Our friend John von Heyking sends along this characteristically rich and thoughtful contribution to the discussion of religion and politics north and south of the border.
I especially liked his discussion of the role of our common sense of vulnerability in developing a "culture of life" (my words, not his). Here’s his criticism of the great Canadin public intellectual Michael Ignatieff:
[I]s it any wonder that the inspiration for human rights develops in cultures that have long contemplated the meaning and mystery of human vulnerability in “denuded human suffering”? Does Ignatieff not recognize in this language the figure and suffering of Jesus Christ and the “suffering servant” of the Israelite prophets, not in terms of an abstract species but in the concrete person? Do we not need rights precisely because we are so fragile, because the autonomous agent is in fact a “moral fiction”? Superman does not need human rights. Ignatieff reveals his Prometheanism when he fails to see this mystery in “nakedness,” and chooses “agency” and “difference” instead. This turn toward agency, while tentative, might reveal not so much skepticism toward instincts as contempt toward weakness.
John points to the way in which the Promethean element of contemporary liberalism relies, in effect, on a kind of magnanimity as the basis for respecting the rights of others and assisting the weak. Needless to say, this is diametrically opposed to genuine compassion and even has a hard time with mutual respect.