Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What comes first?

John B. Kienker, managing editor of Claremont Review of Books, has a positive review of Peter’s Modern and American Dignity in the June/July issue of First Things. He concludes the piece with this friendly criticism:

Ultimately, however, Lawler finds mere political goals–particularly “veneration” of the American founders–inadequate, implying that only “the perspective of genuine believers” can effectively secure human dignity. But these days it seems challenging enough to persuade 300 million of our fellow Americans to embrace the dignity of citizenship again without trying to convert them as well to Christianity. That we must leave to God’s grace.

Peter responds here. Kienker’s comments reveals aspects of the Claremont approach which might be of interest to those revolving around the First Things orbit: 1) His concern is modern in the sense that he wants to lower the bar (from say supernatural virtue to civic virtue) in order to actualize the goal. 2) Instead of JPII’s priority of culture, he reserves a pride of place for politics. 3) His last line hints at a strict reason/revelation divide which denies Christianity’s persuasive power in the public square.

In regards to the last point, the notion that Americans should embrace a Christian account of human dignity is based upon observations of our nature which we can see with our own eyes e.g. openness to the Truth, social and relational beings, etc. This is a flag our Claremont friends can rally around, even if it represents more than just Americans.

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