Thursday, February 9, 2012

Against Privacy?

"Social Welfare is the not the responsibility of the public sector - rather the poor should be cared for by private organizations such as churches, charities, businesses, families, etc."

Anybody ever realized how sneaky comments like this are? Here, "public" is code for "the State," and "private" is code for "not the State." The upshot of this is the idea that the only truly "public" entity is the State, and that anything that is not "the State" is less so. This seems to be the makings of a subtle tyranny. After all, if the Church is simply another organization of individual interests that have no bearing on the public will, then it really, in any meaningful sense, doesn't matter. If the Church is part of the private sector and not, say, a legitimate participant in public life, on the same footing as the State, then nobody has to listen to her. Too take it all the way: If the President can ignore the Pope on matters of legislation, then Christianity doesn't matter. The Church, it seems, has a responsibility to reject the name "private." Is there any non-blasphemous way to say that Christ is a "private" person? I doubt it. If it is to be that "the government will rest on his shoulders" and kings of the world will be casting crowns before his throne, then oughtn't it be essential that Christians cringe at a statement like "Politics is, in some ways, an expression of a culture's religious beliefs"? It is the responsibility, then, for Christians to reconsider those things that are most essential to "being Christian" and reflect that, in every way, those things are overtly public acts.


Thomas said...

There's only one problem - the public/private dichotomy was slowly worked out to provide some measure of protection from the omnipresent Liberal State, which can only partially be bent to Christian purposes. There has to be as space free from the intrusion of this leviathan - and that space has become vanishingly small with the proliferation of closed circuit cameras and the like.

In a rightly ordered polity, we could reasonably speak of a 'public faith' and the like, but this is not a rightly ordered polity, and the 'public square' is really that ever growing power of the State. So, yes, in a way you're right - the Church does not matter *as the Church*. In this Liberal world it is just another 'faith-based organization'. And it became so because folks thought in categories that allowed them to imagine a world where the Church was 'on the same footing as the State', and it scared the hell out of them. In fact, the Church is not on the same footing as the state - the State as we know it is a contingent human construct, and as such is not necessary. The Church, on the other hand, is not.

After that ramble, let's be brief - we will just have to get used to this order of things. We will influence events as we're able, but this Liberal order has little use for the Church as such. We inhabit, yes, a private sphere, and we should be glad for that, given what 'public' signifies for the State.