There is the risk of being excessively self-referential, but friends tell me I should respond to this just to keep the record straight. And of course the questions engaged involve many people other than myself. At issue is a very long article in the Winter 1998 issue of that excellent journal Pro Ecclesia written by Scott H. Moore, a philosopher at Baylor University, titled “The End of Convenient Stereotypes: How the First Things and Baxter Controversies Inaugurate Extraordinary Politics.” In fact, in the book The End of Democracy? (Spence), I did deal with an earlier unpublished version of Moore's article. But perhaps some additional points are in order.
Readers may recall that the “Baxter controversy” has to do with Father Michael Baxter, a young theologian who is a disciple of Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University and was appointed to the theology department of the University of Notre Dame against the wishes of most of the faculty. There have been exchanges on that controversy in these pages. Moore is sympathetic to the Baxter-Hauerwas position, and believes, with justice, that the controversy exposed the ideological captivity of the Notre Dame theological establishment to a liberalism that cannot countenance a radically Christian challenge to its form of cultural accommodation, and must therefore try to dismiss someone like Baxter as “sectarian.” As for the First Things part of his subtitle, Moore is referring of course to the controversy over “the judicial usurpation of politics,” and to the attacks by neoconservatives, notably in Commentary magazine, on arguments appearing in these pages.
Along the way of his argument, Moore intelligently dissects papers given by Gertrude Himmelfarb and myself at the inauguration of a new president at Baylor University. Both of them were published here under the rubric “The Christian University” (January 1996). He is right in seeing that there is a significant difference between Himmelfarb and myself on the place of religion in the Christian university. Himmelfarb respectfully affirms a “role” for religion within the limits of a university that is defined by terms essentially secular and liberal, whereas I propose that a Christian university is one in which all roles are defined by reference to a Christian understanding of the truth that the university is to serve. This is indeed a very important difference, and Moore is right to see in the Baylor papers the source of the disagreement that later erupted in Himmelfarb's reaction to the FT arguments about judicial usurpation. It is possible that she believes it is illegitimate for religion to challenge the legitimacy of the government, just as it would be illegitimate for religion to challenge the liberal definition of the university. In the case both of higher education and of government, the controlling definition of reality is supplied by liberalism. Within that definition, religion can be tolerated and even celebrated, so long as it is subordinate to the controlling liberal definition.
Moore, however, may be attributing to Himmelfarb a more systematic and rigorous position than she in fact holds. With Hauerwas & Co. he betrays a tendency to reify “liberalism,” turning it into a concrete and coherent doctrine far beyond what many who affirm “the liberal tradition” recognize as their own position. This can be useful in teasing out possible implications of a position held by others, but it can also end up by imposing upon them meanings that are not theirs. Moore is right in saying that I want to view Himmelfarb and people of like mind as allies. In fact, they are allies on most of the questions currently contested in our public life. He is wrong in suggesting that I am being “reluctantly” forced to recognize that they are not allies because they are operating on liberal presuppositions that are in irreconcilable conflict with the Christian construal of reality.
Moore's thesis is that we are in a moment of “extraordinary politics” in which it is being “demonstrated that the convenient stereotypes of ‘liberal' and ‘conservative,' with respect to religion and politics, are now bankrupt.” I have always thought that terms such as liberal and conservative are of only limited usefulness. In the 1960s I was called a liberal, and often a radical; from the early 1970s on, I have generally been described as a neoconservative or simply a conservative. Now some of my neoconservative friends worry that I'm reverting to radicalism. My flip response to those who inquire about these “changes” is to quote Cardinal Newman to the effect that to live is to change, and to be perfect is to change often. “Obviously, I'm on my way to perfection,” I have said. In a more serious mode, I certainly do not want to deny that I have changed, but I am much more impressed by the continuities than by the discontinuities.
The chief continuity with respect to religion and public life is that I have always believed and believe now that we live in a fallen world that is radically disjointed. There is no one universal discourse that can do justice to the myriad approximations of truth by which people try to make sense of the world. Such a discourse awaits the promised Kingdom of God. Now that promised future is proleptically anticipated in the speaking of the gospel and, most adequately (or least inadequately), in the Church's liturgy. Short of the Kingdom, our public or political task in an inescapably pluralistic world is to find common moral ground for establishing and maintaining a humane life together. Christianity is unique in providing conceptual and practical resources for doing precisely that. In making arguments over the years, I have been ecumenical in enlisting resources as various as the Augustinian “two cities,” the Lutheran “twofold kingdom of God,” the Calvinist “spheres of sovereignty,” the “Christian realism” of Reinhold Niebuhr et al., and the Catholic understanding of the common good grounded in natural law and explicated in the Church's social doctrine. All of these are, I believe, compatible with and supportive of the liberal tradition that I affirm.
If liberalism is understood as Hauerwas & Co. construe it-as upper-case Liberalism, a philosophy that claims to be a neutral and universal discourse that is capable of comprehending and thereby neutralizing all particular discourses-then I am not and never have been a liberal. Such a Liberalism is a snare and delusion, indeed an idolatry, greater than, because more subtle than, Marxist ideology and other madnesses to which human beings succumb when they refuse to live provisionally, which is to say, when they refuse to wait for the promised Kingdom of God. But there is Liberalism, and then there is liberalism.
Prof. Moore speaks of Neuhaus being forced to a “reluctant sectarianism” and of “the depth of the passion of his tortured soul on these questions.” He cites my May 1997 article, “The Liberalism of John Paul II”:
“This article is critical not only of current defenses, which Neuhaus calls ‘distortions,' of Liberalism (like that of Rawls and Dworkin) but also of current critiques of Liberalism (like that of Hauerwas and MacIntyre). Neuhaus is clearly calling for the Church to engage in an extraordinary politics of a sort, though he mistakenly thinks it can be achieved through the attempt to ‘reappropriate and rebuild the liberal tradition.' Neuhaus understands this endeavor as ‘contending for the soul of the liberal tradition.' However, to understand oneself as ‘contending for the soul of the liberal tradition' is already to have placed oneself against and outside of Liberalism. This ‘tradition,' so-called, is one which denies the very idea of soul and which has lived and died on the assumption that it is not the embodiment of a tradition but rather of those neutral, self-evident realities the recognition of which is necessary to sustain a rather truncated version of human freedom in society. Neuhaus certainly recognizes this difficulty even if he thinks it might be accomplished through a reinvigorated Liberalism.”
Prof. Moore is over-excited. I have never subscribed to what he means by upper-case Liberalism, and certainly do not want to reinvigorate it. I have written at length, not least in The Naked Public Square, in criticism of the various “monisms,” including secular liberal monisms, that deny the provisional and pluralistic character of existence before the eschatological End Time. Only in the academic precincts of political philosophy, jurisprudence, and theological ethics does one find people who inflate Liberalism or Conservatism into veritable religions over which they exercise the passions of their tortured souls. I am quite entirely untroubled by the claim that my defense of the liberal tradition is “against and outside of Liberalism.” I have never sworn allegiance to the religion of Liberalism. By the liberal tradition I mean something quite modest but nonetheless of great value. Indeed it is valuable precisely because it is modest.
The liberal tradition that I would defend is a set of sensibilities, habits, and institutions such as those exemplified, however imperfectly, in the American experiment. Respect for the dignity of the person, human rights, tolerance, limited government, the rule of law, checks and balances, ordered liberty-these are among the key components of the liberalism that I believe is affirmed also by John Paul II. I develop this understanding of liberalism more fully in “Christianity and Democracy” (October 1996), which begins with the statement: “Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final assertion Christians make about all of reality, including politics. Believers now assert by faith what one day will be manifest to the sight of all: every earthly sovereignty is subordinate to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.” That, I would insist, is not “sectarian” but is the firmest foundation of the liberal democratic tradition. People like Rawls and Dworkin say it is sectarian, but I don't know why Christians such as Scott Moore should concede the point.
Similarly, the 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus argues that democracy is only secure when it is grounded in the deepest convictions, including religious convictions, of the people. When the question of truth is excluded and democracy is reduced to allegedly neutral principles and procedures, says John Paul, it can easily turn into “thinly disguised totalitarianism.” Exactly right. Moore says that this argument is “against and outside of Liberalism.” So much the worse for Liberalism. He and others have charged that in the article he cites I am in fact using a conservative argument to defend liberalism. There may be something to that. In the article, I discuss why it is that those who defend the liberal tradition along the lines I suggest are today often called conservative. The point is that the sensibilities and institutions that I designate as “the liberal tradition” can be defended on a number of grounds, and I believe with John Paul II that the strongest ground for its defense is biblical faith. I understand why this argument is problematic for liberal secularists-and for Christian thinkers who recognize only the Liberalism that is a comprehensive belief system incompatible with Christian faith.
I cheer wholeheartedly an Alasdair MacIntyre who pricks the pretensions of that Liberalism when it claims to be a universal discourse above the fray of contending traditions. He masterfully exposes such Liberalism as but another “rival tradition,” and not the most impressive of traditions by any means. I wish him many years of smiting the enemy hip and thigh. Such intellectual battles are of great importance. But there is a problem when Hauerwas & Co. conflate that Liberalism with the liberal tradition under discussion here. Surely they are connected, both historically and conceptually, but distinctions are in order. The Enlightenment Liberal Tradition against which my friend Hauerwas rails is mainly, although not entirely, confined to textbooks. It is-or at least it was until the advent of sundry postmodernisms-the regnant and frequently oppressive philosophy in some institutions, notably in the university and the courts. The liberal tradition that I defend, on the other hand, is a lived experience largely outside the world defined by textbooks. It is the institutions, sensibilities, and habits that characterize, for instance, the American experiment as actually experienced. It, too, has its classic texts. Tocqueville provided one of the greatest; Reinhold Niebuhr and John Courtney Murray provided others. And, although by no means limited to its American version, John Paul has provided a powerful defense of the experiment for our time in, among other texts, Centesimus Annus.
