I quote from Paul Krugman’s response in the NYT to Attorney General William Barr’s speech at Notre Dame: “Barr gave a fiery speech denouncing the threat to America posed by ‘militant secularists,’ whom he accused of conspiring to destroy the “traditional moral order… Consider for a moment how inappropriate it is for Barr, of all people, to have given such a speech. The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion; the nation’s chief law enforcement officer has no business denouncing those who exercise that freedom by choosing not to endorse any religion.”
Taking advantage of the encounter of ideas here, let me propose that the act of Christian faith is not about ideas – primarily, but anthropology (a living faith).. Christian faith is an act of the whole person converting away from self to the Person of Jesus Christ and to others. The very act of conversion which is away from self is a mimicking of the Person of Jesus Christ Who is, as Son, a divine Relation to the Father. Such an action is an experience of the person who must master self to make the conversion. That mastery of self and the turn to the other (Other) is what Christian anthropoology undertstands by “freedom.” That is, Freedom is either Christian, or it isn’t freedom. The experience of the conversion produces a consciousness of being free. Real anthropological freedom is a state of being (self-determining) and consciousness. It is not reducible to a choice between particular goods – only. It is a state and consciousness of being master of self, and therefore not determined by another. Not even God. This is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council – which takes as its highroad Christ’s words: “If you abide in my Word, you will be my disciple indeed; you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8, 32). It is the mastery of self and possession of self that mekes the human person inviolable and never to be used by another. It is the grounding of true citizenship. he experience of this led to the unique explosion of the American revolution in 1776, and what makes America great. And it is only a re-conquest of this that will make America great again and beyond. It is an imaging of the freedom of God Homself..
As I perceived Barr’s talk, this was the import of his thought. It was masterful, and one recognizes it as true depending on how one lives.
By the by, such self-mastery is the root and ground of secularity because it is the created world that is the locus and opportunity of the self-mastery and self-gift. It is secular root and branch, and it is Christian.