This morning the conference continued with three presentations. Allen Hertzke (University of Oklahoma) gave a talk on religious advocacy in American national politics. Political advocacy by religious groups began in earnest in the aftermath of Employment Division v. Smith, when groups organized to lobby for RFRA; the networks formed at that time have continued and even expanded internationally. He discussed the findings in a recent study he did for the Pew Forum on religious groups’ lobbying operations in Washington, DC; this study revealed sophisticated, well-funded (at least $350 million annually) efforts. He ended with some questions about the future of political advocacy by religious groups; in particular, he wondered whether, by focusing on politics, some religious groups were forfeiting their role in transforming civil society.
Jean Bethke Elshtain (University of Chicago) then spoke about the false dichotomy between the terms “religious” and “secular.” She maintained that a more fruitful debate would be one between “traditionalist” and “progressive.” This debate would turn on a right conception of human nature – as between traditionalists and progressives, who would offer the more persuasive account of human nature, its good and bad features? Progressivism, she suggested, operates on the basis of a naïve anthropology that dismisses the human capacity for evil; traditionalism, at least a wise version of traditionalism, offers a better account by accepting the good and bad of human nature.
Russell Hittinger (University of Tulsa) concluded the morning session with a paper on the changing conception of the state in Catholic social theory. Since the First Vatican Council in 1870, he maintained, the Catholic Church has had a nebulous, ambiguous understanding of the state (as opposed its conception of “church,” and “family,” which have remained robust). The Church is not quite sure, he said, how to define “politics” within the broader category of “social life.” He discussed the problems that this confusion poses for church-state relations in the 21st Century.