Prophets in the Public Square – Part III

Final thoughts from an unpublished talk I presented at the 19th Annual Journal of Law and Religion Symposium at Hamline Law School in 2009.

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As I emphasized in Part I and Part II, religious voices in the public square need to speak authentically.  They also need to find a way to speak universally without losing sight of their own necessary particularity.  These are important religious challenges.

But how should political theory look at all this? Many political and legal philosophers, following John Rawls, have argued that religious voices in the public square need to frame their arguments in terms that are intelligible to the larger overlapping consensus of diverse communities and radically different religious convictions that participate in that conversation. Critics have suggested that this requirement of self-censorship is unnecessary, and unfair and untrue to religious faith. I want to go a step further, and argue that it can also be affirmatively bad for public discourse, and in some ways more dangerous to the secular polity.

To make my point, I want to look briefly, not at the classic works in this ongoing debate, but at a more obscure source, Rawls’s own rediscovered religious writings. Continue reading

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