War and Remembrance

I see that Damon Linker (the “somebody” to whom Alan is referring here) has posted an obituary for his old boss, Father Richard John Neuhaus.

As I’ve told him directly, I was always skeptical that Linker was really worried about religious strife or oppression in America. For all the noise about the political mobilization of religious voters, there’s just very little evidence to substantiate those fears. Rather, it seemed to me, his true concern was about what the cast of mind that he saw among the First Things crowd implied for how they would make decisions about matters unrelated to religion. And this concern, I believe, can be traced to the war in Iraq, and the way in which conservatives like Neuhaus (and George Weigel and others) made their arguments in defense of the war. The concern can be phrased psychologically (the devoutly orthodox – particularly orthodox Catholics – have an authoritarian cast of mind that is dangerously manipulable by political demagogues) or politically (to build a political movement on the mobilization of religious voters requires a kind of sacralization of politics, which inevitably winds up stifling open debate and dissent from the party line), and the two are not mutually exclusive – either way, I think that way of stating the concern comes closer to the matter than talk about “theocracy.”

In any event, whatever you might think of that particular concern, it seems to me that the language of Linker’s remembrance basically supports my view of what the nature of his concern really is.

As for me, I’m just very grateful that First Things published what is still probably my favorite piece of writing, and grateful, therefore, both to Linker and to the late Fr. Neuhaus.