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April 29, 2004



"My Christian faith does not prevent me from using good epistemological techniques when I am hunting around for resources in the archives, but it does mean that I will only truly understand the ultimate meaning of what I find in those archives through the lens of my faith and my church."

Can you develop this a bit more? What's the relationship between the _ultimate meaning_ of what you find in archives and the conclusions that you draw and arguments that you make in your scholarship? Does your Christianity shape your approach to causality and the relationship between different people and events, or is it more likely to influence your normative, maybe unpublished judgments of the good and the bad, the positive and negative 'lessons,' of the topics that you study?

The Angry Clam

I wonder how many of them would be equally irritated by someone flaunting their Marxist, Post-Structuralist, or Deconstructionist worldviews.

I think you're exactly accurate, Hugo, that your faith has a significant effect on how you interpret your findings, at least as much as any of the interpretive theories I just name-dropped.


For some reason, this discussion reminds me of that quote by St. Francis of Asissi, that says something along the lines of, "Preach the Gospel; if necessary, use words."

"What that means is that my Christian faith informs my scholarship as well as my politics...What some have called the flaunting of faith is, to me, my attempt to explain the set of beliefs about reality that undergirds my entire worldview."

Well said. I don't think it's possible to separate a man from his personal convictions and values simply because they're viewed as religious by others who don't share his beliefs. I'd view flaunting one's faith as being too preachy [mouthy] while at his job post, but living as a Christlike example doesn't require going that far with words.


I think people should, in fact, consult their private systems of morality and ethics in their everyday life.

For the record, what I object to as "flaunting of faith" is the refusal to entertain logical argument or to provide a rational foundation for an opinion.

"The bible tells me so" is not a rational argument. My response, "Maybe it's a typo" is never well-received.



Have read much of the Cliopatria debate. This is just silly. The notion that Christians must not bring their "bias" or "beliefs" into the public sphere betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of religious beliefs. It assumes that we can isolote those beliefs which are "religious" in nature (presumably having to do with God) and lay them aside for a bit to have a purely secular conversation. I'm not exactly sure what that would look like. Would all expressions of value or metaphysics be outlawed? It'd be a very short conversation.

The effort to find some sort of purely rational basis for what I will term public ethics has not proven particuarly successful. More to the point, it's a circular argument that begs the conclusion. "How shall we discuss ethics in the public life? Well, to begin the discussion we must lay aside all religious propositions." To begin the debate here gives secularists the debate before it has begun. I don't need to defend using my religious beliefs in the public sphere; they are part of an epistemological system that is more coherent than those without religous beliefs. More to the point, I'm at least clear about my metaphysics.


Drat...didn't mean to post that without adding that I'd like to know more about how you perceive you, "truly understand the ultimate meaning of what I find in those archives through the lens of my faith and my church."

That's the point at which I stopped following your train of thought and I'm curious about it.

Flying Monkeys

I come woefully unprepared for any argument on the merits of particular religions...that's not my schtik...but when you get into the politics, I get to take a swing at the plate...This in particular caught my eye:

"The Christian right, having infiltrated the Republican Party, is importing its divisive religious ideas into our public life, whereas the Democratic Party is the neutral camp of tolerant and pluralistic Americans."

Wait - did I miss a memo? Since when are the Democrats "neutral" on anything? What have they become tolerant of anything SHORT of their ideas? And just how many subscriptions did First Things lose over this?

Lets, just for fun, take abortion - a liberal favorite (especially chosen because of the absurd rally that just took place in DC)...

First, the tolerant, understanding, nuetral Democrats SURELY don't take sides in this moral debate, right?

This from a Communications Consultant friend of mine on the Republicans (who, unbeknownst to be, changed ummmm, not particularly any of our policy stances, but somehow were "infiltrated" by the religious right) --


There is no doubt that abortion is one of the core issues within the Republican Party. Very much like the issue of slavery was at the forefront of the founding of Republican Party in the 1800s.

In both cases it is the Republican Party that seeks to recognize and protect individual life and freedom. It seems strange that intelligent men, doctors, lawyers, presidents, held a very serious and heartfelt belief that negroes weren't quite human. They felt negroes were close, almost human, but fell short and could be treated like property.

Slavery, it was said was a personal moral choice between a man, his God and his farm. The Democrat party's cliché of the day was that it was not the role of government to tell men how to run their farms.

Liberal and many Democrats today hold similarly strange and heartless beliefs that the unborn aren’t quite human. They are in fact following the same logic of Democrats prior and even after the Civil War who offered excuses, bizarre descriptions and quack science to dehumanize.

Liberals today portray the unborn as less than human which allows them to be treated as property; to be harvested, parts sold or to be destroyed if they pose an inconvenience. They do this in spit of common sense and the advances of science that allow us to see in the most vivid
and dramatic images the existence of human life in the womb.

If abortion is to be described as a civil war tearing at out nation. I am pleased that the Republican is on the same side; the correct ethical and moral side as it was in the first Civil War.

And oh ya, GOOD for the Catholics who are denying Communion to the panderers who on one day rail against pro-lifers, then the next try to show themselves as good Catholics at Mass....Sorry sir, it doesn't quite work like that.


Simian, you need to read the whole article. They are poking FUN of the assumption! The piece reads that secular editors:
"tend to publish news and analysis AS IF the situation were as follows..."

It isn't.


Thanks, Katie, for the questions.

Honestly, my faith shapes my conclusions both in terms of causality and in terms of the "private moral judgments" that I make. Some of my conclusions are obviously so personal that it would be inappropriate to share them.

First off, let me be clear that all of my research work has always been on Christian history. My dissertation was on the medieval English episcopate and the Anglo-Scottish wars. Thus, the "people of God" were never far from my mind as I did my work.

My faith leads me to believe that God is in relationship with all people, and that that relationship is being worked out over time. History is the revelation of that relationship. This doesn't mean that every single battle, election, and dispute can be interpreted as being part of God's plan! But certain human and divine characteristics reassert themselves over and over again in history, and I note that.

Ultimately, the real meaning of history for me is about the relationship between human beings and God, regardless of whether the human beings I am studying practiced the faith of Abraham, Jesus, or Muhammed. Most of the time, I think it best to keep the conclusions that I draw out of the classroom, or at the least, to insert them obliquely.

Ralph Luker

Hugo, My _guess_ is that the implications of your and of my biblical faith are limited when it comes to construing history. It gives us a sense that history is linear, that it somehow had a beginning and that it moves toward an end, that individuals and events are therefore singular and unique, that something went radically wrong in our distant past which may be rightwised in the end. Those mythic assumptions are shared, however, by our secular colleagues who do history. They simply do not acknowledge the important Hebraic origins of our sense of history. But I suspect that neither of us would write an article for an historical journal which discussed events as if G_d were an agent in the events in question. Right?


Exactly, Ralph. While my faith informs my judgments about the world, it doesn't insist on being made manifest in everything I say, do, and write. That would be tedious for everyone.

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