|Senator Dianne Feinstein|
|Professor Amy Barrett|
“Dogma and law are two different things,” said Feinstein. “I think, whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different; in your case, Professor [Barrett], when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for, for years, in this country.”
Watson’s indictment is scathing. “Let’s be clear,” he writes. “Senator Feinstein’s statement cannot mean, ‘You are dogmatic and I am not.’ Rather, it means, ‘I prefer my dogma over yours.’”
Although the term “dogma” is often used negatively as the description of a rigidly held system of beliefs that is impervious to rational inquiry, it can have a more neutral meaning as an established set of opinions. Watson defines it as “a body of accepted teaching.”
Secular liberals, he argues, have their own dogma.
“Secular liberalism is not a value-neutral position. It is a value-laden position with its own set of moral and philosophical underpinnings. One of those presuppositions is the idea of “progress,” that human beings are becoming better and better as time goes on. . . . We are becoming better in our understanding of the natural world and in our mastery of it. We are learning to understand human behavior and human flourishing better than we ever have before. We are developing a keener sense of morality than those who came before us in history. We know better than they did.”For Watson, “the idea of human progress . . . is an untenable myth, at least with regard to our moral and spiritual development.” And then he lists the evidence for his assertion:
“Two World Wars, the Holocaust, the development of nuclear weapons, the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge, the Rwandan Genocide, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, 9/11, chemical warfare, the rise of global extreme poverty… It was a bloody hundred years.”Yes. It was a bloody hundred years. But it was also an amazing hundred years: the rights of women, the advancement of race relations, the end of segregation and apartheid, advances in worker rights, advances in the rights of the handicapped, giant leaps in our global standard of living, the end of colonialism, increases in life expectancy and healthcare, and that's just a partial list.
A lot of good things happened in the twentieth century, but the belief in human progress is not based on a single century; it is based on the observation of human history over thousands of years.
The belief in human progress grows out of a fundamental biblical idea, that God is at work in human history. That’s why, as Dr. King said in his sermon after the march from Selma to Montgomery, the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice. This is the central claim of the Exodus. And it is the theology of the Kingdom of God.
In the rich symbolic language of Deuteronomy, "The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm . . . and he brought us into this place . . .”