Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Specter of the Theocracy, Part VIII

Mirror of Justice, provides a snippet of an outtake of a review of Damon Linker's book " The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege."
...If I follow Linker's story—stripped, that is, of its bombast—it goes rather like this: There is a group of articulate and influential thinkers in America who believe firmly in liberal democracy and free markets and things of that sort, but who also believe that the principles underlying modern democratic order are derived from a long history of European Christian thought regarding human authority. They are, moreover, convinced that the notion of the inherent dignity and worth of every human being is grounded in something older than liberal tradition. They also think that an impermeable "wall of separation" between public policy and private faith is an extra-constitutional and misguided principle. They believe that the lives of the unborn ought to be protected in law, and that the Supreme Court's decisions pronouncing abortion a constitutional right are a collection of willful jurisprudential fictions. They regard the traditional family as a desirable institution, believe marriage to be the union of a man and a woman, and are somewhat anxious concerning the drift of modern culture towards an ever greater coarseness and ever more pronounced indifference to innocent life.

Now, whether one agrees or not, none of these convictions is, by any sane measure, "extreme"; they all fall well within one of the broad main currents of American political and social thought. Nor are any of the historical claims involved particularly fantastic (though Linker knows too little of the history of ideas to see this). Nor, surely, is it any secret that persons holding such views have supported George Bush in both of his presidential campaigns, and that some of them continue to offer him advice. Nor, as far as I can tell, has anyone among the "theocons" made any attempt to keep it a secret. If these men are in fact "radicals," they are far and away the most unadventurous radicals ever to have appeared on our political horizon...

When Linker actually describes the methods employed by the theocon conspiracy, it turns out that they consist principally in encouraging Christians to vote for conservative politicians who will use legislation, referenda, constitutional amendments, and court appointments to frustrate the secularist agenda. Moreover, though Linker speaks of the decade 1984–1994 as the period of the theocons "stealth campaign" to seize power, he can only report that they advanced their cause in those years by founding magazines and think tanks, seeking funding for both, associating with conservative forces within the Catholic Church, and forging ties between conservative Catholics and conservative Evangelicals.

This is all very cunning, I expect, but I believe the customary term for such methods is "democratic politics" (though I am prepared to be corrected on this)...

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