Damon Linker lays waste to Ross's glossing of the theoconservative radicalism of Neuhaus:
Therein lies Neuhaus' greatest ideological innovation. Rather than maintaining that the religious right should replace liberal politics with some other, religiously grounded form of political association, he insisted that, properly understood, liberal politics is (or once was, or should be--on this he was often unclear) a religiously grounded form of political association. Viewed in this way, the Pope, Neuhaus himself, and their Protestant friends (like Pat Robertson, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Ralph Reed, and Karl Rove) become America's true liberals, while all those millions of Americans on the right and left who prefer a more mundane form of politics (and who in nearly every other context are considered liberals of the classical or modern variety) become the antagonists the true liberal tradition.
Ross responds here. There is, of course, an enormous distinction between accepting the religious roots of liberalism (Hobbes and Locke are the ur-texts here) and in asserting that fundamentalist Christianity is the founding doctrine of the American polity - and that it can also command political authority in the modern world. And there is an enormous distinction between respecting the role of faith in forming the public views of citizens who nonetheless make public arguments in secular and moral terms - and the kind of crude Christianism that Neuhaus supported. It is the difference between liberalism and illiberalism. Neuhaus was an illiberal - even to the verge of declaring the alleged iniquities of modern American government as a justification for violent resistance.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.