Friday, March 14, 2008


Been busy reading in all sorts of directions. Started out in pursuit of secularization with Habermas and Ratzinger's The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion. Fascinating, jam-packed, with more than a few parallels with recent talks and writings by Rowan Williams. But before I could get to Mark Lilla's The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West (still in the bookbag), I stopped for Craig Hill's In God's Time on Christian eschatology, which, among other things, reminded me of how demonization of secular states (Rome) and sexualized demonology (whore of Babylon, etc.) have long been part of not only the Christian tradition but Western imagination.

From there I went on to what can only be described as real Evil -- the 1994 Rwanda genocide -- in John Rucyahana's The Bishop of Rwanda and Hugh McCullum's The Angels Have Left Us: The Rwanda Tragedy and the Churches.

More about Rwanda above. But these books led me to the following excellent articles on the nature of good and evil (or rather, evil and good):

Interview with Ann Ulanov, PBS Frontlines: Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero.

Interview with Andrew Delbanco, PBS Frontlines: Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero.

Glenn Tinker, Can We Be Good Without God (Atlantic Monthly December 1989)

And while I haven't read it (Amazon pricing not in my book budget -- as if I'd have time to read it anyway), thanks to a note by Martin Marty in a book review in Christian Century on Delbanco's and Tinker's books on hope, I've been alerted to the general thesis of A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society by James E. Block (which takes me back to J. Willard Hurst's analysis of American legal theory, law, the secular state, controlling human nature, and creating the conditions necessary for positive liberty) . It sounds like ample support of Hurst's "release of energy" view of American cultural and political history and a counter-argument to the obsession of Rowan Williams (maybe Pope Benedict and Habermas?) regarding negative liberty, especially with regard to American culture and its supposed total absorption with self and materialism, disregarding the strong currents, even today, of what Block calls "agency" derived from American Protestantism, reform movements, and early sense of commitment to society as a whole, not just the mindless pursuit of individualism.

See also Simon Barrow's excellent recent column at Ekklesia, Which citizenship? Whose Kingdom? (11 Mar 2008).

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