Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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In a weird sort of way, Bill McClay agrees with Mac Donald:

[T]he most important intellectual and institutional expressions of the Christian faith, including Rome and Canterbury, have found almost nothing of value to say about the current Middle East crises, and more generally about the West’s struggle against militant Islam and terrorism, and the terrifying possibilities now facing the entire civilized world. The patent inadequacy (to put it mildly) of the current cease-fire in Lebanon, which was precisely what the world’s most vocal Christian leaders had sought, is but the latest indication of all the reasons why no one in his right mind would go to them for counsel in these matters.


Someone in search of political and moral understanding would, in my opinion, be far better off giving close attention to the most recent of Norman Podhoretz’s series of superb analyses of the post–September 11 situation. Or the books and articles of Victor Davis Hanson, or Mark Steyn, or Christopher Hitchens. In other words, to non-Christian or secular writers. Even those who gravitate toward harsh criticism of the Iraq War and of Bush-era American foreign policy do not avail themselves, except in the occasional rhetorical flourish, of the pronouncements of religious authorities. Such authorities are pretty much regarded as irrelevant either way, and their views add little of value to the positions of secular authorities.

Read the whole thing.

Discussions - 9 Comments

That religious leaders are and should be irrelevant either way in what are basically matters of military strategy is right. That doesn’t mean that the secular authors that Bill praises have turned out to be always right or even right enough.

McClay’s concern here seems to be that religious spokesmen have contributed little of value to the discussion about the clash of civilizations, or about the philosophical and moral issues raised by the Islamo-fascist challenge.

He seems to mention Podhoretz, Hanson, Hitchens and Steyn not as commentators on military issues, but as non-Christian voices who have contributed to the debate on the larger issues -- to, as he says, "political and moral understanding."

DF, Well, yeah, I tried to flatten out it out so I could agree or make the point I wanted. Summarized your more accurate way I can’t agree, really. Pope Benedict XVI (Ratzinger) understands the moral challenge better than the authors mentioned, for example, although we shouldn’t look to him for political guidance on what our country could do now. Of course non-Christian voices have contributed signficantly etc., but there’s no particular reason why that wouldn’t be the case. Christians have never been know for their singular political wisdo. Any many of our more conservative evangelical leaders almost all too readily defer to writers like Hanson (although not of course Hitchens).

I didn’t know Bill McClay was a single (or, two) issue analyst of religious leaders pronouncements and leadership. Or, of Benedict in particulr. The list of experts (Podhoretz et al.) he provided did not reassure me as to his geopolitical expertise or prudence, since I don’t find them that enlightening (and no, I’m not a leftist or a Frenchman or a ... pick your favorite whipping boys); and to state that Benedict has nothing to say about the crisis at the core of Western civilization because you don’t like what he said about the recent events in Lebanon or the cease fire seems to me grossly partisan and stunningly preposterous.

Brother Paul: I’d distinguish between BXVI’s penetrating insights into the "crisis at the core of Western civilization" and what I consider to be his wrong-headed urging (along with a constellation of other religious and global political leaders such as Kofi Anan) to implement a cease-fire, almost without regard to the immediate, mid-, or long-term consequences to the civilization so dear to him. With all (and I do mean ALL) due respect, I find the moral analysis completely compelling, and the political/military counsel dangerously naive. (I believe it’s a truism that more civilians and soldiers will die the next time Israel and Hezbollah fight.)
What makes you conclude that Bill McClay is a single- (or two-) issue analyst of religious leaders and/or their pronouncements?
What rostrum of analysts would you recommend in lieu of N. (not John!) Podhoretz, Hanson, Steyn and Hitchens?

Gary and Paul, Take it outside! But basically I’ll return to my original observation: I’m not turning to our great pope for strategic advice, and Steyn and Hanson make very good points quite regularly, without being right anwywhere near all the time. I have to admit I don’t find ANY of those secular guys that deep on our moral and political crisis or anything like that, whereas the pope is deep and generally on the money. So I somewhere between the two Seatons, and I still say Bill M. exaggerated a point with making.

So I STAND somewhere...in the previous post.

Peter: In case you hadn’t noticed, this *IS* "outside". :-)

So, who *is* "deep on our moral and political crisis" (aside from the Pope)? Especially someone who writes for the public as well as for the academy?

Jesus’ message was essentially "come out of the ape." Return love for hate, forget about the cares of this world, shun wealth and prestige, etc. It’s an essential counterweight to human nature, and it’s one of the principle strengths of Christianity that has made the West great (by tempering our natural proclivities with higher purpose and humility). Islam, on the other hand, reinforces many negative attributes of human nature, and that’s the reason it’s so dangerous. And because Islam is the way it is, we NEED our inner ape. Once both cheeks are red and we’ve been kneed in the groin, it’s time for fightin’ boys. As the Irish phrase goes "I’ll wait no more for fire from God."

In my book, Christian leaders should just shut up if they can’t help the cause. We can worry about forgiveness after it’s clear that we’ll be alive to worry about it.

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