Refusing the Turn
Jeffersonian Separatists and Lockean Natural
The clergy of America … adopted Locke’s theology and taught it
relentlessly: the Bible teaches the same truth … that reason discovers
on its own.
—Thomas West, “Vindicating John Locke”
This is a critical turning point in Western culture as liberal ideology …
What a revolution the liberals achieve in insisting that matters of
religious conviction are not public and political matters but private
and personal ones!
— Isaac Kramnick and R. L. Moore, The Godless Constitution
… [T]here was no resolution between them…. Their mortal combat
can be moderated only by circumstance and exhaustion.
—John Rawls, Political Liberalism
Locke makes his “turn to loyalty” because he realizes the allegiances of religious believers may place them at odds with those who do not share those commitments. In other words, he recognizes that not all reasonable people will come to the same conclusions about ethics and politics, and that differing conclusions often hinge upon one’s religious vision. Henry Blackaby and Thomas Jefferson have different views about toleration because they have different views about God and God’s relation to the world. Whether Blackaby can come to view his neighbor abstracted from her religious or sexual practices depends on whether Blackaby’s theological commitments are open to such amendment. Even if the “good, liberal American” tolerates his fellow