The Political Crux
or, secularist thought police in the public square
In his recent NYTimes BookReview back page essay Mark Lilla suggests that the ubiquitous preoccupation with public Christianity since W.'s re-election is "a media bubble, and like all bubbles it will burst." I don't doubt he is correct. But that certainly doesn't mean public Christianity is going away.
If (as I suspect) Lilla's views are fairly representative of secular academic would-be interlocutors with public Christianity in this country, the road ahead looks tedious. One hopes that Lilla's forthcoming book may provide a more enlightened analysis than his essay. There are so many things problematic with his understanding here. I might even call it propagandist schlock if I had the time to detail his confusion. But his main beef with public Christianity is, of course, that it doesn't play by his own ideological rules.
To Lilla's thinking, as to all secular fundamentalists', genuine pluralism is impermissible. Unless religionists drop their undemocratic fascination with the supernatural and adopt a modernistic theology, they are not welcome at the table. Lilla's hypocritical dogma is clear: when entering the public square, leave your faith at the door, or else you are neither sober or rational.
It's hard to say how long this sort of philosophical naivete will persist. But one thing is certain: a genuine civil society cannot be attained without cultivating intellectually critical habits of mind among so-called liberals. This was as true for Abraham Kuyper and J. Gresham Machen in their respective times as it is for us today.