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Lecture Three: Why Religion, Faith, and Freedom Proved Hard to Reconcile

Last night Professor Stout delivered the third of his Gifford Lectures. My summary (with an embedded question) is below. The video of Stout’s lecture is also embedded below for those who were unable to attend in person, or for those who’d like to listen to it again. An audio only version can also be found at the end of this post. In order to further facilitate discussion my colleague Nomi Pritz-Bennett will be adding her initial reflections on Professor Stout’s third lecture. Nomi is currently a PhD student in Systematic Theology at New College, University of Edinburgh. We’d like to reiterate that we warmly welcome anyone wishing to engage with Stout’s lectures to contribute their comments and questions below.

Professor Stout began his third lecture by restating his aim in this series. Namely, “to clarify an ideal of ethical religion, trace its political history, and explain its survival in a supposedly secular age.” He sets out to do this by taking a closer look at the notions of religion, freedom, and faith and how they have related to one another. In the first section he focused on how faith has been taken to relate to religion.

He admits that nowadays the terms have become virtually synonymous; illustrated by the fact that various religions are often referred to as various faiths. As he stated, “Native American, African, and Asian traditions that are sometimes classified as religious are also called faiths. This dubious habit has something to do with Christianity’s semantic status in many modern settings as the paradigmatic instance of religion.” This phenomenon makes sense, according to Stout, given Christianity’s prevalent role in Europe and in the global spread of religion-talk, for better or worse.

These other traditions that Christians encountered and classified did have similarities with the Christian tradition, but they also had dissimilarities. As he stated, “Christianity, like Islam, inherited from Judaism an explicit concern with faith that many traditions do not share.” He went on to talk about how Christians tended to attribute deficiencies in faith commitments to explain the existence of false religion.

He then moved on to caution a too quick and easy “cross-cultural application of the term faith” and briefly discussed the nuances of the Latin term fides and the Greek term pistis as they were understood in pre-Christian Rome and pre-Christian Greece. In attending to these pre-Christian uses he emphasizes how faith is understood to be “fidelity to, or trust in: someone’s promises; a covenant; one’s people, platoon, or allies; one’s father, spouse, friend, master, patron, monarch, a god, or oneself.” He then went on to elaborate this last dimension of faith in oneself by saying that “Lucretius emphasized faith in one’s own sense experience. Cicero and his follower Valerius Maximus encouraged Romans to have faith in their own reason or judgment.” It is this dimension of the virtue that Stout sees as Emerson’s notion of self-trust. Although Stout did not mention Teresa Morgan in his lecture, her recent book Roman Faith and Christian Faith: Pistis and Fides in the Early Roman Empire and Early Churches (Oxford University Press, 2015) discusses these nuances, and others, at greater length and in the process challenges reductively intellectualist accounts of religious belief and of Christian faith.

Stout then moved on to acknowledge that Christians acknowledged these nuances, but added the further “scriptural notion of faith in God as a divinely given virtue.” He links this understanding with Augustin and St. Paul and went on to say that while true religion and piety “are virtues of acknowledged dependence” the theological virtue of faith further enables one “to have trust in, belief in, and fidelity to the Christian God.” In other words, Christian faith adds a semantic specificity to the intentionality embodied in true religion and piety. He then ended the first part of his lecture by stating that for Augustine “conformity to true faith was a necessary condition of true religion” and while Augustine stated that coercion ought not be used for conversion, it was legitimate for maintaining Christian fidelity.

At this point in his lecture Stout shifted away from Augustin and the early church to talk about Aquinas and his followers. He highlighted the Thomist distinction between moral and theological virtues. Given that religion is a moral virtue Aquinas’ appeal to the authority of a pagan philosopher like Cicero makes sense. The Christian scriptures and the church fathers are the authority one ought to appeal to regarding the discernment of true faith. Stout highlights that for Aquinas, “the virtue of faith is directly concerned with the intellect’s assent to what God reveals. Faith is indirectly (but necessarily) also concerned with the will, because a perfected will is required to move the intellect to assent.” To construe the account of faith’s relationship to religion in this way highlights the distinction between faith’ s cognitive, intellectual, and private dimension, on the one hand, from religion’s active, moral, and public dimension, on the other. The two are still necessarily related, but highlighting the distinction in this way (rather than in other ways) leads to problematic appropriations in the future that appeal to “true faith” to adjudicate issues in the political sphere and in judgments as to what constitutes “true religion.” Faith for Aquinas, as it was for Augustine (and indeed many others), was inherently a divine gift; which could, for Aquinas, be refused or abandoned resulting in the vice of infidelity.

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According to Stout, Aquinas was ambiguous regarding whether the virtue of religion could be found in pagans, but Las Casas believed it to be possible even while they lacked the virtue of faith, which would perfect it; and Las Casas was primarily concerned with evangelizing the Indians. Savonarola, on the other hand, was primarily concerned with issues of infidelity among Christians in Florence and the effects of this corruption on the Church’s witness. Vows of poverty and a recognition of the necessary role of religion to foster moral virtues were central for Savonarola. Stout then moved on to mention the multiple ends of religion for the Dominicans; the ultimate and supernatural end, on the one hand, and the proximate and mundane ends, on the other, the latter of which concerned the “proper formation of human morals” and their political effects. For Aquinas and his Thomist followers, God’s help is necessary to insure the proper “relation between the mundane and ultimate ends of worship,” which are both oriented to bringing about the common good. The possibility of obtaining this in society, according to Stout, diminishes when political leaders illegitimately associate or equate themselves with this “ultimate end of worship” as, for example, Julius Caesar did.

At this point in his lecture Stout addressed the perhaps suspicious absence of engagement with the Protestant Reformation and with Martin Luther in particular; who was a contemporary of Las Casas and Savonarola. While acknowledging the importance of Luther and the Protestant Reformation Stout justifies this minimal engagement because of Luther’s minimal use of religion-talk and his strong aversions to virtue ethics. As Stout mentioned, “Luther did not entirely reject the project of virtue cultivation, but he did regard it as beset by especially dangerous temptations. The category of religion belongs to a project of ethical formation that can easily tempt people to think that they can save themselves.” This risks, for Luther according to Stout, missing “the whole point of the Gospel,” which is comprised of the good news “that you are saved not by any kind of moral striving, least of all by anything you might try to do in order to set right your relationship with God, but only by faith.” Faith for Luther, according to Stout, is strongly emphasized as a divine gift, where this is taken to imply strong notions of passivity concerning the agency of the believer and a significant separation from the public manifestation of true religion in concrete relations and activities of justice aimed at the common good.

