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The Paradox of Christian-Based Political Advocacy: A Reply to Professor Calhoun


Wayne R. Barnes


October 4, 2018

Professor Calhoun, in his Article around which this symposium is based, has asserted that it is permissible for citizens to publicly argue for laws or public policy solutions based on explicitly religious reasons. Calhoun candidly admits that he has “long grappled” with this question (as have I, though he for longer), and, in probably the biggest understatement in this entire symposium, notes that Professor Kent Greenawalt identified this as “a particularly significant, debatable, and highly complex problem.” Is it ever. I have a position that I will advance in this article, but I wish to acknowledge at the outset that this is a difficult and complicated issue. It intersects with issues of constitutional law, theology, political theory, jurisprudence, philosophy, law and morality—and that’s just off the top of my head. As soon as one issue is addressed, twelve others raise their head and confound. I am also mindful that Professor Calhoun has been grappling with this issue for far longer than I have. I respect him and his thoughtful treatment of this issue immensely. Part of my trepidation in addressing this subject is that, as will be seen in this response, Professor Calhoun once held a very similar opinion on this issue as me. However, he has evolved beyond it, whereas I (to date) have not. The structure of this online symposium is that Professor Calhoun will have a chance to respond in writing to the points I make in this Article, and I will then have the opportunity to reflect and respond to his reply. I look forward to the exchange, and I know that I will be enriched for having participated in the dialogue.