Like Hauerwas, Baxter, Moore, and others, I believe that Christianity is inherently countercultural. Every culture contains within it the temptation to commit an act of closure, to assume that it is or that it can become the culmination of history. Put differently, every culture is tempted to make an idol of itself. Against that danger, Christianity stands in eschatological resistance-declaring to the world, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” It frankly astonishes me when critics suggest that I do not understand that, for it has been such a persistent theme in my writing and speaking of the past three decades.
Raising the question of the moral legitimacy of government is not something I first did in 1996 in connection with the judicial usurpation of politics. In Movement and Revolution, I examined governmental legitimacy and the advocacy of revolutionary change in the light of the Christian criteria for just war. That was published in 1969. In Freedom for Ministry (1979)-which Hauerwas has kindly called the best book available on the subject of Christian ministry-the central proposition is that the minister is “the ambassador of a disputed sovereignty.” The title of Against the World for the World (1976) speaks for itself. That argument is developed with specific reference to the American experiment in Time Toward Home (1976) and America Against Itself (1992). But I go on, as God knows I have gone on over the years, leaving a paper trail of more than twenty-five books and somewhere around a thousand published articles.
Whether my subject is ministry, liturgy, ecclesiology, ecumenism, medical ethics, church-state law, or politics, always the theme is oppositional or, if you will, dialectical-always the “now” of history and the “not yet” of eschatological promise, always the sacred absolute challenging the profanely idolatrous, always the interplay of the critically affirmative and affirmatively critical. But still I read things such as Prof. Moore's assertion that my “tortured soul” is being reluctantly forced to the recognition that there is perhaps a tension between Christian truth and the world as defined by secular liberalism. Others go further, claiming that my driving devotion is to a certain politics, and my purpose is to enlist the Church and its theology in service to that political vision. What is one to say? I can only say again-I hope not in tones too defensive-that I am first and foremost and always a Christian and a priest. What I do at the altar and in the confessional and in the pulpit is of immeasurably greater significance than anything I do in the public arena. For me, the Real Presence of the crucified and risen Lord in the Eucharist is the axis mundi upon which turns all that is or ever will be; it is, as Dante saw, the love that moves the sun and all the other stars.
In the premier issue of this journal of religion and public life, we declared our editorial purpose, asserting that “the first thing to be said about public life is that public life is not the first thing.” That means that politics-whether of the left or of the right or of stripes unspecifiable-is not the first thing. The only politics that can ultimately claim our allegiance is the authentically new politics, the right ordering of all things, in the promised rule of God. What, then, is the difference between Hauerwas & Co. and myself? More important than any difference, and yet inseparably related to our difference, is our agreement that the second century Letter to Diognetus got it right in describing the awkward circumstance of Christians in any earthly polis: “Though they are residents at home in their own countries, their behavior there is more like that of transients; they take their full part as citizens, but they also submit to anything and everything as if they were aliens. For them, any foreign country is a homeland, and any homeland a foreign country.”
We are alien citizens, and my difference with some others who assert that with equal urgency is that I believe both words must be underscored. I, too, hang my harp on the willows and weep by the rivers of Babylon, asking, “How can we sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land?” But we do sing them. Unlike some who sing the songs of Zion, I do not desire countercultural confrontation, and have no appetite for jousting with a Liberalism that exists chiefly in the intellectual backwater that is the contemporary academy. I want to make the best of our unsatisfactory circumstance, knowing that all circumstances are unsatisfactory short of the Kingdom. I discern in liberal democracy and in the American version of it a foreign country where one can be more at home, however provisionally, than in other homelands that are away from home. All in all and considering the alternatives, this American experiment is worthy of our devotion. It is a devotion sharply qualified by the awareness that this is not home. And by the awareness that it is a nation “under God,” which means, first of all, a nation under judgment.
Jeremiah had it right: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” I don't think it serves any useful purpose to keep announcing to our fellow citizens that we are aliens and exiles, that we don't really belong here, and that we hold their city in contempt. Moreover, it is unseemly for Christians to be rudely saying such things while, at the same time, we enjoy all the rights and benefits of the city. It is our city as much as it is their city, and we should, as in second-century Rome, take our full part as citizens-all the time telling our fellow citizens that they, too, are exiles, that they, too, have another and an infinitely better home.
True, it may happen, as has so often happened in history, that the city will turn against us. Then we must be prepared for resistance and, ultimately, for martyrdom. It could, God forbid, happen in this foreign country and homeland that is America. The judicial usurpation of politics is an ominous sign that it may be happening here. If it comes to that, however, it must never be by our choice. It is also the case that the city can turn against us in more insidious ways, especially a city so rich and splendid in appearance as this. It can seduce us into thinking that this really is our home. Therefore we must always keep our countercultural witness honed, even as we seek the welfare of the city, and precisely because that witness serves the welfare of the city. Being alien citizens is an exceedingly awkward and complicated business, and Christians will likely never get it entirely right until our exile is ended, and then we won't have to worry about it any more.
Along the way to that final homecoming, there will continue to be controversies great and small, such as that over Baxter and First Things. Please don't get me wrong: Scott Moore's analysis of these controversies is intelligent and clearly intended to be sympathetic. But the “extraordinary politics” to which he refers is ever so much more extraordinary than his article suggests. It is the politics of the Kingdom in judgment and support of this and every earthly polis. He speaks of the end of the stereotypes of “liberal” and “conservative,” but the importance he attributes to that reflects another stereotype, namely, that terms such as “liberal” and “conservative” have defined the significant differences among Christians who write about public affairs. For many people those are no doubt the terms that matter most. Too bad for them.
Prof. Moore is mistaken in thinking they are terms that have mattered much to me. In saying this I am not adopting the posture of “beyond liberal and conservative,” which is a common rhetorical ploy employed by both right and left and is a sneaky claim to that neutrality of which upper-case Liberalism falsely boasts. No, in my defense of the liberal tradition I generally find myself these days in the company of those who call themselves conservative, and for the most part it is very good company, even if some of them think I am an unreliable ally, what with all this talk about moral truth, natural law, and even, would you believe it, the coming rule of God. They will just have to get used to it. The Christians and, for that matter, the believing Jews are not going to go away. We have nowhere to go, except home; and the timing of that transition is not under our control.
But it is a stereotype of a stereotype to think, as Scott Moore does, that the significance of the current controversies is that they move us beyond the stereotypes of liberal and conservative. In addressing specific issues and arguments, we will continue to find ourselves allied with those who agree, and it is inevitable that people will put names on these alliances. But live long enough and you learn that all such alliances and labels are contingent and temporary. It is true that for many people “liberalism” or “conservatism” (or variations thereon) is the name of their church, which is a pity. For those who have the Church that is not the case, for by faith's anticipation the Church really is home away from home, a community of exiles who are eager to serve the earthly city, and in no way serve it better than in reminding it that it is not the final destination, that it is not the City of God.