At this point I’ll pause briefly to add my own reflection, before moving on to summarize the remainder of Stout’s lecture.

If we grant that this is a largely fair account of Luther, one wonders if Luther’s insistence (in his Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans) that genuine faith is necessarily accompanied by good works adequately addresses these issues in a different semantic idiom (where good works are understood not only in the sense of various ecclesial or piously individualistic actions, but also as public actions aimed at bringing about the common good of society, in line with loving one’s neighbor and fulfilling that for which St. Paul says humans were created to do, namely, good works). The distinction then becomes one between how one is saved and what one is saved for. The differences of dispute revolve around the former, while the latter necessarily includes both mundane and ultimate ends of just relations striving for the realization of the common good. That is not to say that significant differences between Luther and his followers, on the one hand, and Aquinas and his followers, on the other, do not remain. Stout is right, in my opinion, both in this lecture and in his Flight from Authority (University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), to draw attention to certain problematic aspects of Protestant conceptions and appeals to faith, but I wonder if Luther’s lack of religion-talk (at a conceptual level) has as significant an affect on the pursuit of the common good that Stout implies given Luther’s insistence on faith’s accompaniment by good works, despite whatever deficiency in the historical reception of this latter aspect may have ensued. Modern Lutherans, such as Rudolf Bultmann (a previous Gifford Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh), Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Gerhard Ebeling (even though they remain largely suspicious about using the semantic terminology revolving around virtue that Roman Catholics and others happily use) speak about the nature of faith in a way that acknowledges its theological dependence as well as its inherent manifestation in concrete situations and relationships of active striving for the wellbeing of others. For them, faith is not merely a regulative idea that explains this activity (it is not merely a matter of the will moving the intellect to assent to divine truths), but it is a constitutive aspect of faith itself. While this does not directly concern the narrative that Stout is telling in these lectures, I wonder if it makes a difference for the trajectory of this narrative as it begins to intersect with more contemporary Lutherans like those stated above. In other words, if the letter of religion-talk is absent in Luther but the spirit of true religion is present in faith’s necessary embodiment in (or at the very least its accompaniment by) good deeds directed at the wellbeing of others and the common good of society, then is its absence significant? And if so, in what ways?

Having said that, I’ll now continue to summarize the remainder of Stout’s lecture.

After engaging a bit more with Luther Stout recognizes that not all Protestants operated with as sharp a distinction between religion and faith. As he says, “Many Protestants—including Calvin, Althusius, Knox, and Milton—did, however, combine a Lutheran view of faith with a Ciceronian view of religion.” Unlike Luther, they were “direct contributors to the discourse of religion” and they happily engaged and appropriated various aspects from classic figures concerned with the discourse on virtue. He went on to mention some of the problems that ensued by Luther’s strong distinction between religion and faith, both among various Protestant factions as well as between Protestants and Roman Catholics.

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Stout then moved on to talk about how disputes over the nature of faith related to issues concerning the nature of freedom, “understood as security from arbitrary power” and the accompanying desire to avoid domination. After helpfully illustrating problematic tensions that arose between faith, freedom, and arbitrary power Stout was sure to draw our attention to the fact that he has intentionally avoided using “belief” and “conscience” to talk about these contentious disputes. As he explains this, “the more general problem is not primarily about belief, but rather about what someone might force you to do. Short of brainwashing, no one can force you to believe something, but threats of punishment can incentivize you to do such things as avow creed, bow to someone, submit to a bishop, baptize an infant, pay for the maintenance of priests, churches, and so forth.” Stout ended this section of his lecture by bringing Las Casas and Augustin back into the conversation.

Stout then moved on to speak of “religion’s mundane ends” as they related to “disputes over political freedom.” He highlighted the fact that even when religion’s mundane ends were agreed upon, opinions differed “over how a free community would be structured.” He went on to engage extensively with Milton (representing king-less republicanism) and Filmer (representing monarchist paternalism) as examples of the two extreme positions, recognizing that there were positions between the two that could not be touched on within the confines of this lecture.

The last section of Stout’s lecture was concerned with “disestablishment, natural theology, and a redefinition of freedom.” To do justice to the details of this last section would make the summary considerably longer than it already is. I’ll briefly mention the following.

In this section he listed three claims that many spent “a great deal of energy” seeking to reconcile. First, “that true religion is a virtue of such great political import that rulers must take responsibility for its cultivation.” Second, “that some aspects of true religion must be settled by appeals to divinely given faith.” Third, “that freedom as security from domination is to be pursued by subjecting rulers to legal constraint and accountability.” It is in the failed reconciliations of these claims, according to Stout, “that takes us from the Wars of Religion to the Age of Enlightenment,” and it is from this situation that the “Great Separation” myth arises.

Stout moved on to address these issues as they variously related to the French Republic, the U.S. Founders, Hume, Locke, Hobbes, Milton and various other enlightenment thinkers. He also discussed Lord Gifford’s disagreements with Hume over the nature of true religion and natural theology (given Lord Gifford’s appreciation for Reid, Emerson, and Hegel’s critique of Locke). Stout then went on to discuss Lord Gifford’s distinction between secular and secularist and then moved on to talk at some length about the proper nature of freedom.

Stout ended his lecture by saying that “abolitionism is the turning point in the story” that he is “telling about freedom.” These abolitionists “sought neither to privatize religion, nor to tame it, but to emancipate its moral power. And in doing so, they created a model of broad-based activism and critical explanation that subsequent egalitarian freedom movements have emulated.” In the lectures to come he promised to bring these figures to the forefront.

Nomi Pritz-Bennett will now add her initial reflections to Professor Stout’s third lecture in order to further facilitate conversation.

12 replies to “Lecture Three: Why Religion, Faith, and Freedom Proved Hard to Reconcile”

  1. Nomi Pritz-Bennett says:

    How should we settle disputes about true faith, and what form of government is most conducive to the cultivation of the virtue of religion, on the one hand, and the freedom from tyranny, on the other? These are the questions Professor Stout addresses in his third lecture, in which he continues his argument that no “Great Separation” occurred between religion and politics in the modern era, wherein, in fact, the ethical power of religion was “unleashed” by the new configuration of the secular. A latent assumption in Stout’s account, as I understand it, is that the rise of the republic corresponded to a greater measure of freedom, and greater space for ethical action. After giving a brief introduction to Stout’s argument, I would like to pose the following question: Is violence inherent, or coincidental to, the secular?

