Is Compromise in the Culture Wars Possible?

Considering current debates over gay marriage, abortion, and other issues where religion and politics intersect, Peter Berger looks for ways to avoid or defuse confrontation between religiously traditional and secular Americans in the public sphere. He writes:

I think that the only practical as well as morally acceptable formula is some degree of separation between the state and religion. There are different forms of this: British, American, French, German, Dutch. In all of these, the state (de-facto if not de-jure) is religiously neutral and presides benevolently over the pluralistic cacophony. This presupposes a secular space in which people of different faiths can peacefully interact. Important point: acceptance of the secular space (and a secular discourse to go with it, such as religiously neutral law) is not the same as secularism, which is the project of banning religion from public life. Put differently: the U.S. Constitution is not a Jacobin manifesto.

Even under the aforementioned separation formula, there must be some shared values among all of the communities or the society will either lapse into conflict or fall apart before outside aggression. In the current German debate over the integration of immigrants, the concept of Leitkultur (“lead culture”) refers to such a shared value system. This has a clear implication: there must be the shared secular discourse, supported by all communities, albeit for different reasons. Thus the first lapidary sentence of the 1949 German (then West German) constitution—“the dignity of man is inviolate”—was and is understood by Christians in terms of man in the image of God. But it can be and is being understood by people of another or no faith in terms of other conceptions of human dignity.

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Read more at American Interest

More about: Abortion, Gay marriage, Religion, Religion & Holidays, Religion and politics, Secularism

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy