Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One of the Problems of Pluralism

If you live in a pluralistic society, you are going to have deal with situations like this one (link). Keep in mind that Sikhs are required by their religion to carry a kirpan. Their code of conduct states: "Have, on your person, all the time, the five K's: The Keshas (unshorn hair), the Kirpan (sheathed sword), the Kachhehra (drawers like garment), the Kanga (comb), the Karha (steel bracelet)." (Reht Maryada, Chapter 13 as translated/paraphrased here)

Suppose for the sake of the argument that there is a religious justification for the actions of the "dissident" members who are opposing the "open membership" move of the majority. Must a pluralistic society tolerate this settling of their religious dispute amongst themselves in their own temple? Or must the state step in to enforce the will of the majority? or of the minority (if the minority are right about the requirements of their religion)?

And if a pluralistic society can rightly intervene in religious disputes amongst Sikhs, why not amongst other religions?

And for my Escondido friends, what if a majority of a Christian church were attempting to open communion to everyone who wants it? Does the civil magistrate have a duty to protect the church of our Lord against such violence from a majority?

-TurretinFan

N.B. No Sikh I've ever met would approve of what took place in the Sikh temple in the linked article. Please don't assume that because Sikhs carry the kirpan, they are violent people. Please don't make any other illogical conclusions from what I've written. There, that should avoid about 90% of the comments.

17 comments:

Fredericka said...

Hi TF. In Cantwell vs. Connecticut, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment "embraces two concepts -- freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute but, in the nature of things, the second cannot be. Conduct remains subject to regulation of society." Laws against assault, which certain of these individuals appear to have violated, are just fine. I'm not sure whether the local law against "disrupting a religious service" under which some 'Mr. Singh's' were charged would pass constitutional muster, does that law have any secular purpose? No unit of government can ever decide the truth or falsity of religious claims, see United States vs. Ballard: "All that mattered was whether Ballard believed in good faith that he possessed the powers he claimed to have. If this was so, then he must be acquitted." I don't know if Reverend Ike is still around, I seem to recall some people raising the phrase 'mail fraud' in connection with him, but nothing came of it because you have to prove he thought the claims he was making were false, the jury cannot decide that. The Queens Supreme Court can evaluate whether temple leadership acted according to Hoyle with reference to the by-laws of the organization, but not whether they acted rightly according to the Sikh religion.

Nick said...

TF,

What is the "Confession" or classical Reformed position on 'separation of church and state'?

It would seem to me that such a concept is not Reformed but rather more Baptist.

Ken said...

You raise a good point - I don't know if the founding fathers of USA government ever envisioned a future where other religions would become majorities in areas because of immigration. (Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism) Or atheists and Universalists or pure secularists ( ?) through apostasy and lack of faith in the next generation. (?).

Some liberal on line pointed out that even John Adams wrote to the Muslims in the Barbary Pirates issue, in the Treaty of Tripoly, "the US government is in no way founded upon the Christian religion".

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

This is a surprising statement from our second President. “not, in any sense” seems wrong and over the top and unfortunate, for it is exploited by the radical liberals of today. “founded” is also a key phrases that would have to be interpreted.

The late D. James Kennedy and David Barton of Wallbuilders forgot to mention that quote in their seminars and teachings that I have seen. (maybe they did; I just never saw it.)

The state has to step in to stop violence. The state in Europe (eventually) and USA had to step in (or learn to stop the violence themselves) and keep Protestants and Roman Catholics from killing each other. (and keep them from killing heretics and Anabaptists and Quakers and witches, right?)

The Baptist principle was a development out of that context of the conflicts that arose after the Reformation, right?

I didn't see the Sikhs using their kirpans (daggers) - they seemed to be using sticks and rods. (maybe they did, I just don’t know; it was also confusing as the filming was disrupted a lot.)

The open communion illustration does not have violence in it, so it doesn’t seem to be parallel all the way. Can elders of a Presbyterian church decide such things? Is it clear from the Westminster Confession of Faith ? I don’t know enough about that issue within Presbyterian churches. Someone said, “we guard the table, with warnings and clear teaching that they must have faith in Christ and examine themselves, confession, baptism, etc., but we don’t put barbed wire up”

Fredericka said...