    Stout shows that religion, freedom, and faith proved hard to reconcile between the Protestant Reformation and the dawn of the Enlightenment. French thinkers rejected the notion that it is the state’s role to cultivate true faith. So did the American founders, who, due to the influence of Locke, advocated the separation of church from state. However, and this point is crucial to Stout’s argument, this did not mean the wholesale separation of religion from politics. Rousseau still supported the promotion of civil religion. The American founders simply shifted the responsibility of religious cultivation to non-governmental institutions. Stout insists that Hobbes’s model of “lowered stakes,” in which we take freedom to mean “non-interference” at best, and in which the religious is privatized, was not the only model at work in this period. Hobbes’s model was rejected by the egalitarian freedom movements, abolitionism first among them. These movements opted instead for a Miltonian view of freedom, and sought to emancipate religion for the sake of the common good.

    Thus, the argument goes, the “secular,” envisioned as a space for public discussion in which one could not take for granted a particular set of faith claims (and not the bracketing out of religious conviction and faith), actually unleashed the power of ethical religion. In addition, and this is a point drawn from Stout’s Democracy and Tradition, the secular encourages one to be in discussion with others who do not share the same theological presuppositions, and to provide reasons for one’s particular view without fear of retribution. It is a model that is meant to support religious and ideological pluralism, without bracketing out religious conviction, on the one hand, or tyrannically imposing a single religion, on the other. There is no “Great Separation” between religion and politics in the modern period. “The idea that modernity is ‘after virtue,’” he quips, “is what you get if you exaggerate the extent and influence of Luther’s critique of virtue ethics, neglect the continuing influence of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Livy, and Thomas, and fail to notice how many Protestants remain concerned with cultivating politically significant virtues.”

    Stout’s defense of the secular, and his insistence that it makes space for the flourishing of the political community and the unleashing of ethical religion, is a welcome nuance to the popular argument that the religious and the secular are at odds, and that religious commitments necessarily lead to political discord, as is argued by Rawls, or more popularly, by Christopher Hitchens or Bill Maher. In every lecture thus far, Stout has made a point to name the historical actors he has in mind: Milton, Wilberforce, Wollstonecraft, Mott, Emerson, Gandhi, King. How can we explain these actors in light of the narrative of the “Great Separation” of religion from politics? By repeating this lineage, Stout is making evident the failure of our imagination and the stunted power of current interpretations of the modern era. In other words, who we select in our respective historiographies shapes how we interpret the current state of discourse, and perhaps even if or how we choose to act. [1] Stout is rejecting calls to disengage – like those of Stanley Hauerwas and Alasdair MacIntyre (and more recently, Rod Dreher). [2]

    And yet, in the background of this discussion on how to negotiate the tension between freedom, faith, and religion, is the rise of a powerful actor that was given the responsibility for maintaining the secular sphere and guaranteeing the rules of the game: namely, the state. Rousseau calls for civil religion, as Stout argues, but as the means by which the citizen would be bound to the state above all else. Locke, indeed, calls for the separation of church and state; however, in so doing, he also relativizes the role of the church, and power over civil matters transfers from the church to the state. Indeed, while religion is not, tout court, discarded from the secular, the state is nonetheless the rising star, the institution with primary oversight of the secular sphere. As Stout points out, the egalitarian freedom movements must appeal to the state in order to be successful. The freedom they sought (and still seek) is no freedom at all if it is not guaranteed by an institution with the power to enforce it. “No law, no security.”

    My point here is not to endorse a form of anarchy. Instead, I am curious to know what measures of state coercion Stout would consider right and just for the maintenance of the secular, and where he would draw the line between proper authority and tyranny (and, if I may, if Stout would be willing to assess where the United States is currently sitting on that scale)? Assuming the secular will always require an adjudicator and moderator, how can we avoid granting the state near-religious significance?

    William Cavanaugh has argued that currently, we do in fact grant our civil institutions religious significance, and as such has dubbed the rise of state power as “the migration of the holy.” Cavanaugh argues that the power to compel people to die, or to kill, has passed from Christianity to the nation state. He asks, rhetorically, what percentage of American Christians would be willing to kill for their faith? What percentage would be willing to kill for their country? The point, as I take it, is not to make the claim that Christians once possessed greater virtue (as if virtue consists in the willingness to kill for one’s faith). Indeed, Cavanaugh is clear that the church ought to be held accountable for its actions in history. Instead, the point regards our current attitudes towards the state, which “is subject to more absolutist fervor than religion.” [3] My own upbringing as a Christian minority in Jerusalem makes me sympathetic to Cavanaugh’s claim. There is no question that the nation of Israel has assumed messianic significance, even among the most secular of its populations. The near-religious demands made by the state are sometimes easier to see, when viewed through the eyes of a minority. As Stout points out in this lecture: “Tyrants and their henchmen are as likely to use altars, pulpits, and priests, as they are to use swords, racks, and tax collectors.”

    The question, then, is why these images appear so benign to us when applied to the secular state, but frighten us with regard to religion? Again, this is a question posed by Cavanaugh. He points out the way in which state violence is often viewed as a good, necessary, or harmless phenomenon when compared to the “religious violence” of Islamic terrorism. The western nation state elicits devotion, demands sacrifice, and asks us to kill for it, and most remain untroubled. We might even find this heroic and laudable. “Religious violence,” by contrast, is seen as evil, irrational, and illiberal. So, for example, President Obama’s drone strikes were met with near-silence by American Liberals. [4] The point is, again, not to downplay the horror of violence born of religious zeal, or to argue for moral equivalence, but to ask why secular violence appears different to us. Christopher Hitchens was outraged by terrorism, but supported the war in Iraq. Bernard Lewis was honored by Dick Cheney for his assessment of the bloody borders of Islam, an argument used to justify violent state action. How do we assess the bloody borders of American democracy? And what relationship do these have to the secular?

    Any narrative that touts the “peaceable secular” must reckon with the staggering amount of resources, devotion, and sacrifice demanded, currently and historically, by the militaries of western nations. That is Cavanaugh’s claim – and one I wish to pose to Stout for comment. While I have no desire to “return” to another synthesis of the past, affirm the separation of church from state, and even agree that the secular can unleash the power of ethical religion, I am disturbed by the omission of state power, devotion, and monopoly on violence from this account, and would like to know how to think more constructively about the relationship between the “peaceable secular” and violent coercion.

    1. For another more concrete and contemporary example, we can look at the “peace heroes” curriculum, originating in East Jerusalem, that seeks to teach history through the lens of hope and resilience rather than through the lens of war. This particular post explains why the curriculum does not bracket out the religious convictions of the peace heroes that the students are introduced to, and in many ways one can draw resemblances between the logic of this curriculum and Jeffery Stout’s aim of “unleashing the ethical power of religion” in his lecture series. Accessed 4 May, 2017.