Here are a few little items retrieved from the cutting room floor, as it were, that didn't make it into my article on “The Cuban Revolutions” in the last issue. • At several points the Pope underscored that Cuba is part of Latin America, and other Latin American countries have a special obligation to help out a country of “the same Christian heritage and the same language.” The unity of Latin America, counterbalancing the colossus of the North, was also a not-so-subliminal point at the Synod for America held in Rome at the end of 1997, on which I am now writing a book. This theme may ruffle U.S. sensibilities, but it is understandable and probably healthy in a world so dominated by one country. • In his “Message to Youth” issued in Cuba, John Paul urged young people not to succumb to “alcoholism, drugs, sexual irresponsibility, and prostitution, the constant pursuit of new experiences.” Then he added, “Do not take refuge in sects, alienating spiritualist cults, or groups that are completely foreign to the culture and tradition of your country.” The synod in Rome had proposed that other Christian groups no longer be called “sects,” and the Pope had a most cordial meeting with such groups while in Cuba, so he probably didn't have them in mind. “Spiritualist cults” might refer to Santeria, but Santeria is far from being “completely foreign to the culture and tradition” of Cuba. Santeria is a complex mix of Christianity and African religions in which the Blessed Virgin and other saints have their counterparts in the gods and goddesses of rivers, fertility, iron, and the such. The Santeria priests, or babalaos, were for a time favored by the Castro regime against the Catholics. Some say a majority of Catholics in Cuba also practice Santeria, but a bishop tells me that is greatly exaggerated. Babalaos complained that Santeria had no formal part in the Pope's visit and that they were not invited to the “ecumenical encounter” on the final day. Jaime Cardinal Ortega of Havana explained: “They are baptized Christians, and we cannot engage in ecumenism with a part of the Catholic Church itself. The Church has always integrated popular religiosity, never excluded it, and this would be a way of excluding it.” The official word for such integration is “inculturation,” and in Cuba inculturation gives new meaning to James Joyce's observation that the Catholic Church is “here comes everybody.” • A regular part of the Pope's pastoral visits is time spent with the sick and suffering. This time it was at St. Lazarus Hospice in Havana, which is run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. “I come as a pilgrim of truth and hope to this Shrine of St. Lazarus,” he said, “as one who experiences in his own flesh the meaning and value which suffering can have when it is accepted by drawing near in trust to God who is rich in mercy.” The theme of participating with others in the redemptive suffering of Christ has become more pronounced in John Paul's statements of recent years. • A choral group of about twenty young people attended a Mass said by Cardinal Law of Boston and one evening he invited them back to the sumptuous Cohiba Hotel for soft drinks and dinner. This was a world they had never seen and, with youthful exuberance, they took over the large bar area and then the dining room, belting out hymns, including, in Spanish, a jubilant “Hallelujah Chorus.” The choir director was an elderly nun who had lived through the decades of oppression and defection from the Church. “The children!” she exclaimed with tears in her eyes. “I prayed and I knew it would happen. It is a miracle!” Laughter and tears were general in that memorable moment. • One afternoon an evangelical minister, a Baptist, tells me about the oldline groups in Cuba, such as the Methodists. “They have very few people, but for a long time they were the only religious people Fidel would talk with. Maybe some of them went too far in cooperating in our oppression, but they had the connections, also in the U.S. God can use them, too.” He adds that it used to be the evangelicals who were stronger in resisting the regime, “But now it is the Catholics. And especially now with the Pope coming. But it makes no difference who gets the credit. It is all for the gospel of Jesus, and I don't think things can go back to the way they were for any of us.” • Back home there were other things happening around the Pope's visit, apart from the shameful debacle of the American presidency. The National Council of Churches, United Methodists, and Presbyterian Church (USA) joined in a coalition with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lobby for a complete lifting of sanctions against the Castro regime. The coalition's statement at the time of the visit blamed the U.S. for bad relations with Cuba and made no mention of the regime's suppression of religious, political, and civil rights, which is perhaps understandable in the case of the Chamber of Commerce. The Wall Street Journal, of course, has long opposed the embargo. The advocacy brings together an interesting mix of left-leaning religionists and business leadership. Christians in Cuba worry that simply lifting the sanctions without any quid pro quo will economically strengthen Castro, providing him resources to pay the military enforcers of his police state. The Cuban people, they fear, would become cheap labor for the Yanqui capitalists, with the regime taking the money and paying off workers with soap, toothpaste, and other necessities in short supply. On a smaller scale, it would be a deal similar to that struck between U.S. business and the regime in China. But then, the National Council and its member churches are marvelously insouciant about the denial of religious, political, and civil rights in China as well. •And this should be mentioned: Neither I nor the others in our company encountered even one Cuban who had a bad word for America. This is remarkable when one considers that for nearly forty years they have been incessantly indoctrinated in hatred for the United States. Their admiration for America and things American may be in part the “consumerist obsession” against which the Holy Father rightly warns. But people who are hungry for both bread and freedom, and maybe a circus or two to relieve the doldrums of decades, should be cut some slack. A modicum of material well-being is not consumerism, and the desire for it is not an obsession. After the passing of the Marxist madness, the task will be to bring the Cuban people into “the circle of productivity and exchange” (Centesimus Annus) in the hope that they will one day be fortunate enough to face the moral challenge of the consumer society. The Pope is certainly right to alert them to that challenge in advance. For the foreseeable future, however, consumerism-understood as inordinate concern for things material-will be driven by extreme deprivation. • I also didn't get into that article the sad news about cigars. My friends and I checked them out, as any sensible person who is even an occasional cigar smoker would. Some of the more expensive were so-so, and a box of more moderately priced specimens were so tightly packed as to be totally unsmokeable. After Fidel's conquest, Cuban seed was taken to the Dominican Republic and elsewhere, producing cigars that are better and more reasonably priced, and readily available in the U.S. At least that is the conclusion of our avid, albeit unscientific, research. I suppose some will count that as one less reason for lifting the embargo. • Given the political disarray in this country, it seems little will be done about the embargo any time soon. More important and immediate than the embargo question, I was impressed by the way that U.S. pilgrims to Cuba-including cardinals, bishops, and many priests-evinced a sense of urgency about ongoing and very practical work with the Cuban Church. Of course that bonding, as it is called, between North American and Latin American bishops was evident also at the synod in Rome, but Latin America is an impossibly big and diffuse reality. Despite the oppressive state, Cuba seems more manageable, a place where little things could make a large difference. Already people are planning return visits and creating new channels of aid and cooperation. That, too, is a difference made by the visit of John Paul II. • There are other items on the cutting room floor, but enough. As I said in last month's article, the real revolution in Cuba is now just beginning.
Time magazine celebrated its 75th birthday with a spectacular bash at Radio City Music Hall. According to our local paper, it seemed everyone was there except the Pope and Queen Elizabeth, both of whom had been invited. The stars of the occasion, apart from the magazine itself, were all the people who had ever been on the cover of Time, which does not include me. Although Claire Boothe Luce did once tell me, “It's so sad Harry isn't here. He would have put you on the cover just as he did for Father Murray.” She was referring to John Courtney Murray, of course, and, even if she didn't mean it, it was nice of her to say it. Many years ago, Malcolm Muggeridge referred to the cover of Time as “the most coveted stained glass window of contemporary culture.”
That was a long time ago. When I was in college in the late fifties, Time was a major point of reference. I recall that a young prof at that Texas institution learned that I read Time every week, and cover to cover. He was mightily impressed. It established my reputation as the resident intellectual. Even in the seventies, editors and writers and academics frequently talked about what Time said about this or that. That was a long time ago.
Time has been radically dumbed down, and has cut back on the “grey matter,” meaning actual text, that interrupts the flow of advertisements. It now seems more or less indistinguishable from People and hundreds of other magazines on the racks, many of them generated by the publishing empire that Time became. I am occasionally faxed Charles Krauthammer's excellent columns that still appear there. No doubt there are other good things that appear from time to time. But nobody mentions them, and in this business, for better or worse, what gets mentioned is generally thought worthy of mention. Of general interest publications, for instance, must reading includes the New York Times, above all, then Commentary, National Review, The New Republic, the Weekly Standard, probably the New York Review of Books, and from there one moves on to more specialized, and generally more interesting, things.
But back to Time's birthday party. The picture in the Times caught Raquel Welch and Dr. Jack Kevorkian being most convivial. Henry Kissinger was there, as were General William Westmoreland, Robert McNamara, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and of course Bill Clinton. Gorbachev flew in from Vienna. Other participants: Joe DiMaggio, Louis Farrakhan, Anita Hill, Imelda Marcos, and Leni Riefenstahl, the Nazi propagandist. John Kennedy toasted McNamara for admitting he was wrong about Vietnam and thus helping him, Kennedy, bear the tragic burdens of life. The toast does not bear close parsing. The Rev. Jerry Falwell was pressing the flesh of thousands, and Muhammad Ali had a few gracious words of benediction. And so it went.
The editors of Time are not in the business of making, as they say, value judgments. I wonder if they invited Saddam Hussein. I was impressed by the feting of “Dr. Death” Kevorkian. Had history turned out somewhat differently, one could imagine the presence of Wilhelm Himmler, chancellor of Germany and grandson of the other Himmler who, as Time might put it, was the mastermind of Germany's “controversial population policy in the 1940s.” But how could they not have invited Dr. Kevorkian if they were going to invite the Rev. Falwell? After all, Kevorkian's approval ratings in the country are higher than Falwell's. Inviting one and not the other would have required (gasp) a moral judgment. But the invitation list, as I understand it, included everyone who made the cover. I am told that Adolf Hitler once made it. My hunch is that Henry Luce, who was not averse to moral judgment, would not have invited him. Mrs. Luce was right: It is sad that Harry isn't here. Not because I might have been on the cover of Time. Although that would be a kick, and even more of a kick to decline the dubious honor and refuse to cooperate with the writing of the cover story. And not because Henry Luce was right about everything, which he wasn't. But because he knew it is an editor's job to make moral judgments, which includes deciding what, and who, is beyond the pale. On the other hand, the President of these United States pronounced the party a “swell affair,” and who am I to disagree with the President?
When anyone asks who is doing really interesting work in theology these days, the name of Robert Jenson of St. Olaf College in Minnesota is always on the short list. He is a frequent contributor to these pages, and his article “How the World Lost Its Story” (October 1993) is, in my judgment, one of the finest pieces of theology we've published. Now the first volume of his systematic theology is out, and I am somewhat late in drawing attention to it (Systematic Theology: The Triune God, Oxford University Press, 244 pages,, $49.95). It is a relatively short book of a projected two-volume work, as distinct from the three volumes that is usual for systematic theologies. It is also very tightly packed, a demanding read for the specialist and nonspecialist alike. But it very much rewards the effort.
I have often found that the reading of rigorous theology is a much richer devotional experience than the reading of books intended to be devotional. That is even more the case with the explosion of pap “spiritualities” in recent years. Jenson is nothing if not rigorous, although his elliptical style frequently leaves the reader groping for connections. They are there to be found, however. Jenson has a fine grasp of the biblical and patristic materials, and he is solidly situated within the history of modern theology, with figures such as Schleiermacher, Barth, and Pannenberg playing featured roles. Unusual for contemporary theologians, he is much influenced by the eighteenth-century Jonathan Edwards, and some readers will discern a strong affinity with Hans Urs von Balthasar. Jenson is a Lutheran of the evangelical catholic variety, although some Lutheran theologians think, with justice, that he is more Catholic than Lutheran.