Ken wrote, "...I don't know if the founding fathers of USA government ever envisioned a future where other religions would become majorities in areas because of immigration. (Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism)..."

Ken, they may have suspected this, especially if they had looked out over their own farm-yards and noticed who was working there. Most of the Africans brought here as non-voluntary immigrants were pagan animists, but some small fraction were probably Muslims. I'm told that if you look over the old slave registers in Georgia, for instance, you see names like 'Ahmad' and 'Abdullah.' At least some of these people might have had the religion to go along with the names. This is why organizations like the Moorish Science Temple and Nation of Islam felt that they were returning to their 'roots' in embracing Islam. Looking out to the horizon, the Founding Fathers might also have noticed sizable regions where devotees of other religions were residing by right of first occupancy.

beowulf2k8 said...

Are you suggesting that you would pull out a sword and stop chopping people up in order to deny them communion? Because if not, doesn't your feeble attempt at analogy kinda fail, like epic fail?

beowulf2k8 said...

"And for my Escondido friends, what if a majority of a Christian church were attempting to open communion to everyone who wants it? Does the civil magistrate have a duty to protect the church of our Lord against such violence from a majority?"

The police will come in a stop you from chopping up the open communion crowd with your sword, and you'll probably go to jail for a bit. But if the church has it clear in its bylaws that communion is only allowed for members, and you have clear membership roles, then I don't think the church would have a problem continuing its practice. You would probably even be able to get restraining orders against those who are seeking to effect change via disturbance. So rather than bashing "pluralistic society" you should applaud it. It actually affords your cooky religious beliefs better protection than they deserve and better than you could give them without resorting to violence. Thanks to the "pluralistic" society, the government will actually help you enforce your church's bylaws and ban those who are causing the disturbances.

beowulf2k8 said...

Ah, but the question is "what if a MAJORITY of a Christian church were attempting to open communion to everyone who wants it?" AH! I missed that word. Again, it relates to the bylaws. If the bylaws are clear that the pastor or elders or some specific officers control the practice of the church, and this majority does not have those persons on its side, the minority will win in court. If the bylaws are unclear on who actually possesses the power, the court may force the church to have a vote on who will take the reigns, or on the specific issue, and have the church rewrite the bylaws in accordance with the vote.

beowulf2k8 said...

But the real question is what would a non-pluralistic society do? Might as well give the contrast. The Donatists wanted to refuse communion to those who had denied Jesus during persecution, and the Catholic Roman Empire forcibly forced them to allow these people back in their churches, or they shut their churches down and seized their property. So this whole "plurastic society bad, christian society good" motif is silly. If society was run by one 'Christian' denomination, and your denomination's views were abhorrent to them, they would seize your church building and give it to one of their guys and rebrand it, and you'd be out in the cold. It happened to the Donatists, and it could happen to you.

Turretinfan said...

"Are you suggesting that you would pull out a sword and stop chopping people up in order to deny them communion? Because if not, doesn't your feeble attempt at analogy kinda fail, like epic fail?"

No and no.

Turretinfan said...

"The police will come in a stop you from chopping up the open communion crowd with your sword, and you'll probably go to jail for a bit."

You clearly didn't understand what you read.

"But if the church has it clear in its bylaws that communion is only allowed for members, and you have clear membership roles, then I don't think the church would have a problem continuing its practice."

Even if the majority wants to open communion?

"You would probably even be able to get restraining orders against those who are seeking to effect change via disturbance."

I'm not particularly interested in the "via disturbance" aspect. I'm interested in the "by majority vote" aspect.

"So rather than bashing 'pluralistic society' you should applaud it. It actually affords your cooky religious beliefs better protection than they deserve and better than you could give them without resorting to violence. Thanks to the 'pluralistic' society, the government will actually help you enforce your church's bylaws and ban those who are causing the disturbances."

