Friday, March 23, 2007

The "Relativism" that Mr. Miller Missed

A few days ago, I expressed unhappiness with the take of First Things' R. Miller, when he slapped Abp. Crepaldi around for "misunderstanding" relativism.

Dreher posts an interesting few graphs which may help Mr. Miller understand the nature of the beast to which Abp. C. refers:

[Ken Myers] talked last evening about how from the days of the founders, the American way of thinking about the role of religion in public life was not only to privatize it, but to individualize it. He explained how the inevitable result of this was to make Christian faith peripheral to the substantive questions in public life. Moreover, the principles behind this privatization of religion inevitably lead to the corruption of religion, because it becomes primarily a matter of expressing how individual men feel about God, rather than being an expression of how God feels about individual men, and what He calls us to do.

...Ken talked about an interview he did in 2005 with sociologist Christian Smith, who had just written a book on the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. What he found was a consistent set of religious beliefs across denominations, and even traditions (i.e., Muslim teenagers told him the same thing). But it wasn't the beliefs of the particular traditions the kids came out of; rather, it was what Smith calls "moralistic therapeutic deism." It's principles, as Ken listed them, were startlingly familiar: God exists, but you really shouldn't get overly involved with Him unless you get into real trouble or something; the point of life is to be happy; it's important to be nice; good people go to heaven, and most everybody is good; et cetera.

The 'relativism' here is dissociative; the faith is ir-relevant to positive law, and action.

Contrast that to the non-relativistic Catholicism espoused by Benedict XVI in his Deus Caritas Est, especially in Part Two.

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