    2. Accessed 4 May, 2017.

    3. William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (Oxford: Oxford University, 2009), 56.

    4. Accessed 4 May, 2017.

  2. larryhurtado says:

    In listening to the first lecture and again to this lecture, I wondered if Stout had considered Tertullian, who is posited by people such as Robert Wilken as the first to call for the *right* of religious freedom (as distinguished from the *tolerance* granted to Jews, etc., previously by the Roman emperors). Tertullian insisted (in To Scapula) that it was a natural right of individuals to choose their religious allegiances, and no rightful role of the state in dictating in these matters. Yet Tertullian also pledged his loyalty to the emperor and state, even though he could not accept the religious claims of that state. It seems to me (echoing the views of some others) that here we have perhaps the earliest (at least earliest Christian) “separation of state and church”. And it’s interesting how many subsequently cited Tertullian on the matter, including Thomas Jefferson.

  3. Let me respond briefly to Andrew Johnson’s questions about my treatment of Luther. My purpose was not to criticize Luther for speaking so rarely about religion but rather, first, to take note of this and, second, to explain why ‘religion’ wasn’t one of his focal interests. I tried to state the explanation carefully, without implying that Luther avoided virtue-talk altogether. He was suspicious of virtue-cultivation as an arena of human temptation. The temptation is to think of one’s own works as capable of winning or earning salvation.

    When he speaks approvingly of virtue, he mainly refers to divinely infused virtues, even when not speaking of faith, hope, and love. As Anthony Bateza has shown in his recent dissertation at Princeton Theological Seminary, Luther’s discussion of wondrously virtuous political leaders interprets pagan, Jewish, and Christian figures as exemplary, but without implying that their excellences were acquired in the way Thomas thought justice and practical wisdom could be acquired. So, here is an example of Luther demonstrating interest in politically significant virtues without supposing them to be habits built up by repeatedly doing good things. A similar point could be made, presumably, about the ‘virtuous’ works that flow from a heart transformed by divinely infused faith and love. Luther could have inserted an account of ‘religion’ here. But he seems not to have done so.

    None of these consideration need, individually or jointly, diminish Jennifer Herdt’s worries about whether Luther’s suspicions of virtue-cultivation contributed to the decline of ecclesial practices of moral formation in the modern period. But I was standing back a bit from the dispute over Herdt’s critique of Luther. My point was that many Protestants who adopted Luther’s stress on the salvific priority of faith and his suspicions of virtue-cultivation as an arena of temptation in fact went on discussing religion as an acquired, moral, politically consequential virtue. It was possible to agree with Luther that virtue-cultivation is an arena of temptation while still affirming: (a) that virtue-cultivation remains something Christians need to engage (carefully) in while raising the young and practicing fraternal correction and (b) that among religion’s most important mundane ends is moral formation. That is why Luther’s indirect influence on the modern discourse of religion did not bring about a divorce between religion-talk and virtue-talk in the modern period.

    The Lutheran emphasis on faith’s unique priority in setting right the sinner’s relation to God did strengthen the tendency, already present in Augustine and Thomas, to treat true faith as a criterion for distinguishing true from false religion. But that issue swings free from Johnson’s remark, as far as I can tell.

  4. In response to Larry Hurtado’s question about Tertullian: That addition to historical overview offered in Lecture One will have to await the book version. It is hard to know where to draw the line.

    1. larryhurtado says:

      Prof. Stout: To try to sharpen my query a bit more, unless I am seriously mistaken (always possible!), the “religion” that Cicero advocated was respect for the gods on which the Roman state claimed its right to be. I.e., it was effectively a version of a state religion. I don’t see, thus, how Cicero serves us. I see that he served Thomas and others who were part of and affirmed a Christian state religion. But not a multi-faith society.
      Tertullian (and other Christians of the pre-Constantinian period) advocated a freedom of religion, refused to reverence the Roman state gods, and urged the state not to see its task as involving religion-coercion. Christianity, let us remember, was often labelled “superstition” by pagan critics precisely because of the refusal to reverence the deities on which society, family and state claimed to rest and validate themselves. It was, thus, “bad religion” because of its refusal to align with the state-sponsored forms of religion.
      So I’m thinking myself that this stance and figures such as Tertullian might be much more helpful in thinking through how to promote a society that allows religious plurality, and how to promote a (critical) loyalty to the state, even a state that does not embrace one’s religious stance.

      1. That is a very helpful clarification indeed. I do intend to include some reference to Tertullian in the book version of the lectures and to expand the treatment of Lactantius, an important transitional figure. I gave more emphasis to Cicero and Livy in Lecture One mainly because they played a more central role than Tertullian did in modern curricula and, accordingly, were cited, quoted, and alluded to more in the writings I am explicating.

        Machiavelli, Hooker, Harrington, Comte, Lincoln, and Durkheim were talking about civil or public religion. But for reasons pertaining to the nature of the societies they belonged to, Lincoln and Durkheim both played down the Ciceronian connection between ‘religion’ and theistic worship and devotion. As I shall explain in Lecture Four, what Lincoln calls ‘political religion’ in the Lyceum Address is actually piety for the laws and heroic notables of a democratic republic. In some of his later speeches, without referring to ‘religion’, he does engage in some carefully delimited theological argumentation. In the Second Inaugural Address, which I will not have time to discuss, he uses immanent critique of northern and southern Christians to urge reconciliation.

        Durkheim’s definition of ‘religion’ was designed to draw attention to the continuing problem that modern republics have with overcoming anomie and establishing solidarity among secondary groups. He thought that a democratic republic, with a high degree of labor differentiation, would exhibit multiple forms of religiosity. Some of these would perform expressive and solidarity-generating functions at the level of secondary groups. Others would perform such functions at the level of the primary group. The former are, he thought, likelier to be theistic than the latter. What provides ‘religious’ solidarity for a modern democratic republic as a whole is a shared commitment to the sacred value of the individual.

        I think Durkheim is right to think that something like ‘religious’ functions are still being performed by ritual practices in large-scale, modern societies. Not much hangs, in my view, on whether we call those functions religious. We can always change the terminology a bit in order to avoid obfuscation and merely semantic disagreements. This point also relates to one of the Cavanaugh-related issues raised by Nomi. We are free to redefine the term ‘religion’ as we please. This is fine as long as we are clear about what we are doing. Both Lincoln and Durkheim were resignifying a term they inherited from Cicero, Livy, and other republicans concerned with the questions of how to generate solidarity around shared values in a political community. Such questions remain worth addressing. But when we address them, we aren’t using the term ‘religion’ in the same sense that applies only to theistic worship and devotion. As long as we clarify which of these senses we have in mind, we can talk about either of these topics and also ask how they might be related under particular social circumstances.

