Even if you reject the “metaphysics” of Christianity – the Incarnation, the miracles, the bodily Resurrection, etc. -- you still have to deal with Christianity as an ethical system, and by that measure there are Gospel texts that, perhaps because of their very simplicity, challenge the current conservative ethic of “I’ve got mine, Jack, so screw you”. One such text is the story of Jesus’ encounter with the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, on the road leaving Jericho. But matters are not that straightforward. For it is easy enough, in fact, borderline-trivial, to understand the story as a critique of contemporary conservative Republican attitudes toward any form of material assistance to the indigent. What is usually overlooked is that the story contains a very recessed and implicit critique
This is going to sound really strange coming from me, i.e., coming from someone who has been a life-long fairly radical devotee of the First Amendment, in particular, of both the Amendment’s religion clauses: the “establishment” clause and the “free exercise” clause. But the recent publication of the grand jury’s findings regarding six Pennsylvania dioceses in the matter of priest pedophilia has caused me to radically reassess my attitude toward the latter clause, especially given that two of the six dioceses in question attempted to have judges quash the grand jury proceedings. In particular, I now believe that, for the most part and because of an arguably well-intentioned but exaggerated deference toward the “free exercise” clause, the Nation has pretty much allowed the Church to r
The second Pillar of the First Amendment’s temple is …
o The “free exercise” clause
… or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …
Compared to both the linguistic subtleties of the “free exercise” clause and the consequent intricacies of the corresponding case law, the language of the “establishment clause” is as transparently simple as “Row, row, row your boat”. This exponential increase in complexity and subtlety is due to the fact that, whereas the “establishment” clause pertains only to government action vis a vis religious institutions, teachings, and doctrine, the “free exercise” clause pertains to the myriad ways in which the exercise of religion impinges, not only upon prerogatives of the government, but also upon those of individuals and groups.