Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Judge Moore and The Democracy Delusion

Out in the great state of Alabama, this election season is serving up an old familiar face. It's Ten Commandments Judge Rudy Ray Moore, getting himself back in black for some gubernatorial getback after his controversial stand on church and state.


Hold on.

Judge Moore isn't who I think he is? He's not blaxploitation legend Dolomite? He's not the Human Tornado, a "nerve shattering, brain battering, mind splattering One Man Disaster?"


That does explain a whole lot, but given the similarities, you can understand my confusion. My bad. Learn something new every day.

Anyhoo, Roy Moore is now a contender in the race for governor in Alabama, and he's running on basically the same platform that has defined his career to date. He's all about arguing for the unity of faith and country, for making the case that if our nation loses faith in God, we'll come apart. His entire political platform can be summed up in this little quote from the Religion News Service:
"For the government to acknowledge God is not a violation of the deny God is to begin to take away rights. In the long run, the welfare of our state depends on the blessings of God."
Judge Moore has, shall we say, a rather interesting approach to church and state. What struck me most in this little statement, though, is that second proposition: " deny God is to begin to take away rights."

How can one even think that? Faith is hardly a requirement for participation in our republic. Never has been. How can belief be correlated with the rights of citizens in a democratic society? I'm fairly sure that Judge Moore doesn't have an answer to that one that goes beyond just reiterating the above statement.

However, that doesn't mean that there isn't an answer.

The answer lies in a painful truth: Our rights in our democratic republic have no objective reality. Yeah, I know, I know, "we hold these truths to be self-evident." But that statement is not scientifically provable. Our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness cannot be established definitively on a foundation of empirical reason. Yes, you can make that argument. There is much to commend democratic societies.

But I'm sure there's a very smart, very articulate staff member of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China who would be willing to explain just why our "rights" aren't really self-evident. He'd point to the provable economic success of his nation, to their global ascendence, to their clear financial and organizational superiority, and to their diligent "management" of public opinion and "unconstructive" dissent. "Show me these 'rights' you speak of," he might purr. "I see no evidence for them. I see only chaos and decadence and self-indulgent decay." He would then suggest that, given all of the material and empirical evidence in his favor, perhaps we are just deluding ourselves.

And in a sense, we are deluding ourselves.

Our liberty stands when we are willing to assert it, to "hold it" not as a scientifically defensible theory to be proven or unproven, but as a defining value. As with any value worth holding, freedoms exist because together we choose to believe in them, and affirm them, and live them out, even in the face of cooly rational arguments to the contrary.

Though it's not anywhere near what Judge Moore thinks, there is a deep connection between belief and liberty, between faith and our freedoms.