Many of the secular liberal set often decry the involvement of religious actors in fear that the integrity of the secular sphere has been undermined. The impression is one of a free space being unduly interfered with by agents that deign to make that space less free to further their own ideological programs.
In response, a good number often use the line of argument that goes along this line: the space is free so as to allow for the expression of all ideological programs anyway, so what’s the big deal?
What often gets overlooked in these kinds of polarised debates – which very often begin by ceding to the terms set by the secular status quo anyway and thus nullify the “religious” edge of these actors or assume the relationship between the religious and secular as a zero-sum game – is a line of argument put forward by David L. Schindler in his Heart of the World, Centre of the Church: Communio Ecclesiology, Liberalism and Liberation.
The argument seems to be more in keeping with the biblical image in Matthew 5, where Jesus tells the parable of the “lamp under a bushel”. The lamp is meant to be put up in the highest place for all to see, depicting the way in which the Church is designed by Jesus to be the “light of the world”.
But what does the light do? Does the light so overwhelm the vision of others within its proximity that they are unable to see and engage the world around them? Or, as a light is meant to work, does it illuminate the true picture of the things around it, and thus give a true picture of the things around the people who are within the light’s proximity. The more the light penetrates the world, the more the world is able to be appreciated as the world.
In a similar vein, Schindler seems to argue in his book, Communio ecclesiology works on the assumption that secular is actually not meant to be shielded from the interference of the Church. Rather, the Church by its very nature should be involved in the affairs of this world, in a way that interrupts the regular patterns of the secular sphere but not in a way as to overwhelm the secular. Indeed, the more the Church penetrates the secular, the more the secular is able to be appreciated qua the secular.
Liberals will cry “Fundamentalist”, so-called conservatives will cry “spineless Modernist”. Both positions share the same inherently secular premises that both marginalise the church and undermine the secular. For Schindler, however, it is only in the light of the Christ, embodied in his Church, that the secular is able to see the purpose for which it was created. It is able to recognise its capacities as well as limitations, and in so doing allow for the proper flourishing of those that seek to participate in its sphere. Paradoxically, the secular can thus only be more secular, the more the Church is set as its center.