This first volume is divided into three parts: “Prolegomena,” “The Triune Identity,” and “The Triune Character.” The first part is a splendid statement of what theology is about and a critique of its current practice. “Theology is the Church's enterprise of thought and the only Church conceivably in question is the unique and unitary Church of the creeds,” Jenson writes. As the titles of the second two parts indicate, the God in theology is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who is also-and this is crucially important to his argument-the God of Israel. In a footnote (many of his most incisive statements are in footnotes) the connection is underscored: “There is no reason for the Church to think that contemporary Judaism has a prior right to the use or interpretation of the Old Testament. Some of our difficulty arises from the supposition that the Church once ‘appropriated' or ‘adopted' Israel's Scriptures; since the origin of the Church depended on these Scriptures, such an event can never have happened. Moreover, since what is now called Judaism and the Church appeared simultaneously within Israel, neither can have a prior claim; even from a strictly historical point of view, the one is as immediate and direct a continuation of canonical Israel as the other.”
Central to Jenson's brief is that, in Christian theology, the doctrine of God is inescapably trinitarian. That may seem obvious, but he rightly notes that many theologians first attend to the doctrine of God and then move on to the question of the Trinity. This, he contends, is to get everything backwards. It results in establishing a philosophical and essentially non-Christian notion of deity to which Christian particularities, such as the Triune Identity, must then be fitted. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and vice versa. Thus, unlike most systematic theologies, the first volume includes the doctrine of Christ (Christology) and of the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) under the doctrine of God. While greatly indebted to Karl Barth (as any contemporary theologian almost has to be), Jenson cannot easily be dismissed as an anti-philosophical “Barthian.” In fact, he insists that Barth was not an enemy of philosophy but simply wanted to do philosophy as a Christian. While he is at it, Jenson tries to make the case that worthies such as Thomas Aquinas shared his (and Barth's) belief that there is no knowledge of God apart from the Triune Identity. It will be interesting to see what scholars of Thomas make of that effort.
There are many pieces to Jenson's argument, many of them suggestive, and some clearly intended to be provocative. At the epicenter of the book is the claim that time and eternity are not antithetical, that time is of the very being of the eternal God. Here he respectfully takes issue with the great Augustine. “It is hard to see,” Augustine wrote, “how God creates temporal things and events without temporal movement in himself.” But there is temporal movement within himself, Jenson contends. That is the whole point of God as Trinity. Augustine's “misstep,” he believes, is that, in trying to square Greek metaphysics with biblical narrative, he finally opted for the timeless deity of the Greeks. “With the hindsight of our position in history,” Jenson writes, “we are here faced with a straightforward theological choice. At this precise point, the Western tradition must simply be corrected” (emphasis in original). The Christian God of movement and temporality is most aptly understood in analogy with music. There are three singers who each take their part, as in a fugue. Especially striking in his discussion of the interaction among the three Persons of the Trinity is the reflection on the Holy Spirit's offering and the Father accepting the death of the Son. Here the echoes of Balthasar are especially strong.
This is an ambitious book. Some might say it is a presumptuous book, so frontal is its assault on some conventional ways of thinking. But Jenson would insist that we should not equate orthodoxy with the conventional. His intention is determinedly orthodox. He does not understand himself as a maverick but as a faithful servant of the Church attending to its task of thinking. He acknowledges that, if the Church is to defend its scripture and tradition from maverick interpretations, there must be an authoritative voice that can speak for and to the Church, and he does not hesitate to call this voice a “magisterium.” He then adds, “To affirm this, we need not yet commit ourselves about a mandated or appropriate location of teaching authority.” Those who attend to Jenson and his enterprise will no doubt make a note of that “not yet.” Meanwhile, Systematic Theology: The Triune God is that rare gift, an exercise in theological thought that is both adventuresome and rigorous. And wonderfully devotional.
For more than four centuries, many Protestants have contended that the question dividing them from Roman Catholics is justification by grace through faith. Such Protestants have typically described that formulation as “the article by which the Church stands or falls.” After years of work under the auspices of the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Catholic and Lutheran theologians have produced a Joint Declaration on Justification. The Declaration is strongly supported by Rome and has been generally well received by the member churches of the LWF. It was overwhelmingly approved by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) at its 1997 assembly. At the beginning of this year, however, 150 German theologians, some of them very prominent, issued a statement asserting that the Declaration does not represent the consensus that is claimed. I asked the distinguished Lutheran theologian, Professor Wolfhart Pannenberg of the University of Munich, to comment on these developments. Readers will recognize that this discussion has a bearing also on developments here, such as the statement “The Gift of Salvation” published in our January issue. Let me add the caution that Prof. Pannenberg's comment is very tightly packed and may present some difficulty for readers unfamiliar with the Joint Declaration and the full critique of the German theologians.
For a long time, opposition to Roman Catholicism functioned in the minds of many Protestants as a mark of identity of their faith. In the ecumenical climate after Vatican II that seemed to recede to a past age. But the statement of some 150 German theologians rejecting the Joint Declaration on Justification proposed by the LWF and the Vatican Council on Unity indicates that the past is not yet dead.
The second of seven articles of the statement opposes the claim that a consensus has been obtained in fundamental points of the doctrine. According to the statement, there is no consensus on justification through the word of God and “by faith alone,” no consensus on the certitude of faith concerning our salvation, no consensus on the continuing sinfulness of the justified, nor on the importance of good works for our salvation, nor on the function of the doctrine of justification as criterion of the entire life and doctrine of the church. With regard to the relationship of Law and Gospel the obtained consensus is said to be defective. Are these negative judgments substantial?
The Joint Declaration, with Paul, calls the gospel a message that conveys justification (e.g.. Romans 3:21-31). It affirms that justification is obtained through faith in the Gospel of the Son of God. We are justified through Christ alone, when we receive salvation in faith. How can it be said, then, that there is no consensus on justification as obtained through the Word and through faith?
A consensus on justification by faith alone is said to be missing. The Joint Declaration emphasizes, however, that God accepts us by grace alone through faith in Christ's saving deed and not on the basis of our merit. Does the word “alone” in this phrase refer only to grace and not also to faith? In any event, the Declaration here says without any restriction that the sinner is justified through faith in God's saving action in Christ. In this sentence, faith is characterized in a quite comprehensive way as the one medium for receiving justification. This is remarkably different from certain earlier formulations of the Roman Catholic doctrine on this point, where faith was considered only the beginning and root of justification. It is true that the explicit formula “by faith alone” is characterized in the next paragraph as the specifically Lutheran expression of this doctrine, but there is no intimation of any substantial difference with what was stated just before. To the contrary, the Joint Declaration obviously intends that the Lutheran formula expresses the same doctrine. After all, Paul himself did not explicitly use the word “alone” in Romans 3:28, though Luther was certainly correct in affirming that this was the implication of Paul's words.
What about the certainty of salvation? The Council of Trent rejected the doctrine of the Reformation at this point, because it took it as claiming certainty about one's personal state of grace. The Reformation doctrine, however, did not intend an assessment of our human situation, but focused on the certainty of God's promise. This being generally acknowledged now, the Joint Declaration says that believers can rely on God's effective promise in word and sacrament and thus be certain of his grace. On behalf of Roman Catholic doctrine, too, it is said to be impossible to believe firmly in God while at the same time doubting his promises. Where, then, is the remaining controversy in this matter?
The statement of the 150 German theologians also denies a consensus on faith and works. The Joint Declaration says on this issue that good works “follow” from justification. This was never denied by the Reformation. One has to distinguish, but must not separate, good works from justification. Both sides agree that nothing preceding or following the “free gift of faith” merits justification. This being said, the fact that Catholics retain the traditional designation of “merit” regarding the biblically attested “reward” of our good works by God becomes a matter of language only, not of doctrinal disagreement.
With regard to all these issues that were hotly debated at the time of the Reformation, the Joint Declaration not only claims, but explicitly formulates, a doctrinal consensus. The statement of the 150 offers no argument why the consensus on these points is defective or even nonexistent. It simply says that there is no real consensus on these issues. But in the absence of any argument, how can serious theologians, after carefully reading the Joint Declaration, subscribe to its rejection? Under these circumstances, is that not simply testimony to unreconciled prejudice?
It is true that there are some other points where differences remain, contrary to the claims of the Joint Declaration. The first of these is the unfortunate expression introduced in the last revision of the document on the function of the doctrine on justification as “criterion” of all other doctrine and of the life of the church itself. Note 18 now says that for Lutherans it is the only such criterion, while Catholics are said to be also bound by other criteria. What are these other criteria? If it were the confession of Nicea in a.d. 325 to the substantial unity of the Son with the Father, there need not be much dispute. But in the absence of any indication concerning the content of those additional criteria, suspicions easily arise. If, e.g., papal infallibility were to be claimed as one such criterion, agreement would become difficult.
Another point of continuing disagreement concerns the presence of sin in those who have received justification by faith and baptism. Here the Catholic side simply reiterates the claim of Trent that concupiscence in the baptized Christian is no longer sin in the full sense of the word, which is hard to reconcile with the authority of Paul and of Augustine. On the other hand, the Lutheran formula of the believer to be righteous and sinner at the same time is not to be found in Paul either. At this point, then, the need for further dialogue is obvious.
The remaining differences, however, should not obscure the fact that agreement has been obtained on some of the most hotly debated issues in the doctrine on justification, especially concerning the role of faith and concerning the certitude of salvation as based on God's promise. The agreement on these issues should be gratefully accepted by the churches. It is an encouragement to proceed further through similar agreements on the Eucharist and on the ministry of the church. The recent German statement expresses Protestant anxieties that such an ecumenical agenda may end up in Lutheranism being swallowed completely into the “hierarchical structure” of the Roman Catholic Church. But the declared aim of the ecumenical process is rather communion among churches, or, as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has phrased it, “remaining churches while becoming one church.”
