Similarly, Kainz argues that modern secular liberalism includes its own dogmas. Among these are the beliefs “that mankind must overcome religious superstition by means of reason; that empirical science can and will eventually answer all the questions about the world and human values that were formerly referred to traditional religion or theology; and that the human race, by constantly invalidating and disregarding hampering traditions, can and will achieve perfectibility.”

Kainz also argues that contemporary liberalism has borrowed selectively from the New Testament, turning Jesus’ admonition to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,” as a foundation for “absolute secularism,” enshrined in the language of a wall separating church and state. Thus, “religion [is] reduced to something purely private.”

Secular liberalism also identifies certain sins such as “homophobia” and sexism. As Kainz sees it, the secular scriptures fall into two broad categories: “Darwinist and scientistic writings championing materialist and naturalistic explanations for everything, including morals; and feminist writings exposing the ‘evil’ of patriarchy and tracing male exploitation of females throughout history up to the present.”

The priests and priestesses of secular liberalism constitute its “sacerdotal elite” and tend to be intellectuals who can present liberal values in the public square. Congregations where secular liberals gather include organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the National Organization of Women, and similar bodies. These groups “help supply a sense of affiliation and commonality for the religiously liberal.”

The rites and rituals of secular liberalism include “gay pride” parades and pro-abortion rallies. Interestingly, the eschatology of this movement is, Kainz argues, the distillation of pragmatism. “In the estimation of the religiously liberal,” Kainz asserts, “all lifestyles and all moralities can approximate this goal, as long as the proscribed illiberal ’sins’ are avoided.”

Kainz readily admits that not all liberals are committed to this religious vision of liberalism. As he sees it, “There are many people working for social justice, human rights, international solidarity, and other causes commonly regarded as liberal without a deep ideological commitment.” His point is that conservatives may find common cause and common ground with these non-religiously committed liberals.

“For many ‘moderate’ liberals, liberalism is a political perspective, not a core ideology,” he observes. “In the culture war it is important for Christians to distinguish between the religiously committed liberal and the moderate liberal. For one thing, Christians should not be surprised when they find no common ground with the former. They may form occasional, even if temporary, alliances with the latter.”

Kainz’s article “Liberalism as Religion: The Culture War Is Between Religious Believer on Both Sides,” appears in the May 2006 edition of Touchstone magazine. His analysis is genuinely helpful in understanding the clash of positions, policies, convictions, and visions that mark our contemporary scene.

Though Kainz does not develop this point, all persons are, in their own way, deeply committed to their own worldview. There is no intellectual possibility of absolute value neutrality -- not among human beings, anyway.

The conception of our current cultural conflict as a struggle between two rival religions is instructive and humbling. At the political level, this assessment should serve as a warning that our current ideological divides are not likely to disappear anytime soon. At the far deeper level of theological analysis, this argument serves to remind Christians that evangelism remains central to our mission and purpose. Those who aim at the merely political are missing the forest for the trees, and confusing the temporal for the eternal.

Two rival religions? Machen was right then, and he is right now. The real struggle is between Christianity and Post-Christianity.

This article was originally published on May 26, 2006.

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Publication date: October 8, 2012