        Emerson’s concerns were somewhat different from those of Lincoln and Durkheim. But I think that he, too, was resignifying Ciceronian and Livian usages, rather than relying heavily on Tertullian. Anyway, I intend to search for references to Tertullian in the modern sources apart from Jefferson and see what I find. Keep in mind, though, that my topic is modern uses of ‘religion’, not modern debates over tolerance (a topic already covered expertly in John Bowlin’s new book).

  5. I am grateful to Nomi Pritz-Bennett for her comments on Lecture Three. She asks how, in my view, ‘the secular’ is related to the militarism and violence of secular nation-states.

    I have no interest in suggesting that secular nation-states are generally well behaved, whereas religious nation-states and agents are not. I oppose neoliberal militarism and its secular and religious ideologues. My unpublished Bartlett Lecture at Yale University in November 2008 (immediately before the election of Barack Obama), was entitled “It’s a Boy: How Militarism Corrupted the Republic.” Its main thesis was this: “Our republic is, in my view, so severely corrupted that its authority to wage war, even when it has just cause to do so, is compromised. The corruption has affected the leadership of the political parties, the press, the academy, and the religious communities, as well as the citizenry as a whole.”

    My Bartlett Lecture ended with the following peroration: “Our leaders preach the ideals of liberty and justice for all. Many Muslims are refusing the offer, and mocking the hypocrisy of the preachers. We in the secular West are determined to call the tune, and in calling it, we lose our grip on our ideals as well as our right to invoke them. We can call the tune, if we wish, for a time, but not for a long time, not without exposing ourselves to just retribution, and not while maintaining our liberty as citizens. The ruling elite is now well positioned to sacrifice our domestic freedoms on the altar of national security. Future acts of terrorism will provide the more nefarious members of that elite with a standing excuse for a permanent state of emergency, in which only one tune is called and everyone either dances to it or disappears into the night.

    “Peaceful co-existence with the Islamic world will remain out of reach until the United States and its allies realize that many Muslims abominate living under foreign domination as much as we in the secular West would abominate having the tables turned. The official line coming from Washington is that the U.S. is simply out to help others achieve the benefits of freedom and democracy. In a few months, that will be either the Obama line or the McCain line. But the message will be hard for the world to believe so long as we retain weapons of mass destruction, maintain hundreds of bases abroad, project our military might at will, and frustrate the construction of an international institutional framework that would allow others to hold their heads high and hold us accountable.

    “Muslims around the world have gotten the message, and decided in many cases that if this is democracy, they want no part in it. Their protests often assume theocracy to be the only legitimate form of government and Shari’a to be the only legitimate context for political reasoning, but they also often make reference to the notion of peaceful co-existence, invoke an ideal of non-domination, and profess to abominate murder. These norms have implications that need to be pursued, implications that call the behavior of many people on both sides into question, implications that point in the direction of a possible settlement that both sides could view as just.

    “Each side disapproves of murder when practiced by the other. Each side fears being dominated by the other. Wishing to avoid the appearance of making exceptions on its own behalf, each side officially condemns murder and domination as a matter of principle. The principles imply reciprocation. What if we tried negotiating a framework for international law on the basis of those principles? What if we held one another accountable in terms of such a framework? The first step would be recognizing others as having the authority to hold us accountable in light of these norms. That is how the possibility of mutual recognition gets a foothold in the midst of the struggle for dominance.

    “The age of the single superpower is almost over. A president whose quest for military preeminence was merely hemispheric once said that we should talk softly and carry a big stick. His successors have converted that quest into a global ambition, but they have spoken like braggarts, and broken the stick. The US is still capable of doing a lot of damage but is also in the process of becoming a has-been hegemon. Soon China and India will stride boldly onto the stage of world history, and Americans will rediscover Patrick Henry’s distaste for groveling at the feet of a hegemon. It will once again be obvious to us that anyone dominated by a master, however benign that master might now appear, is still a slave.

    “. . . . Our situation was described by Shakespeare in ‘King Lear’, a play about an aging tyrant who would like to transfer power peaceably to the next generation before it is too late. Lear’s story ends tragically. He discovers that the consequences of his past injustices frustrate his current plans for a just and lasting peace. All of the living victims of those injustices are busy plotting revenge in secret. Each of them is thinking: Better to dominate than to be dominated. Lear’s hopes for a peaceful legacy collapse around him.

    “At some point, an American president will see the end of our hegemony coming. It will suddenly be clear that an international legal framework which makes everyone secure against domination is in the national interest. But the likelihood is that our offspring, like Lear’s, will be forced to drink from the bitter cup of our deservings. If that happens, we will all, like Lear’s fool, want to go to bed at noon, so as not to witness the final acts. Nothing will defend us from seasons such as those.”

    The body of my Bartlett Lecture offered an implicit critique of Jean Bethke Elshtain’s Christian defense of the Iraq War and her interpretation of just-war reasoning. In a series of published papers, I have analyzed what seems to me the deterioration of Christian ethical teachings on war. While I am not a Christian, my own perspective on violence is quite close to that of the Roman Catholic moral philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. See especially: Stout, “Justice and Resort to War: A Sampling of Christian Ethical Thinking,” in Cross, Crescent and Sword, edited by James Turner Johnson and John Kelsay (Greenwood Press, 1990), pp. 3-33 and Stout, “Ramsey and Others on Nuclear Ethics,” in Journal of Religious Ethics 19/2 (1991):209-237. In “The Rhetoric of Revolution,” in Religion and Practical Reason, edited by Frank E. Reynolds and David Tracy (SUNY, 1994), pp. 329-62, I challenged John Gunnemann’s analysis of revolution.

    Just as I oppose neoliberal militarism, I also oppose those of its declared enemies who use violence indiscriminately (as in the murder of civilians), disproportionately, for bad ends (such as to maintain or achieve domination), or without giving nonviolent means an adequate chance of working. In various forums, I have challenged Zizek’s attempt to make Lenin’s lack of moral scrupulosity about means seem like the only alternative to liberal distaste for violence. Neoliberal, Marxist, and Bin Ladin-style denigration of ethical scruples about the use of violence are equally abhorrent to me.

