Leftist head-scratching continues

An example of leftish puzzlement about religion and politics that’s more intelligent and well-meant than the sort of thing one sees in the New York Times:

The right question, I think, is not whether religion has an undue influence, but why it is that the current flourishing of religious faith has, for the first time ever, virtually no element of social justice? Why is its public phase so exclusively focused on issues of private and personal behavior?

The answer is that things only look that way if you’re a leftist and so think “social justice” means “more comprehensive state administration.”

The basic social issue today is the relationship of the personal and the political. For example, should sexual connections continue to have public significance—to the extent of being fundamental to the social order, as in marriage and family as traditionally understood—or should they be whatever one makes of them, as in “gay marriage”?

Left/liberalism basically says that the private should be the private and the public the public. Social order should be a matter of rational formal systems—world markets and various transnational bureaucracies—with the personal reduced to career, consumption and lifestyle choices, each equally optional and equally legitimate as long as it doesn’t interfere with the choices of others and it’s consistent with the needs of the formal public systems.

In contrast, social conservatism says that the public grows out of the private, which remains fundamental, so that the private has a continuing public aspect. From the social conservative point of view opposition to “gay marriage,” abortion, pornography and whatnot isn’t “imposing private morality,” it’s social justice. It’s an attempt to prevent the wrongful subversion and destruction of the institutions on which a tolerable life in society depends—in particular, the well-being of children and of ordinary people whose status and dignity depends on stable and functional family life—by an alliance of the well-placed, the powerful, and the libertine, who’d prefer a situation in which experts and functionaries run everything on the understanding that everyone else is totally free in his private pursuits.

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