News reports of the last several months freshly impress upon the mind the bright prospects for the human future now that science, greed, and justice have joined forces against the wickedness of the cigarette industry. Documents recently released powerfully reinforce the allegation that the millions of dollars spent on advertising by R. J. Reynolds had the clear purpose of increasing sales. Not only that, but increased sales now have been definitely linked to the actual use of the product. Moreover, recent studies indicate decisively that most users also inhale. The evidence against the tobacco companies does not stop there. Internal memos have come to light showing that tobacco executives have conspired to make a product that is more attractive to the customer. Of course the industry denies any intention to give customers what they want or to encourage a demand for its product.
Members of Congress have declared themselves shocked by revelations that the industry, not content with having sold trillions of cigarettes in the past, is clearly planning to maintain and even expand its market in the future. A whistle-blower in the industry has leaked to the House Committee on Protecting People from Themselves conclusive documentation that the tobacco companies have engaged in market research, which is paid for by profits made from selling cigarettes. It is now revealed that the strategy of the tobacco giants is premised upon the finding that younger people have, on average, a longer future than older people. There is no doubt, say members of the committee, that the industry's market plans for the future are geared to the people who are more likely to be around in the future. Said committee chairperson Elsa Comstock, “This new evidence provides the smoking gun we've been looking for. The industry's strategy is to give people a choice, and then hope they will choose to buy its products. In all my years in Congress, I have never seen such a flagrant attempt to stay in business.”
New legislation is almost certain to require the manufacturers to include in their advertising stronger messages discouraging the purchase or use of their product. Support for such legislation is reinforced by scientific research of recent years showing that cigarette smoking is unhealthy. This is a dramatic change from the widespread assumption of the past hundred years or more that smoking cigarettes is a remedy for respiratory problems and one of the surest ways to extend life expectancy. In the view of scientific experts, the recent findings vindicate what used to be the minority opinion of those who referred to cigarettes as “coffin nails” and who otherwise challenged what were commonly viewed as the health benefits of smoking. “Seldom in history,” said former nanny general Dr. Ever Kook, “have we witnessed the power of science to so radically reverse a popular misperception.”
The recent negotiated settlement with the tobacco companies, now being considered by Congress, has put the industry on the defensive. Some antismoking legislators have expressed concern that the industry's future profits may be in jeopardy, thus imperiling the settlement's requirement that the companies pay anti-tobacco lawyers and state governments more than $500 billion over the next twenty years. With that concern in mind, Vice President Albert Bore has proposed that the domestic price of a pack of cigarettes be quadrupled, which, it is acknowledged, would pose no deterrent to the affluent but, in the words of Representative Comstock, “would punish the poor for their filthy habit.”
The proposed legislation would also secure the interests of lawyers and state politicians by providing trade incentives for the marketing of cigarettes abroad. “There are more than five billion suckers out there,” noted Vice President Bore, “and, fortunately, American brands, thanks to our technological edge, are the smoke of choice.” Prospects are especially bright in poor countries where life expectancy is not so high in any case. The Vice President also observed that their smoking is less a threat to the ecosystem than “the danger of their becoming rich and wasteful like the rest of us.” I. M. Swindler, who receives $15 million per year as chairman of Lawyers for Social Justice, says his group strongly backs the proposed measures as “an eminently fair arrangement for all the parties who matter.”
• So your school is looking for an assistant professor of medieval literature and you are an equal opportunity employer, provided the party is equally enthusiastic about your understanding of Dante's understanding of Beatrice. Good. But I must decline to run such items in this corner. That's why we started the “classified” section a while back. Rates are shockingly reasonable, exposure is vast, and you can find out more about placing your ad by contacting Richard Vaughan, Publishing Management Associates, 129 Phelps Avenue, Suite 312, Rockford, IL 61108; phone (815) 398-8569; fax (815) 398-8579 (e-mail: Ravaughan@aol.com).
• Reviewing two new books on Johannes Brahms in the New York Times, James R. Oestreich writes: “In all biography, uncertainties, ambiguities, and mysteries abound. In the case of Brahms such problems are multiplied. The composer systematically destroyed not only his inferior works and the early traces of his published ones but also letters and other documents, all with the purpose of covering his own tracks and confining the historical record to whatever his finished music might have to say. Happily, these two books together give a pretty thorough picture of what escaped his vandal grasp.” There you have it, the desire for privacy as vandalism. The obligation to live in the service of biographers. But then, what would biographers do if there were no secrets to ferret out? As his review evidences, Mr. Oestreich clearly does not destroy his inferior work, in the unlikely event that someone might be interested years from now.
• Waiting for a flight in the Denver airport (the new and inconvenient one that requires a trip to take a trip), I picked up this brochure advertising “My Twinn Dolls & Accessories.” It seems you can send in a picture of your child and they'll make a doll that is the spitting image of him or her. Very much like cloning. It says here: “My Twinn is a family-friendly company founded a few years ago to create products that help kids and families feel good about themselves and appreciate how special and unique they are. Our individualized dolls are designed to resemble children as young as three years old up to twelve. Many families with an older child have enjoyed a My Twinn doll made to resemble that child at a younger age.” It possibly betrays something about me, but this seems all wrong and not a little ghoulish. Is it substantively different from having snapshots of the children? Yes, approximately the difference between a snapshot of Fido and having him stuffed when he dies. If you have a doll of yourself at age twelve, why not at twenty and thirty? You might set them around the living room, as in Thurber's classic cartoon with the fellow's first wife. I don't want to make a big deal out of My Twinn and the people who run it may be very nice, but if I had the time to think about it I'm sure there's something here importantly suggestive about the state of the culture. As it was, they called the flight before I hit on it.
• The iconoclastic Nicotine Theological Journal is up to it again. This time essayist I. M. Free addresses what is allegedly a neglected aspect of the great subject of women in the church. It is time to reconsider, we are told, the traditional denial of prostitution as an honorable calling. The writer recognizes that there would appear to be scriptural teaching against this position, but suggests that appearances may be misleading. “Two kinds of texts have been used to oppose prostitution. First are the OT's warnings about harlotry. While these texts are numerous, they are not meant to be universal in their application. In OT times prostitutes were associated with pagan temples and pagan worship. The harlotry condemned in the OT is the harlotry that links sex to idolatry and false religion. Modern prostitution has nothing to do with idolatry and so is not condemned in these texts. The second set of texts that seems to condemn prostitution are those related to the seventh commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery.' Some of you will think that this text is crystal clear. But think again. Adultery is a violation of the spiritual-physical union of a marriage. But prostitution has nothing to do with spiritual unions. It is a purely physical relationship, and so it cannot affect the personal union of marriage. Moreover, many social scientists believe that prostitution has beneficial social consequences. Therefore we should recognize that prostitution is not condemned by the seventh commandment.” In a vein reminiscent of the spirit of the recent pastoral letter from a committee of the Catholic bishops, “All Our Children,” I. M. Free concludes: “So when your daughter comes to you with tears in her eyes and asks, ‘Mom and Dad, why can't I be a prostitute?', don't be harsh, judgmental, or old-fashioned. Don't undermine her self-esteem. Don't stand against the work of the Spirit to break down oppression and to redeem another area of life. Encourage her to use all her gifts. Encourage her to pursue her calling.” (Please, hold back on those letters. The essay is intended as a parody. I think.)
• According to David Greenberg, Justin Watson is wrong in thinking that the Christian Coalition will be forced to choose between “restoration” and “recognition.” Watson makes that argument in his new book, The Christian Coalition: Dreams of Restoration, Demands for Recognition (St. Martin's). “Recognition” is the goal of an abused minority seeking, as they say, a place at the table. “Restoration” is the goal of a Christian America that is, in Greenberg's terms, “a return to a golden era, before modernity.” “Recognition,” he writes, “presumes a diverse and tolerant society, and restoration seeks to replace it.” Contra Watson, he thinks that the Christian Coalition tries to have it both ways. “It can rally its members through promises of a Christian renewal. And it can fend off mainstream criticism by assuming the posture of the persecuted. Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed have pulled it off because they genuinely believe both things at the same time.” While allowing that they may be personally sincere, Greenberg implies that they are subjectively deluded and objectively deceptive. He ends up agreeing with Watson that the clear-headed and honest choice must be between recognition or restoration. But how can it help but be “both things at the same time”? One time-honored way to energize a constituency is to persuade them that they have been unfairly excluded and deserve a place at the table, which is recognition. Having achieved recognition, they are then in a position to contend for their dream, which is restoration. You cannot do the first and then the second in a neat time sequence. They must be done simultaneously, if the constituency is to be kept energized and if the very new and tenuous place at the table is to be secured. For the foreseeable future, I expect, it will be “both things at the same time.” If or when the place at the table is unchallengeable, then attention may be entirely shifted from recognition to restoration. Of course, that assumes that those who have secured their part in the establishment will remember why they wanted to get there in the first place.
• The story is told by the Times in a sniffily disparaging tone, but I'm not sure that's warranted. It is about how American historians are developing a new field called “counterfactual history.” This turns on speculation about the “what ifs” of history. What if, when in 1889 Kaiser Wilhelm II volunteered for one of her stunts, Annie Oakley had shot the Kaiser instead of shooting the cigar out of his mouth? What if John Wilkes Booth had not shown up at Ford's Theater on time? And so forth. Maybe the Times is just worried about counterfactual historians infringing upon its style of journalism. But for the moment I'm on the side of the historians. What they are doing lifts up the contingent and personal nature of history, and is a refreshing change from the grand schemes of sundry determinists who labor to explain the systematic causes and impersonal dynamics that supposedly hold humanity in their thrall.
