Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Dear Mr. Brooks,
I am very glad you are so sanguine about the state of religious affairs in our nation. Although I am not as optimistic as you are about this matter, just reading your wonderfully self-assured and self-satisfied words has given me encouragement: I now know that with the necessary effort, it is possible for someone to present to others, even in these frightening times, a facade of calm, smug, confident, and patronizing expertise on the dark currents of nihilistic hatred and despair that are about to destroy the planet. Thanks a lot.
I wanted to ask you to reconsider a few of the points made in your column. I wanted to ask you, after all of the thought you have put into your piece, to return to these difficult issues and think some more.
1) Do you really believe that, just because doctrines are constantly being revised in this country, the religious impulse lacks an authoritarian element? Do you think the idea that we should throw up our hands and just "Support President Bush, Trust Jesus" is not authoritarian? Do you really think that if a religiously-colored habit of docility and unquestioning submission to the wishes of the "powers that be" had not been deeply ingrained in the American national character, that 65 percent of the people in this country would say that they believe Saddam Hussein blew up the WTC? (Yes, these people say this without really believing it, out of a perhaps apparently endearing and apparently optimistic desire to give our "leaders" the benefit of the doubt. "President Bush is just doing his job," these people say. But when they say this, they are, at an unconscious level, happily consigning themselves to the will of a supreme theologico-political entity that, they have decided, has the right to kill them whenever it pleases. It is the worst and most nihilistic kind of despair.)
2) Do you really think that the culture wars in this country are over? Do you know that the best-selling novel series in the history of the country is Tim LaHaye's LEFT BEHIND fictionalization of the Rapture and the Apocalypse? Do you know that a majority of Americans believes that events now occurring in the Middle East mark the beginning of the "end times" foretold in the Book of Revelation? Do you know that the majority of Americans thinks that America no longer has a race problem, even as the existence of a permanent black urban underclass becomes more and more entrenched?
3) Do you really think that just because religious doctrines are malleable, there is real toleration in this country of all religious positions? More specifically, do you think atheism is tolerated? Do you think that when the President talks about God in nearly every public utterance, it reassures those citizens who don't believe in God of their place in the society? Do you think there is room in America for someone of my OWN religious persuasion? Let me run it by you: the fact that people like you, David Brooks, are hired by the newspaper of record to educate the rest of us about the history of religion in America seems to me to be one more piece of evidence suggesting that the divine being long ago abandoned the world, and America especially, and found better things to worry about; if America is going to survive, it will be despite the wishes of a God who has cursed us with "intellectuals" like you, who are so overjoyed with themsleves that they would, if they couldn't come up with anything else to say, demand that we find edification in the products of their digestive processes.