    That said, I am not a pacifist. When I first joined the civil rights and anti-war movements, I was a follower of Gandhi and King. Shortly before turning 20, I realized that I couldn’t answer the strongest objections being raised against my position, so I changed my mind. Thomas was right to make the prohibition of MURDER exceptionless, defining murder as UNJUST killing. ‘Killing’ and ‘violence’ as such are not absolutely prohibited, because they aren’t defined as species of injustice.

    The importance of treating all absolutely prohibited acts as species of grave injustice is that setting the concepts up in this way requires reference to a substantive notion of justice when appraising the acts. For this reason, I don’t want to frame the issue Nomi has raised as an issue pertaining primarily to violence. The question of justice, as I understand it, pertains to what I owe to whom. That is the right starting point. ‘Violence’ characterizes an act or institution solely in relation to some of its bad consequences. Such consequences are always morally relevant, but they don’t by themselves provide enough information for a complete assessment of an act or institution as just or unjust. To do that, we need to know all of the morally relevant circumstances, including what relationships among persons are involved and who owes what to whom in the context of those relationships.

    Cavanaugh has made a major contribution to our understanding of torture, which does in my view name a species of injustice. But he has followed Hauerwas too closely on the ethics of violence. In response to his book on the myth of religious violence, I have mainly been trying to get the history of the concept of religion right. He was right in that book to caution against anachronistic interpretations of early modern European history. It seems to me, however, that his historical antidote to anachronism relied too heavily on existing genealogies of ‘religion’. Genealogy is hard work. To get this stuff right, we will need contributions from many scholars.

    The tradition I am explicating in my Gifford Lectures is committed to freedom, in the sense of security from domination, as a paramount political good. The basic idea is that domination isn’t just bad (for the person who suffers under it), but also qualifies as a justice-undermining defect in any relationship in which it is found. The remedies proposed for one or another species of domination are constitutional, legal, policy, and practical, and many of them involve a willingness to employ violence or a threat of violence (coercion) in the pursuit of justice, at least under some circumstances.

    For the slaves to be freed in the US, there had to be an enforceable law against enslaving people, and there had to be forcible resistance to the violent defense of slavery. Otherwise, blacks would be perpetually vulnerable to the arbitrary exercise of violent or coercive power on the part of the white majority.

    Pacifists and anarchists are often naive about what would happen in the absence of the rule of law. Republicans and their democratic successors sometimes speak of the importance of achieving or maintaining a society of law, meaning by this a society in which the people holding significant power are constrained by a structure of powers designed to remove the incentives that individuals might otherwise have for treating other people unjustly (say, by enslaving, exploiting, raping, torturing, or murdering them). Only a structure of separated, balanced, mutually constrained powers can keep arbitrary power from running wild. Ideally, the structure will be one in which the laws are just in content, justly chosen, and justly enforced — and one in which peaceable, rational means for the redress of grievances and for the achievement of political reform are available to all.

    Democratic republics are one way of trying to institute such a structure. But they are hardly immune to corruption. Insofar as they are inhabited by antagonistic racial groups, hospitable to nationalist sentiments and commercial enterprise, and permit an easy translation of economic power into political power, they are prone to racial violence, militarism, imperialism, exploitation of workers, and plutocracy. Other institutional structures have exhibited similarly worrisome potential defects, or worse. It is a pipe dream to think that we can do without institutional structures. So the question is which achievable structures we ought to be fighting for and by what means.

    Our current conundrum is that the very structures our ancestors devised in order to constrain the arbitrary power of executives, slaveholders, husbands, fathers, and so forth now seem to have morphed into new forms of massively concentrated, hard-to-control power. Old remedies become new masters. It doesn’t help much, in my opinion, to bemoan the nation-state or to call for peaceable ecclesial communities while living parasitically on the very structures that now seem so problematical. Like our ancestors in the anti-domination tradition, we are going to need creative imagination, practical wisdom, courage, solid organization skills, and a commitment to justice to have any chance of making things better. Or so it seems to me.

  6. Professor Stout paints a pretty bleak picture which I agree is realistic. My view is that autonomy for both individuals and countries is the answer. Until countries and individuals stop imposing there values (no matter how good or right) on each other then we will never have peace. This freedom from interference is the core idea for a peaceful world. Respect by individuals for each other and nations for other nations should be the goal. Growth of the nation and national pride through the centuries is one of the worlds greatest problems along with “religious” intolerance in the vernacular sense. Elites of one kind or another will always dominate the political and economic scene. Professor Stout cannot escape his Western liberal values and blames US and European governments. Though partly to blame there are always two sides to a coin and other political regimes must take their share of the blame ultimately as the quote from G K Chesterton by a blogger shows we are all to blame. This is exemplified by the Christian notion of sin, which I wonder if Professor Stout would comment on.

    1. I agree that mutual respect, among individuals and groups, should be a central goal of political action. It shouldn’t be the only goal, of course. I also agree that it is a bad thing to ‘impose’ one’s values on others in the sense of dominating them. But I follow Milton and the abolitionists in distinguishing between freedom from domination and freedom from interference.

      When opponents of slavery, murder, and rape campaigned successfully to outlaw those forms of behavior, the campaigners were motivated by values, and the resulting laws were imposed coercively on would-be slaveholders, murderers, and rapists. When the laws are enforced, the wrong-doers are interfered with by governmental officials (police, prosecutors, judges, juries, and others) who act as agents of the people. Interference of this sort is often a good thing. If there were no such interference, there would be no rule of law and no legal or constitutional protection against domination and other grave ills. So I don’t think that freedom from interference is the key to peaceable world.

      During the US Civil War, slaveholders defended their way of life by appealing to freedom from interference. The less governmental interference, the better, they said. The same thing is now said by corporate executives who favor economic deregulation and oppose laws designed to protect consumers, workers, and the environment from corporate domination. Governmental interference is a good thing when it aims to supply such protection, when it succeeds in doing so, when the laws or policies being enforced have been adopted by a just and appropriately inclusive political process, when the enforcement itself is just, and when the unintended effects are not disproportionately bad.

      A just and appropriately inclusive political process is a key to avoiding unjust imposition of one group’s values on another. Everyone who should have opportunities to influence and contest official decisions needs to receive those opportunities. A slaveholder, murderer, or rapist has no just complaint about being arrested if all of these conditions have been met, even though there is an innocuous sense in which the police and judicial officers are imposing the political community’s values on him or her.

      One leading scholar of religious freedom has recently declared fulfillment of this ideal ‘impossible’. Her argument for this conclusion appears to rely on the idea of freedom as a complete absence of interference. If that is the sort of freedom we are seeking when we aspire for religious freedom, it is indeed hard to see how the ideal could be realized. The same holds with respect to any aspect of life. But I don’t think freedom from interference is the sort of freedom we are seeking, or at least the sort we should be seeking. Milton called the complete absence of interference ‘license’, which he distinguished from freedom as security from domination.