• Scientism is “the world's littlest religion,” according to the title of a noteworthy article by Huston Smith, the famous scholar of world religions, writing in Touchstone. It is little not in its influence but in that it makes little whatever it touches. Theology, Smith believes, is well situated to expose the reductionist assumptions that underlie the religion of scientism. To illustrate his point Smith offers what he calls an expanded syllogism: a) Science is our sacral mode of knowing. b) The crux of science is the controlled experiment. c) We can control only what is inferior to us. d) Conclusion: science discloses only our inferiors, from which God is excluded by definition. Smith's argument is not novel, but the point is nicely put. He writes, “To mount a controlled experiment of the sort that gives science authority to speak, one must know what the relevant variables are; and if grander beings than us exist-angels? God?-their variables elude us in the way those relating to human consciousness elude the sniff tests of dogs. Our superiors, if they exist, dance circles around us, not we them.” Among more thoughtful people, says Smith, scientism is losing its hold, and that has given rise to varieties of postmodernism. For complicated reasons, however, postmodernism cannot provide the belief systems that human beings need in order to be human. Theology “is the custodian of the wisdom traditions of mankind,” and it is irreplaceable. Because of the differences among world religions, some object to the use of “theology” in the singular, but, Smith writes, “I find a common conceptual spine underlying them all: the Great Chain of Being.” According to Smith: “There is an alternate reality to the one we normally experience and expand through science. It is momentously better, more powerful, and more real than our quotidian world, and the chief reason the mainline churches are losing ground is that scientism and the academy have loosened their grips on it, leaving them with no clear alternative to the liberal intellectual ethos of our day. They continue to use the word ‘God,' but what is the cash value of that word when it is injected into a world that is basically vectored by Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and the Big Bang?” The essential truth is that the world described by scientism “is too small for the human spirit.” One need not be an uncritical disciple of Karl Barth to protest Smith's lumping the Christian revelation into a world religions category such as that of the Great Chain of Being. But his essay renders a valuable service in succinctly demonstrating the conceptual move toward an opening to the transcendent that exposes the littleness, and implausibility, of the scientism to which so many-also so many Christian intellectuals-are still in thrall.
• Whether the death toll was 100 million, which is probable, or a “mere” ten million, which is implausible, is not the issue that threw French intellectuals into turmoil at the publication of The Black Book of Communism. Some persist in saying of Marxism that the ideas were right but the people were wrong. That, says Anne Applebaum, a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph of London who is writing a book about the Soviet gulag, simply will not do. “In order to understand this, there is no need to compare Communist crimes with Nazi crimes. It is pointless to argue over which philosophy, communism or fascism, is ‘worse.' Both are evil; both should be condemned; those who perpetrated either should be punished; those who sympathized with either should be ashamed.” Why are there still apologists for Marxism? Applebaum answers: “Partly this attachment to a philosophy that has been responsible for eighty years of terror is explained by the outcome of World War II: We in the West still cannot admit to ourselves that we defeated one murderous regime with the help of another. Partly it is a form of Western naiveté: History still has not taught us to distinguish between truth and propaganda. The Nazis committed acts of terror and were open about it, more or less. Communists committed acts of terror in the name of the greater good, which is why such a substantial minority of people can still be offended by a book that sets out to condemn Marxist regimes. But whatever the reasons, our inability to condemn left-wing acts of terror as forcefully as right-wing acts of terror does leave open a continued source of moral confusion in the West, one that will no doubt continue to erupt in uneasy and unresolved public debates such as the one that has just played itself out in Paris. Until Marxism itself is widely seen as an abhorrent philosophy, so it will remain.”
• In preparation for the great Jubilee of the year 2000, John Paul II has called for a “purification of memory,” also with respect to Christian responsibility for anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. Throughout his pontificate, he has reached out to Jews in unprecedented ways, yet his remarks at a symposium on these questions last October have been criticized by some as convoluted and inadequate. The Pope said then: “Indeed, in the Christian world-I'm not saying on the part of the Church as such-erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament relative to the Jewish people and their presumed guilt circulated for too long, engendering sentiments of hostility toward this people. That contributed to a lulling of many consciences, so that-when Europe was swept by the wave of persecutions inspired by a pagan anti-Semitism that in its essence was equally anti-Christian-alongside those Christians who did everything to save those who were persecuted, even to the point of risking their own lives, the spiritual resistance of many was not what humanity expected of Christ's disciples.” The criticism that this falls short of a confession that the Church has sinned fails to understand Catholic ecclesiology, which holds that, while members of the Church are sinners, the Church herself is sinless, as exemplified by the Blessed Virgin, the icon of the Church. John Paul went on to underscore the unique and unbreakable connection between the Jewish people and the Christian understanding of salvation: “At the origin of this little people-situated between great pagan empires whose blaring culture was overpowering-is the act of divine election. This people is assembled and led by Yahweh, creator of heaven and of earth. Its existence is therefore not purely a fact of nature or of culture in the sense that the resourcefulness proper to one's nature is expressed in culture. It is a supernatural fact. This people perseveres despite everything because it is the people of the covenant, and despite human infidelities, Yahweh is faithful to his covenant. To ignore this most basic principle is to adopt a Marcionism against which the Church immediately and vigorously reacted, conscious of a vital link with the Old Testament, without which the New Testament itself is emptied of meaning. The Scriptures are inseparable from the people and their history which leads to Christ, the promised and awaited Messiah, Son of God made man. The Church does not cease to confess this, daily taking up in its liturgy the psalms, as well as the canticles of Zechariah, the Virgin Mary, and Simeon (cf. Psalm 132:17; Luke 1:46-55; 1:68-79; 2:29-32).” Those who say that Jesus being a Jew is no more than a contingent cultural circumstance-as though the Lord might have been born in another tradition without losing his identity-”not only misunderstand the meaning of the history of salvation but, more radically, do damage to the very truth of the incarnation and make an authentic conception of inculturation impossible.” Therefore, it is not simply a matter of politeness or even of justice but the very heart of the gospel story that mandates the conclusion “that anti-Semitism is without any justification and is absolutely condemnable.”
• Goodness knows, Martin Luther has critics aplenty, but his theological circumstance is not so desperate as to reduce him to the defenders he is getting these days. There are, for instance, some officials of the Southern Baptist Convention and now Liberty magazine, published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA), presenting themselves as paladins of Luther and his understanding of “justification by faith.” This in their reaction against the statement “The Gift of Salvation,” sponsored by the initiative known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). The Catholics who signed “Gift” cannot agree with evangelicals on Luther's doctrine of justification, it is said, because they also hold to baptismal regeneration and the need for the sacraments. Which would seem to mean that Luther could not agree with Luther on justification, because he was equally uncompromising on both scores. It is piquant when those in the Baptist tradition, whom Luther condemned as “godless enthusiasts,” set themselves up as the guardians of orthodoxy according to Luther, but it is downright risible in the case of Seventh-day Adventists. The SDA, which has somewhat under a million members in this country, dates from the early-nineteenth-century Millerite enthusiasm for predicting the return of Christ and teaches that Christians must abstain from, inter alia, “unclean flesh foods” and alcoholic beverages. Luther, presiding over a grand pork loin with beer in hand, called such people legalists, enemies of the gospel, false prophets, and other things unprintable. In its slash-and-burn attack on “The Gift of Salvation,” Liberty asks, “If we are saved by faith alone, what's the purpose of sacramental grace? And even more important, why does one need a church to administer that grace?” Dare I suggest that the answers are readily available in the writings of Luther? But it is sadly obvious that the editor of Liberty is not interested in answers. Criticizing the position of Edward Cardinal Cassidy published in these pages, the editor leaves no doubt that he thinks “Catholics and Protestants don't believe in the same gospel after all,” and therefore, in Latin America and elsewhere, Protestants should continue to proselytize active Catholics. In a world of four billion non-Christians, Protestants of a sectarian bent believe that the easiest religious pickings are among Catholics. Sheep-stealing (Liberty calls it that) is the name of their game, and they are not about to let theological truth get in their way. That is very sad, but one can understand it. I do wish they would leave Luther out of it, however. (For a very different evaluation of “The Gift of Salvation,” please see the letter in this issue by three evangelical participants in ECT.)
• I haven't really been keeping count over these thirty years, but it seems like the zillionth poll on the subject. The highly respected Wirthlin organization reports that 57 percent of Americans say that abortion should not be permitted except in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother's life. With a margin of error of 3.09 percent (not 3.1 percent, mind you), 1,002 adults (not a mere one thousand) were asked to choose from six options. Eleven percent would prohibit all abortions; 14 percent would permit it only to save the mother's life; 32 percent would allow the three exceptions above. Another way of putting it is that 25 percent of Americans would prohibit abortion, since instances in which abortion is the only alternative to the mother's dying are practically nonexistent. The Wirthlin poll is yet another indication that the tide continues to turn against abortion and toward law that is protective of the unborn child.
• We've told the story before. One evening Jean Garton, co-founder of Lutherans for Life, was preparing some slides she was going to use in a presentation the next day. On the screen was a dismembered victim of abortion. Suddenly her three-year-old son, who she thought was safely in bed, was standing behind her and asking with infinite sadness, “Who broke the baby?” Garton's little book, Who Broke the Baby?, has become something of a classic in pro-life circles and is now out in a new edition from Bethany House Publishers (Minneapolis). It is one of the most accessible introductions to the basic arguments in the abortion controversy. You might want to pick up a copy, and maybe another for a friend who still doesn't understand.
