NY Times Magazine: The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On a September afternoon, about 60 prominent Christians assembled in the library of the Metropolitan Club on the east side of Central Park. It was a gathering of unusual diversity and power. Many in attendance were conservative evangelicals like the born-again Watergate felon Chuck Colson, who helped initiate the meeting. Metropolitan Jonah, the primate of the Orthodox Church in America, was there as well. And so were more than half a dozen of this country’s most influential Roman Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop John Myers of Newark and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia.

At the center of the event was Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker. Dressed in his usual uniform of three-piece suit, New College, Oxford cuff links and rimless glasses­, George convened the meeting with a note of thanks and a reminder of its purpose. Alarmed at the liberal takeover of Washington and an apparent leadership vacuum among the Christian right, the group had come together to warn the country’s secular powers that the culture wars had not ended. As a starting point, George had drafted a 4,700-word manifesto that promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage.

Two months later, at a Washington press conference to present the group’s “Manhattan Declaration,” George stepped aside to let Cardinal Rigali sum up just what made the statement, and much of George’s work, distinctive. These principles did not belong to the Christian faith alone, the cardinal declared; they rested on a foundation of universal reason. “They are principles that can be known and honored by men and women of good will even apart from divine revelation,” Rigali said. “They are principles of right reason and natural law.”

Read it carefully and read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsMarriage & FamilySexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

Posted December 20, 2009 at 8:06 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. David Hein wrote:

Those who are interested in what Robert P. George has to say and think they like what they’ve heard should be subscribing to First Things, among other periodicals.

This statement sounded odd to me: “the cardinal continued, ascending into philosophical abstractions surely lost on most in the room.”

Presumably this argument may be foreign to NYT writers and editors, but should they really assume that the abstractions soar so high as to have been lost on the listeners in the room? Or even unintelligible to thoughtful NYT readers? Presumably many of them have some knowledge of Aquinas.

December 20, 11:51 pm | [comment link]
2. Henry Greville wrote:

Before anyone takes too seriously the premise that any moral truth can be self-evident according to human reason, remember that even if there is majority agreement on what is morally self-evident, must it follow that all moral views in the minority result from stupidity? No one will get far politically in democratic society on that platform.

December 21, 11:06 am | [comment link]
3. William P. Sulik wrote:

#1, David, I would also refer those interested to the Mirror of Justice blog, devoted to Roman Catholic Legal Theory.  Prof. George writes there - and there are a wide variety of perspectives - indeed, Robby has been in a vigorous debate with Michael Perry on a number of issues recently.  Link:

#2, Henry, both Thomas Jefferson and C.S. Lewis, among others, would disagree with you.

December 21, 8:01 pm | [comment link]
4. Henry Greville wrote:

#3 William: As for T. Jefferson and C.S. Lewis, so what? One morally questionable, the other rhetorically Pharisaic. Role models? You must be joking.

December 21, 10:40 pm | [comment link]
5. Tired of Hypocrisy wrote:

“Rhetorically Pharisaic.”  Genuinely curious to know what that means.

December 22, 9:33 am | [comment link]
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