MS: In my book, I try to demonstrate that as the secular culture changes, Christian groups--who live in the secular world and invariably absorb its values--change too. Thus, the secular culture is the driving force that leads to new positions, and new biblical interpretations, across a range of issues.
Q: Atheists, I remember you assure the Church is best understood as responding to changing cultural values rather than shaping them, I didn’t know how the Church reacted for atheists.
MS: My main point about atheists is that they--just like Christians--live the secular world and learn its values. Thus, despite common claims of a culture war, the atheists and Christians of today actually share much in common morally. Both groups differ greatly from the Christians of earlier centuries who allowed slavery, forbade divorce, and upheld traditional views of gender relations.
Q: Could you explain culture wars and What kinds of issues would you classify as “culture war” issues?
MS: When people refer to the "culture war," they usually are talking about abortion, homosexuality, and a cluster of related issues such as religious displays on public property, the teaching of evolution in public schools, and religious exemptions to various laws and regulations. I try to argue that the perception of a culture war in America is overblown, because there is more agreement among Americans than you might expect from reading or watching the news. The areas where people agree don't get talked about, so it's easy to forget about those areas and focus exclusively on the issues marked by major disagreement. To reach an accurate understanding, I argue, we have to consider both the areas of agreement and disagreement.
Abdur-Rahman: Thank you very much, professor Mark A. Smith.
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