• Rocket scientist Eugene Shoemaker always wanted to fly to the moon, but he died in a car crash last year. So NASA's unmanned Lunar Prospector, which is programmed to crash on the moon, carries one ounce of Shoemaker's cremated ashes. Navajo Nation President Albert Hale protests that it is “a gross insensitivity to the beliefs of many Native Americans to place human remains on the moon.” The moon, he said, “is a sacred place in the religious beliefs of many Native Americans.” Said a NASA spokesman, “Almost regardless of what you do, you're going to step on toes somewhere.” Maybe so, but on the moon? On the other hand, last year some Indian activists wanted Manhattan back. Better give them the moon.
• The flood of material that it seems the whole world aims at this desk never lets up. The easier things get done more or less immediately, and that includes lighter comments in this section. Then there are the weightier matters-articles, books, manuscriptswill require some serious time, and they keep getting put off. Such a matter is “Thinking on One's Own: Catholicism in the American Intellectual Imagination, 1928-1960,” an article in the June 1997 issue of the Journal of American History by Harvard's John T. McGreevy. I was going to do something major with it, but now it has been overtaken by other claimants on editorial attention. Suffice it to say that it is a masterful review and analysis of anti-Catholicism among American intellectuals, and how that prejudice was attached to 1) a devotion to democracy, 2) the assumption that democracy requires people to be disposed to “thinking on one's own,” 3) the claim that the Catholic Church is the sworn enemy of that disposition, and 4) the conclusion that the Catholic Church is the enemy of democracy. McGreevy's conclusion is that today's intellectual ambivalence about the autonomous individual is working to the benefit of Catholicism in America. “An emphasis on individual rights, in this view, can occur at the expense of the more prosaic politics of compromise and institution building. Some philosophers extend this point to argue that moral traditions mark the beginning of genuine discussion, not simply a roadblock to thinking on one's own. The cumulative effect of this fascination with intellectual and social ‘community' changes lingering apprehension about the threat posed to social cohesion by Catholic schools and churches into admiration.” The conclusion that communitarianism, as it is called, is good for the Catholic Church (and other “thick” communities) is hardly surprising, but I expect readers might be surprised by the article's careful documentation of the near-unanimity among the country's earlier intellectual and cultural elite about Catholicism as the enemy of democracy. Of course, McGreevy could have gone back long before 1928 and demonstrated the same factor at work in the nineteenth-century promotion of the public school movement, a story persuasively told in Charles Glenn's The Myth of the Common School. (So there's one less item on the stack of weightier matters.)
• Forget all those gripes about higher education giving religion short shrift. At City College of the City University of New York, African Heritage Month offered “A Global Perspective” in the form of a lecture by Professor James Small of the political science department titled “Voodoo as the Basis of All Western Religions.” The lecture is sponsored by the Pepsi Bottling Co. The educational and business leaders of the country are, I suspect, in for a very long shrift, a.k.a. purgatory.
• So what is at issue in the letter sent by Elliott Abrams, Michael Horowitz, David Dalin, and other Jewish opinion leaders in which they protest the long-running film on the origins of anti-Semitism shown at the Holocaust Museum in Washington? The key points are nicely summarized in the newsletter of the National Association of Evangelicals: “By sins of omission more often than sins of commission, the film is said to repeat and propagate four libels of Christianity: (1) The film begins with and proceeds at great length to describe anti-Semitic acts and doctrines propounded in the name of Christianity by various Popes and by Martin Luther; in so doing it takes the clear position that anti-Semitism originated with Christianity and flourished as a result of its influence. (2) The film acknowledges that culturally based, anti-Semitic discrimination occurred during the Enlightenment period but fails to note how the Enlightenment also led to modern-day racial theories of anti-Semitism that left Jews no escape from its reach. (3) The film's direct treatment of Hitler's anti-Semitism is particularly gratuitous and offensive, i.e. ‘The only difference between me and the Church is that I am finishing the job.' (4) The film's closing frame-announcing a 1994 rejection of Luther's anti-Semitic writings by the Lutheran Church in America-serves its thesis in appropriate ways, such as to leave its critical last word in emphatic service of the thesis that Christianity was the principal if not singular cause of anti-Semitism, indeed of the Holocaust itself.” Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic notwithstanding, the appropriate word for this is libel. It is also lousy history that undermines the mission of the Holocaust Museum.
• Here's a nastily somber turn on the life-is-unfair theme. Reviewing a new biography of Albert Camus, Christopher Caldwell comes to this conclusion: “One would think that those whose views were vindicated in the conflict would see their reputations rise, but the calculus is more complicated than that. Consider George Orwell: Does anyone believe Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm will be read at all once they cannot be read as ideological romans à clef? Something similar is happening to Camus. His reputation cannot stand on a fictional output of one novel, two novellas, and a handful of stories. His journalism rarely rose above the run of the mill, and his plays are bad. His brilliant essays will continue to attract readers, particularly The Rebel. But his image is destined to fade along with the ideologies to which he was an antidote. People will remember Camus as a hero of the Cold War-a brave critic of mid-century malaise and violence and intellectual corruption. In short, a writer who is owed part of the credit for the fact that we no longer need him.” I rather hope that Caldwell is wrong, but am reluctant to go back and reread The Plague lest I discover he is right.
• The aptly named Michael Self is drama instructor at the mostly female Annie Wright School in Tacoma, Washington, and this year produced Jesus Christ Superstar with an all-girl cast. Self says that Matthew Fox, former priest and “creation spirituality” guru, inspired him with the illumination that the feminine and the environment are “sacred parts of the nature of God.” Letting the girls play apostles, said Self, gives them a chance “to experience the opportunity of what it's like to be in a position of power, influence, and leadership.” As the Superstar said, the first shall be first.
• So this junior at Winslow High School in Arizona brought to English class the cremated remains of her mother to show a friend. When she opened the box, some ashes fell on the floor, which set off a panic among many of the eight hundred students, more than half of whom are Navajos or Hopis. These tribes have very definite taboos about anything having to do with dead bodies, and more than a hundred students boycotted classes. Principal John Henling brought in a Navajo medicine man to conduct ceremonies removing evil spirits from the classroom, but it turns out he was not certified as a really traditional medicine man, so Henling had to get two others, one Hopi and one Navajo, to do additional ceremonies. The unidentified student was not disciplined, said Henling, “because we have a lot of things in our student handbook but we never thought about putting anything in about what happens to those who bring human remains.” The Rev. Jack Miller of the evangelical Potter's House Church, however, threatened to sue the school district unless he was given equal time to conduct ceremonies cleansing the classroom of the effect of the pagan rituals employed by the medicine men. “We try to satisfy the cultural and religious needs of our community,” said Dale Patton, attorney for the school district. “If they want to come in and do something roughly comparable to what was done by the other group, I don't have any problem with that.” Ah, pluralism.
• Much discussed in Catholic circles is Ann Carey's Sisters in Crisis, published by Our Sunday Visitor. It is a carefully documented and devastating chronicle of what happened in many orders of women religious and their association, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). In his column that appears in diocesan papers, George Weigel recommended the book, and that drew the wrath of some sisters connected with LCWR who demanded equal time for an answer. Among the more interesting answers is one in the Boston Pilot, written by a sister who directs the Pauline Center for Media Studies. “Personally, I was fascinated by Carey's fastidious avoidance of the terms ‘liberal' and ‘conservative.' Instead she opts for ‘traditional' (referring to sisters who belong to the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious) and ‘change-oriented' (for those who belong to LCWR).” One might think that Carey should be commended for avoiding the usual liberal/conservative polarization, but no. “So,” we are told, “she sets up a smoke-screen dichotomy using her own terms, a dualism she carries through from start to finish.” You prefer the dualism of liberal and conservative? And wasn't the Conference of Major Superiors set up explicitly as an alternative to LCWR in order to encourage a more traditional approach to the religious life? And doesn't LCWR explicitly, repeatedly, and insistently describe itself as change-oriented? Most puzzling in the sister's attack, however, is this: “The careful reader of Sisters in Crisis can only ask, So what? Tell me something I don't know or that really matters.” Carey makes the argument that LCWR used duplicitous means in the service of dubious theologies to hijack major religious orders that have as a consequence suffered precipitous declines in membership and mission and are, in many cases, on the edge of going out of existence. And the response to this is, “So what? Tell me something I don't know or that really matters.” Let me join Weigel in recommending Ann Carey's Sisters in Crisis, and in the hope that somebody will come up with a more coherent response to it.
• “It is our victory and we are proud of it,” announced the Catholic League when ABC finally terminated its program Nothing Sacred. The League claims credit for having driven away from the show thirty-seven sponsors, but acknowledged that the main reason for the program's failure is that not many people wanted to watch “a depressing show about a dissident priest in a dysfunctional parish.” The television industry and the general media waged a perhaps unprecedented campaign to save the failing show, keeping it on the air much longer than any other program with comparably dismal ratings. While the “creative community” in the industry chalks up the cancellation to another victory for the Philistines, one hopes there are others in ABC and elsewhere who understand that there is a big market for programming on religious themes that is not handicapped by a ham-fisted ideological agenda. Meanwhile, the Catholic League should be permitted its moment to crow.
