The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege, by Damon Linker - Oct 10
This work claims that "theocons" are as much a danger to American well being as anything the neocons have done. Written by a former editor at FIRST THINGS, a magazine that deals with moral themes in America that presents the work of key Catholic writers, Richard Neuhaus and Geroge Weigel. Linker argues that the kind of certainty religious faith brings to politics is divisive and spoils the pluralist bargain the founders created. This work is fueled by a secularist's concern for the impact of Catholic influence in American politics and a distain for arguments rooted in claims about natural law. The book urges, as many such works by secularists do, that those in favor of pluralism must push back at the Christian revolution that Linker believes is driven more by its Catholic dimension than the even more suspect evangelical version. Linker sees a "godless" Europe as the model, as well as the non-public religious emphasis in Latin America as models. What this ignores is the strong religious strain to Latin American culture that is a combination of Catholic and evangelical that drives the moral underpinnings in Latin American culture, as well as the fact that many Latin American governments have tended to be heavily authoritarian. One can talk quite openly about God in Latin America without getting very steamed up about the appeal to religious discourse. In Europe, religion is addressed quite directly and pluralistically in the schools, in contrast to the absolute wall that has often greeted the topic in the USA. Linker appeals to how religious conviction is divisive, citing Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin as founding fathers who were not orthodox. But what this ignores is how others like John Adams and Patrick Henry as orthodox believers also were a part of this founding experiment who wrestled with how to combine faith and pluralism and did not rip the tender fabric of the nation's founding. A much better argument for how religious discourse can contribute to our society comes from Meacham's book. AMERICAN GOSPEL (see earlier blog). What is sorely missing from public discourse today is a non-polarized position. Is there a case to be made for how religious discourse can engage in our pluralistic country in a way that leads to moral reflection without divisiveness or without a secular cry back that any injection of religious or moral concern involves the dictates of an authoritarian perspective? Linker's handling of the possibility is religious involvement and even success basically says it does not matter if or how it is done and if Americans embrace such involvement, the result will be bad for the USA. That result is hardly a given if Christians can engage in a way that respects the pluralistic roots of our nation's roots.