      All systems of norms or laws interfere with people, shape them into subjects of certain kinds, and ‘impose’ values on them somehow. But not all such systems do so in ways that involve domination — that is, by leaving some individuals or groups in a position to exercise power ARBITRARILY over others (as a master is able to do with regard to a slave, an absolute monarch is able to do with regard to a wronged subject, a wife-beater is able to do with regard to his wife in a society with no laws restricting domestic violence to self-defense, or a powerful religious group is able to do to its rivals in a society that does not outlaw the sorts of thing Spanish Christians did to Jews, Moors, and Amerindians around 1500). The type of imposition that is objectionable involves domination in this sense. There is nothing incoherent or unrealizable about a norm, law, or constitutional provision that prohibits powerful Christians (or anyone other religious group holding great power) from dominating others religiously.

      Am I unable to ‘escape’ my Western values? Well, I have spent a good part of my life criticizing values espoused by many of my fellow inhabitants of the modern West. I don’t think of any culture’s values as a prison. The critical task is to revise one’s commitments responsibly in light of objections, experience, and historical understanding. I do blame Western governments for the injustices I believe they have committed. But in the same posts, essays, and books in which I have done this, I have also blamed the ‘opponents of neoliberalism’ who (in my view) violate the requirements of justice. If you look back at the relevant post here, you will see this. You will also find a post in which I discuss the issue of sin at some length. I needn’t repeat that argument here.

      Will elites of some sort always ‘dominate the political and economic scene’? One controversial line in my book ‘Blessed Are the Organized’ is, ‘Elites will always be with us’. In other words: In societies of any complexity, there will always be a degree of role differentiation, with some people exercising more power than others when making decisions regarding political and economic benefits and burdens. This is not the same thing as saying that in every situation some elite DOMINATES, in the pejorative sense that entails an UNJUST distribution of power.

      There have been situations in which a revolution or reform has led to a significantly improved distribution of power and a corresponding diminishment of opportunities to exercise power arbitrarily or at whim. It is crucial, in my view, to keep struggling for such improvements, rather than throwing up one’s hands and saying, ‘Given that we’re all sinners and that domination is widespread, there’s no point in aiming for appropriate reforms’. I shall address these issues further in Lectures Five and Six. It is true that we are all morally flawed and that it is hard to find groups in which no form of domination obtains. It is also true that Clarkson, Douglass, Stanton, Gandhi, and King achieved something worthwhile.

      1. Again Professor Stout thank you for my replying to my musings which are made more in ignorance than knowledge. Me and Socrates! Freedom is to be free from interference at its most basic, violence against the person. It is power, religious political and economic, in the past in tandem but now more fragmented that exerts domination over the general populace. Cultural ideas through the educational system (both religious and non denominational) perpetuate these ideas. Ultimate powerlessness lies in slavery and until more enlightened minds with persuasion (Wilberforce Britain) and coercion (civil war USA ) end it officially. I will not go into today’s human trafficking/economic slavery/minimum wage. Thereafter interest groups have battled to change the power balance from King and votes for the black community to the present Black lives matter. Also votes for women by the suffragettes to today’s feminism. Law is the only way determining the norms of society and the penalties for breaking them. As you said I think it was Savonarola who had slaves but if he released them they would be absorbed into the slave holding of someone else, not freed. Moral dilemmas don’t you just love them!

        History is only of value if we learn lessons from it. The Spanish invasion of the Americas was a religious and political coalition who’s aims ultimately failed. The religious zealots (not Christians) ended up by exterminating the local population and the lust for gold ended up by crippling the Spanish economy (as various economic texts tell us). You talk of domination by elites and political powers but I am more interested in domination of ideas. Today consumerism/economic materialism and higher education dominate the political and cultural agenda. We want more and more of these “goods”. We in the West have exported these values globally most successfully though we have had less success with democracy in its many forms.

        Which brings me onto Christianity in which you profess not to be. True Christianity as following the teachings of Jesus Christ is an ideal which no Christian can live up to; though through the centuries we are improving with the inevitable setbacks. God/Jesus is our only master and we are truly his slaves and here lies real freedom. Justice is mine cries the Lord though we are required to love our fellow citizens. How that is achieved is the sixty thousand dollar question.

        Thank you again for your fascinating lectures and I look forward to the next three.

  7. I have a few thoughts to add to my previous post. First, I should correct one of typos. My Bartlett Lecture at Yale Divinity School was delivered in 2008, not 2007.

    Second, I want to make clear that ‘the peaceable secular’ is Nomi Pritz-Bennett’s phrase, not mine (as far as I can remember). Cavanaugh, Milbank, and Hauerwas often speak of ‘the secular’ — making use of a nominalized adjective to reify something they wish to question or reject. I prefer to confine ‘secular’ to its adjectival use, so as to avoid the reification, and to make explicit what is being modified and how, so as to identify a relatively concrete topic in a clear and precise way.

    Reifying ‘the secular’ can create the impression that something big, scary, and irreligious (but otherwise ill-defined) has taken over our lives, leaving us feeling virtually powerless to do anything about it. It is better, I think, to identify social ills as concretely as possible, while making our standards of judgment as explicit as possible. A secular society, in one sense, is one in which certain institutions and practices are not placed under ecclesial authority — for example, as a result of a separation of church and magistrate. Whether a society’s being secular in this sense qualifies as a social ill boils down to the assessment of particular possible arrangements.

    A society is secular in another sense if the public discourse that transpires in it cannot reasonably take for granted anyone’s specific views on religious topics. I doubt that it’s very helpful to refer to the discursive publics in a society that is secular in this latter sense as ‘the secular’ unless the society in question has become secular in this sense as a result of a SECULARIST campaign to inhibit the public expression of religious reasons or to eliminate religious influence from society altogether.

    I will be discussing some forms of SECULARISM in Lectures Four and Six. American and British society have been affected somewhat by secularist political programs. But it seems to me that these programs have been much less successful than many scholars have assumed. Our societies are not best described as secular in the sense of being ruled, generally speaking, by secularists. In the US, there are some institutions and professions that are largely populated by secularists.

    As someone who has not found a home in any ecclesial community but who also rejects secularism (in the senses defined at the end of the previous paragraph), I spend a good deal of my time criticizing the following groups: (1) secularist members of the liberal elites, (2) secularist Marxists, and (3) religious traditionalists who portray ‘the secular’ as a large-scale, anonymous, person-like oppressor. All of these groups undermine pluralistic coalitions seeking to correct particular social ills.