• Ad multos annos to Martin E. Marty who reached his 70th a while back. Appropriately enough, Norman Lear of Hollywood and Bill Moyers of PBS threw the birthday bash for him in Chicago. Marty said in an interview that he has made it a rule not to take sides on questions such as abortion where people are not likely to change their minds in any case. There is one issue, however, on which he has emphatically taken sides over the years: He very much dislikes John Paul II and his putative effort to roll back “the spirit” of Vatican II. Father Thomas Reese, S.J., shares his animus toward the present pope, and Margaret Hebblethwaite shares it in spades. Marty reviews Hebblethwaite reviewing Reese, all deploring a Vatican that is the enemy of democracy: “It is a strange little world of its own, even if its tentacles reach out to embrace the globe.” Tentacles yet. Lear, Moyers, Reese, Hebblethwaite, Marty. A pity that John Paul II is not part of that really big world.
• Dr. Benjamin Spock has died at age ninety-four. A good many Americans of a conservative disposition blamed him and his child-rearing counsel for producing a “Spock-marked” generation that brought the country to moral rack and ruin. I don't know about that, but I do remember Ben Spock as a friend from my leftist days in the 1960s. In my late twenties I was on the national board of SANE, then a prominent citizens organization for a “sane nuclear policy,” of which Ben was chairman. The group was started by the late Norman Cousins, editor of Saturday Review, and after a while there developed a deep split between the Spock and Cousins factions. The dispute was over an exclusionary rule that prohibited Communist Party members from being members of SANE. Spock didn't believe there were any real Communists and, even if there were a few, the idea that they posed a serious threat was a Joe McCarthy fantasy. I am sorry to say that I in my naiveté supported the Spock faction. I liked Ben. It was hard not to like him. He was a gentleman WASP whose three-piece pin-striped suits perfectly bespoke his confidence in a secure moral world of taken-for-granted decencies. I recall long discussions about religion and child-rearing in which he opined that on the subject of religion children should be left to themselves until “they are old enough to make up their own minds.” To my objection that this is tantamount to a clear parental statement that religion is not very important, he allowed that that is probably the case, but so what? The important thing is to bring up a decent and healthy person, and then, for those who choose the option, religion might be fitted in somehow to “satisfy the spiritual dimension.” Later, Ben was hanging out with the likes of Abbie Hoffman and others who were deep into the psychedelic counterculture. He was more amused than alarmed by that world, since he assumed that, for all the radical posturing, it was just a matter of kids being kids, even if some of them were a little old for such carryings on. On theories about baby care I am no expert, but I think Ben's alleged “permissiveness” simply reflected his belief that human beings are fundamentally good and, if you don't repress and inhibit them, everything will turn out more or less okay. I am sorry to say that Ben treated his first wife shabbily, but deep down I don't think he thought he or anyone else-at least anyone else in his world-was really capable of evil. In this he was a little like Professor Henry Higgins, puzzled about why other people could not be like him. Ben Spock was a morally smug and superficial man. Despite that, and maybe because of that, he possessed the charm of an earlier generation's certitude about what it meant to be a gentleman. On many of the really big questions he was dead wrong, but, all in all, he meant well. Others may if they wish invoke the maxim that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. As for myself: Requiescat in pace.
• When setting out to trash an institution, the trashing can be made to seem more credible if the trasher professes his allegiance to it. Thus Garry Wills in “The Vatican Monarchy” excoriates what he calls “papal-Marian imperialism” while declaring his devotion to Mary and very boldly, right up front, without any equivocation, acknowledging that he is “a Papist” although “not necessarily a papalist.” Writing in the New York Review of Books, he is ostensibly reviewing seven recent books on Catholicism, including Eamon Duffy's very impressive Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes. But he gives scant attention to the weightier tomes, perhaps because of space limitations when you have, after all, only six small-print newspaper-sized pages, and perhaps simply because he got carried away with the more sensational and salacious items. The first page and a half is taken up with a book about the 1858 separation of a young boy in Bologna from his Jewish parents because the boy had been baptized and it was a law at the time that Christians should not be reared by Jews. Mr. Wills leaves absolutely no doubt that he condemns what happened as a Bad Thing. He has clearly given this a great deal of thought and has concluded that such a law is simply wrong. This is but one evidence of his superiority to the pope who was party to that sensational “kidnapping.” Pius IX was a very bad pope, as Wills demonstrates in the course of another page describing his “monomaniacal” determination to have himself declared infallible in order to gratify his own ego. Most of the rest of the essay is an exploitation of Michael Cuneo's interesting book, The Smoke of Satan, to show, heh, heh, how really weird those conservative Catholics are. As further evidence of “papal-Marian imperialism,” Wills cites Kenneth Woodward's sensationalism in Newsweek about a new Marian definition, while the fact that conservatives are no more than “resisters to change” is demonstrated by the fact that converts such as Father Richard John Neuhaus “adopted the Church because it was a still point in flux,” which comes as a great surprise to Richard John Neuhaus. It is no surprise that Mr. Wills does not like John Paul II at all, and he invokes as an authoritative judgment on the present pope John Henry Newman's opinion, occasioned by the pontificate of Pius IX, that it is not a good idea for popes to stay in office for twenty years. “The Vatican Monarchy” reflects the bitter disappointment of those who pinned their hopes on Vatican II producing a revolution that was not to be. The disappointment is understandable. The more unseemly aspect of the essay, however, is Mr. Wills' stunningly simplistic and supercilious claims to know why people did what they did and do what they do. And it does, I am afraid, smack of the smarmy to declare one's devotion to a Church that one is holding up to public ridicule and contempt. If the reader did not know better, he might take the essay as an invitation to admire Garry Wills for sticking with an institution clearly unworthy of the allegiance of a man so decent and intelligent as he.
• I am grateful that alert readers send clippings from newspapers or magazines that they think might be deserving of comment. I would be even more grateful if you took care to include the exact source and date of publication. That's why we have the “Sources” box at the end of this editorial rollick. Without it you can be sure that historians of a more sensible generation would suspect that we were just making up the end of the twentieth century.
• Excruciatingly correct. That's Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, who on a CNN talk show opined that attacking Iraq might “embolden Islam to become more aggressive with the United States.” Oops. In no time our friends at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) were all over his case. Mr. Biden promptly issued a most abject policy. That is not at all what he meant to say. Rather, “Islam is one of the world's great religions. It stands for peace, tolerance, and justice and it is responsible for many enlightening advances in human thought and practice over the centuries. Islam is an integral part of the American fabric. Six million American Muslims contribute to our society in every walk of life.” For good measure, he takes a swipe at Samuel Huntington: “I also reject the notion of a ‘clash of civilizations.'“ That's a good boy, Joe.
• The world of evangelical Protestant theology, suggests Roger Olson of Bethel College and Seminary in Minnesota, is divided between backward-looking “traditionalists” and forward-looking “reformists.” His call for dialogue within an evangelicalism of “flexible borders” and “strengthened center” does sound for all the world like wearily familiar nostrums for splitting the differences in order to keep the peace. Flexibility, civility, intellectual curiosity, and other good things much to be desired must be convincingly grounded in devotion to the truth rather than aversion to unpleasantness. Otherwise “dialogue” is simply a synonym for letting liberalism have its way. The estimable Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School in Alabama has other problems with Olson's analysis: “What I find most missing in Roger Olson's analysis of evangelical theology is this note of passion. He depicts the contemporary landscape as a kind of range war between the settlers and the explorers. As in the old Zane Grey novels, of course, there is a little drama: fences to mend, turf to protect, a gunslinger on the loose, and maybe a shootout at the OK Corral. But for what? Where is the sense that anything of ultimate importance is at stake in these squabbles? Who is willing to die for a postmodern paradigm? When Harvey Cox was a student minister in Berlin in 1962, one year after the erection of the Wall, he was able to travel back and forth between East and West because he held an American passport. He thus became a courier for pastors and Christian laypeople on both sides of that divide and was sometimes able to smuggle theological books into the East. What the people wanted most were copies of Barth's Church Dogmatics. ‘To carry in something by Bultmann would have been a wasted risk,' Cox said. ‘Let the bourgeois preachers in West Germany agonize about the disappearance of the three-decker universe and existentialism. We had weightier matters to confront.' That is a parable for us today. A theology more enamored with novelty than fidelity is not worth smuggling, for it will not nourish the mission of the church nor build up the people of God.” That, of course, was the Harvey Cox prior to his Secular City of 1965 which so excited the bourgeois preachers of America. But George's test is a good one. Of any theological argument or proposal one might ask: Is this worth smuggling? And at what price?
• I have wondered in this space why it is that very progressive Catholics have in recent years been marching under the banner “We Are Church.” What happened to the definite article? Peter Reilly of West Palm Beach writes to suggest that the slogan was coined by former Soviet agents under deep cover. The giveaway, he says, is that Russian has no definite article. An improbable theory, it seems to me. Much more plausible is the rumor that “We Are Church” is a traditionalist Catholic plot to bring further discredit upon their liberal opponents. Latin also has no definite article.
• Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School (HLS) sends me a clipping from the Harvard Law Record with her notation, “Stop the presses!” The headline in the clipping is “Poll Shows HLS More Liberal than America.” The poll of 306 students has a lot about sex (about 68 percent say they masturbate and 75 percent favor “gay marriage”). Asked who is their favorite Garden of Eden character (Eve, Adam, Snake, God), less than 5 percent name God, although close to 60 percent say they believe in God. Somewhat fewer believe in an afterlife, and 50 percent say they are not afraid of death. A bare majority thinks “In God We Trust” belongs on the dollar bill, and about 80 percent answer no to the question, “Is your faith more valid than others?” A more accurate headline might be, “Poll Shows HLS as Confused as Most Americans.”
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