American politics are chaotic these days. But if you want a glimpse into the future, take a look at the Supreme Court decision handed down at the stroke of midnight on Thanksgiving day.
Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo blocked New York State from enforcing capricious restrictions on houses of worship. Nearly all the justices agreed that these restrictions were unjustified by public health concerns. What’s most remarkable about the decision isn’t its commitment to the Constitution, but rather the identity of the plaintiffs: traditional Christians joined Orthodox Jews—with an assist from the Muslim community—to uphold America’s core commitment to religious freedom.
Far from a coalition of convenience, this may very well be a sign of an ascendant voter bloc, one that’s likely to shape politics for decades to come. That’s because the future of American elections isn’t likely to be about the exhausted old affiliations—Democrat vs. Republican, say, or the coasts vs. the heartland—that are crumbling before our eyes. Instead, as the Supreme Court case helps us understand, elections in future are likely to revolve around the struggle between two conflicting worldviews.
The first, ably represented by New York’s Gov. Cuomo, sees religion as just another pursuit for which American society can make space. This is largely because the Cuomonists, if you’ll forgive the pun, believe, like William James, that we’ve no greater value than usefulness. Is religion good? Only if it helps us meet our earthly goals. “If the hypothesis of God works satisfactorily in the widest sense of the word,” James once quipped, “it is true.” But if the hypothesis of God clashes with the hypothesis of the governor’s office, say, or the Democratic party, or any other equal organization or organizing principle, well, you should feel free to discard it.
This view of religion has become increasingly common these past five or six decades, especially among America’s elites. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as it takes the idea of liberal democracy to its logical extreme. To borrow an image from the Portuguese writer Bruno Maçães, imagine America as a hotel: You’re free to come and go as you please, and you can do whatever you want in your room as long as you don’t bother the other guests. And being a good hotel, it also has superb soundproofing, which means that it’s designed to keep all noisy chatter about God or virtue or truth from seeping out into the lobby and the halls.
Read more at First Things