I'm not particularly interested in the "disturbances" issue, as I noted. I'm also not a utilitarian, so that fact that my church may receive benefits from a pluralistic society doesn't make me applaud such a society.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"Ah, but the question is "what if a MAJORITY of a Christian church were attempting to open communion to everyone who wants it?" AH! I missed that word. Again, it relates to the bylaws. If the bylaws are clear that the pastor or elders or some specific officers control the practice of the church, and this majority does not have those persons on its side, the minority will win in court. If the bylaws are unclear on who actually possesses the power, the court may force the church to have a vote on who will take the reigns, or on the specific issue, and have the church rewrite the bylaws in accordance with the vote."

I'm curious if you think that the church at Ephesus to which Paul the Apostle wrote had "by-laws."

In any event, I'm not sure that by-laws that permit minority control will even be honored, but who knows!

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"But the real question is what would a non-pluralistic society do?"

I'm not sure if that's "the real question." What they might do would doubtless depend on a lot of factors.

beowulf2k8 said...

"I'm curious if you think that the church at Ephesus to which Paul the Apostle wrote had 'by-laws.'"

I doubt that the church in Ephesus that Paul wrote to actually owned any property. They probably met in someone's home. Bylaws exist in our wonderful "pluralistic" society to protect groups that own property from having their property stolen by infiltrators. Churches are groups that allow new members to enter, and that own property. Since the property belongs to the church, who owns it? Do all the members own a certain percent? Does the pastor own the land and the building? the deacons? the elders? If your church has not cemented that concept into bylaws you are just waiting for a group of
to join up and take over and throw you out of your own church.

It happens a lot with anti-credal churches. They see bylaws as equaling a creed and creeds are evil (according to their unwritten creed) so they refuse to make bylaws, and generally also to keep an actual record of who is a member. So if 50 people start attending and decide they want to change things up and depose the elders and start banning the original members from communion, they can easily accomplish it. Because there are no bylaws when the mess comes to court, the court will order a vote and creation of bylaws, and the new comers will be in the majority and get the property and everything. But if the bylaws had been clear that the authority (and therefore the property rights) rested with the elders, and the bylaws had been kept up to date with their names, and there was a clear record of who is and who is not a member, this new majority would not be able to succeed in their scheme. What the majority wants DOES NOT MATTER if the bylaws clearly place the authority and property ownership in the hands of a few authority figures.

Did ancient Rome have any of this type of thing? Did the Ephesians even own a church building? I don't think it matters. Unless you are arguing that Christians today are somehow not allowed to take advantage of modern advances in legal protections!!! What is that some sort of newfangled legalistic extension to the regulative principles???

beowulf2k8 said...

(Federal Visionists, hear me! Since TF's church has no bylaws apparently, you can all join up and take over by a majority vote! ONWARDS!)

Turretinfan said...

B2k8:

You seem to be kind of stuck in the world of "is" as opposed to the world of "ought to be."

I should point out that - to some extent - the 1st century Roman empire was a pluralistic society. Even though I suspect that most Christian churches met in homes, there were synagogues (for the Jews) and shrines and temples (for the pagans).

In any event, I find it interesting that your proposed approach is for churches to change the way that they operate in order to take advantage of legal protections. I don't think the Escondido crowd (you're not one of them, I recognize) could consistently answer that way.

In any event, I appreciate your comments. They provide something of a third perspective on the situation.

-TurretinFan

beowulf2k8 said...

"You seem to be kind of stuck in the world of 'is' as opposed to the world of 'ought to be.'

Which I will take as a compliment. The idealists seeking to turn the world into some sort of utopia always seem to end up leaving a mountain of skulls behind them.

Viisaus said...

Do you know why the Sikhs are required to always carry a blade? Because their sect evolved in northwest India where they were under constant threat from Muslim bullies. Sikhs had to be always ready to defend themselves.

Likewise the requirement to always wear headgear was an intentional gesture of defiance: Islamic rulers of northern India decreed that only Muslims were allowed to wear turbans, a sign of glory and superiority. The Sikhs militantly defied this policy.