The Pretenses of Loyalty: Locke, Liberal Theory, and American Political Theology

Overview

In the face of ongoing religious conflicts and unending culture wars, what are we to make of liberalism's promise that it alone can arbitrate between church and state? In this wide-ranging study, John Perry examines the roots of our thinking on religion and politics, placing the early-modern founders of liberalism in conversation with today's theologians and political philosophers.

From the story of Antigone to debates about homosexuality and bans on religious attire, it is ...

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The Pretenses of Loyalty: Locke, Liberal Theory, and American Political Theology

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Overview

In the face of ongoing religious conflicts and unending culture wars, what are we to make of liberalism's promise that it alone can arbitrate between church and state? In this wide-ranging study, John Perry examines the roots of our thinking on religion and politics, placing the early-modern founders of liberalism in conversation with today's theologians and political philosophers.

From the story of Antigone to debates about homosexuality and bans on religious attire, it is clear that liberalism's promise to solve all theo-political conflict is a false hope. The philosophy connecting John Locke to John Rawls seeks a world free of tragic dilemmas, where there can be no Antigones. Perry rejects this as an illusion. Disputes like the culture wars cannot be adequately comprehended as border encroachments presided over by an impartial judge. Instead, theo-political conflict must be considered a contest of loyalties within each citizen and believer. Drawing on critics of Rawls ranging from Michael Sandel to Stanley Hauerwas, Perry identifies what he calls a 'turn to loyalty' by those who recognize the inadequacy of our usual thinking on the public place of religion. The Pretenses of Loyalty offers groundbreaking analysis of the overlooked early work of Locke, where liberalism's founder himself opposed toleration.

Perry discovers that Locke made a turn to loyalty analogous to that of today's communitarian critics. Liberal toleration is thus more sophisticated, more theologically subtle, and ultimately more problematic than has been supposed. It demands not only governmental neutrality (as Rawls believed) but also a reworked political theology. Yet this must remain under suspicion for Christians because it places religion in the service of the state. Perry concludes by suggesting where we might turn next, looking beyond our usual boundaries to possibilities obscured by the liberalism we have inherited.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A notable feature of the book is this virtuosic bringing together of many writers linked via theoretical concerns about religion and politics... It achieves a synthesis, a new domain of interchange among writers who normally till their gardens in fenced off fields."—Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"In this lively and wide-ranging book, Perry... addresses some of the most thorny and difficult problems concerning religion and public life in modern liberal democracies... Highly recommended."—CHOICE

"This elegant and tightly-reasoned tract offers a striking new reading of John Locke's theories of church and state, religion and politics, conscience and command. Though Locke is often seen solely as a secular prophet of modern liberalism, Perry shows that he is also a subtle political theologian who saw the need to harmonize our spiritual and temporal loyalties in public and private life. If Perry is right on Locke, our conventional constitutional histories and political theories will need ample revision, and Perry shows us the way."—John Witte, Jr., Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University

"Have you ever wondered whether it's possible for a liberal democratic state to accommodate all the diverse loyalties of its citizens, especially all their diverse religious loyalties? If so, then this is the book for you. In a fresh reading of the entirety of John Locke's writings on toleration, Perry shows how Locke moved from an anti-toleration position to the view that almost all religious loyalties should be tolerated and can be tolerated if we establish 'just bounds' between religion and a government. Skillfully negotiating the vast literature on this topic, Perry argues that no liberal theorist has ever succeeded in formulating these just bounds, and that it's a mistake to think in terms of a boundary between a neutral state and the loyalties of the citizens. He concludes by asking, 'What then?' Altogether an illuminating, thoroughly informed, compelling and bracing argument."—Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199756544
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John Perry is McDonald Fellow for Christian Ethics and Public Life at the University of Oxford. He has degrees in Theology and Political Science, including a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame. He has published articles in the Journal of Religious Ethics, Scottish Journal of Theology, Journal for the Society of Christian Ethics, Christian Bioethics, and elsewhere.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I: Lifting the Veil of Ignorance
1. Liberalism's Turn to Loyalty
2. Harmonized Loyalties & Abstract Respect: Two Sides to the Tolerationist Coin

Part II: John Locke's Arguments for Toleration
3. Locke's Early Work: From Vizor of Religion to Veil of Ignorance
4. A Letter Concerning Toleration: Locke Turns to Loyalty-and Beyond
5. ''All at Once in a Bundle'': The Blurring of the Just Bounds

Part III: John Locke's America
6. Refusing the Turn: Jeffersonian Separatists and Lockean Natural Lawyers
7. Locke & Loyalty in Contemporary Political Theology: Three Ways of Making the Turn

Conclusion

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