To this day, religion and politics remain “braided together in my head,” Wieseltier added, “but as a matter of conviction I endeavor to keep them apart. The universal ideas that I learn from my tradition must be transposed into a common American idiom if they are to influence anyone other than me. Anyway, I do not value religion chiefly for its morality. There are moral religious people and moral secular people, immoral religious people and immoral secular people. And the union of religion and politics inevitably injures them both."
This is a very pithy summary of a view of politics and religion that I share and that Leon helped me appreciate and understand. The quote is an hors d'oeuvre before the main course, however, which is this essay: clear, stringent, restrained where necessary, vicious when warranted ... and, well, humane. It's an important essay because within it, there pulsates a whole slew of vital issues where some level of contradiction and tension is far more defensible than their opposites: being a Jew and an American, being a conservative who can see the role of liberalism in the West (and vice-versa), and being a secular citizen with profound respect for and engagement with religious truth.
I think it's the best thing Wieseltier has written in memory - and reminds me of what an immense and powerful talent he remains.