    I should emphasize that my criticisms of secularism in Lecture Four and Six are not meant to apply to ‘secularism’ as recently resignified (in different ways) by Charles Taylor or Akeel Bilgrami. All of the key words in contemporary disputes over religion and politics are slippery and subject to resignification. That includes the words ‘secular’, ‘secularist’, ‘liberal’, ‘religion’, and ‘freedom’.

    The discussion of ‘freedom’ in religious studies tends to assume that freedom is a matter of non-interference and a topic mainly of interest to ‘liberals’ committed to a secularist social contract grounded in atomistic or possessive individualism. One of my main objectives in these lectures is to show that egalitarian freedom movements have mainly had a different, older, better notion of freedom of mind — a notion that should not simply be dismissed as incoherent or as ‘liberal’ in a pejorative sense.

    I am a ‘liberal’ in the sense of being committed to a familiar schedule of rights or freedoms: to petition for the redress of grievances, to public expression of one’s political and religious views, to not being dominated religiously, to not being enslaved or tortured, to being treated equally under law, to due process, to trial by a jury of one’s peers, and so forth. I also favor separation of executive, legislative, and judicial powers. I am not a ‘liberal’ in the sense of being committed to atomistic or possessive individualism or to liberal secularism of the Rawls or Rorty varieties. These latter senses of ‘liberal’ are the ones that Hauerwas seems to have in mind when disparaging ‘liberalism’. It seems to me that the term ‘liberal’ has obstructed inquiry in the humanities and theology for a good while now. That is why, in an American Academy of Religion symposium in 2003, I recommended shelving the term for a time. If we try to state our concerns without relying on it, we are apt to acquire a clearer sense of what we are talking about.

    I hold that nation-states in their current form require radical reform if the basic relationships in society are to be set straight. Some powers currently located at the level of the nation-state ought to be pushed up to the level of international institutions if possible (a very difficult task, now that nativist populism is on the rise almost everywhere). Other powers currently located at the nation-state level ought to be devolved to the local and regional levels (a likelier possibility).

    In my view, security from domination, rather than a lessening of governmental interference, is the main sort of freedom worth pursuing when seeking such changes. For now, at any rate, nation-states will be important sites of political engagement, in part because legislation at the nation-state level will be required to enhance the powers of local, regional, and international institutions.

    President Trump shows every sign that he intends to dominate others insofar as he can and to exacerbate domination based on class, gender, race, and armed force insofar as he can. The US Constitution has provided little protection against these forms of domination. It has, however, provided some protections against overly concentrated governmental power. These worthy features of the Constitution now appear in grave jeopardy. It doesn’t help much, under current circumstances, to speak vaguely of ‘the nation-state’ or of ‘the democratic system’, any more than it helps to speak ominously about a reified ‘secular’. We need a way of differentiating the features of our current arrangements and practices that are worth clinging on to (for dear life) from the features that require radical alteration or delicate adjustment.

    One last point, before returning to the Edinburgh sunshine. My own primary object of political identification is not the country in which I hold citizenship, but rather the international tradition of political thought and action I have been discussing in these lectures, a tradition of overlapping, expanding networks of friendship. It is appropriate to identify to some extent with the civic nation for which one bears a measure of responsibility — and thus to take responsibility for its defects, crimes, misdemeanors, and accomplishments. But the attempt to achieve or perfect one’s country is too narrow a goal. Black Lives Matter has rightly emphasized the international dimensions of contemporary democratic struggles. My lectures draw attention to such dimensions of earlier struggles in multiple ways, not least by repeatedly traversing the Atlantic Ocean with Las Casas, the Quakers, and Emerson.

    1. Nomi Pritz-Bennett says:

      Professor Stout,

      Let me begin by saying that I’ve immensely enjoyed the lecture series thus far, and highly appreciate the time you have invested in clarifying and providing further nuance in these blog posts. I think it right and good to attempt to carve out a third way, between neo-liberals and traditionalists, though perhaps I am more positive than you are about the potential positive political repercussions of so-called “retreat.” The history of monasticism is obviously complex and multifaceted, but it does indicate, to my mind, that withdrawal does not necessarily result in isolationist a-political communities, and that on the contrary, monastic communities tended to be politically active in subversive ways. One also thinks of “peaceful ecclesial communities” such as the Mennonites that found alternative ways of being active, despite their disdain for the political sphere. As a friend and colleague at the University of Toronto, Michael Buttrey, put it: “Given the strength of Christian support for the nation, the military, and the police, I’m not sure that our problem is too many ‘parasitic’ peaceful communities…. I hope Stout would agree the biggest problem is not the small number of Christian pacifists, but the enormous number of Christian chickenhawks, who are happy to cheer indiscriminate violence done in their name without even a minimal interest in understanding the cost to everyone involved or the need for ethical evaluation. Against that backdrop, just warriors and Christian pacifists are ultimately allies, as they both are trying (in different ways) to limit our enthusiasm for violence.”

      I heartily endorse your call to greater international accountability on the basis of common norms, and I find your nuanced approach to the legitimate use of force to be helpful. To that end, however, may I ask what sources you would use to define “substantive justice”? You seem at home with Thomas Aquinas (at least to an extent), and have mentioned Anscombe. But I wonder how you envisage a secular discussion on the contents of justice, what authorities you would appeal to, how you would go about justifying their authority, and finally, how you would go about defining the positive content of justice (vs. the negative formulation of Milton’s view of freedom). In other words, how do we negotiate what it means for a political community not only to be free from tyranny, but for all inhabitants to receive their due and to flourish?

      I’d also like to push back against your claim that the secular state is not secularist, or at least not to the extent that traditionalists would have us believe. Perhaps it is more secularist than you would be willing to grant? It still seems to me that the reason violence done in the name of the secular state appears benign to most of its constituents is because the secular state don the guise of rationality, and therefore, neutrality. To the extent that we differentiate between religious political motivations and those of the secular state, I’d say we have bought into the “ism” bit of secularism. To my mind, this guise of neutrality is perhaps also what enables the secular state to be so entangled with the special interests of Wall Street and ultimately get away with it. At a popular level, we trust it as a rational, neutral actor.

      Perhaps, however, you are right, and it is possible to disentangle the secular state from secularist assumptions. Then my next question would be: What is the source of the state’s corruption? And what would reform look like?

      Thank you once again for an excellent lecture series, and please forgive me for taking you away from the Edinburgh sunshine (/wind). I very much look forward to the next two lectures.

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