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The Theocons: Secular America Under Siegeby Damon Linker
"[T]his chaste kiss-and-tell story should hold considerable fascination even for readers unfamiliar with the somewhat circumscribed world of religious opinion journalism." Paul Baumann, Washington Monthly (read the entire Washington Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
George W. Bush has gone out of his way to blur the line between religion and politics in America — this is acknowledged by his strongest supporters no less than by his most strident critics. The most common explanation of the president's religious agenda points to rise of evangelical Protestantism. Yet as Damon Linker demonstrates in his groundbreaking book, an exclusive focus on the role of evangelicals misses the heart of the story. At its core, the Bush administration's overt religiosity represents the triumph of an ideological movement that for the past several decades has devoted itself to fashioning a theocratic governing philosophy for the United States — a governing philosophy rooted in Roman Catholicism. Led by Father Richard John Neuhaus, this group of "theoconservatives" has actively sought to roll back the division of church and state in American life.
The election of 2000 brought the theocons to the peak of political power and influence in Washington. Their ideas inspire the most controversial and divisive policies of the Bush administration — policies whose ultimate goal is nothing less than the end of secular politics in America.
"Conventional wisdom on the left holds that conservatives bring up issues ranging from abortion and gay rights to the teaching of evolution primarily as a cynical ploy to activate their political base, but Linker challenges that notion by detailing the inner workings of the "theoconservative" movement. He describes it as a group of mostly Catholic intellectuals who view American society in sometimes apocalyptic terms, whose absolute and uncompromising moral framework for law — their ultimate goal is 'the end of secular politics' — holds great sway in Republican circles. Primarily and almost obsessively concerned with Richard John Neuhaus and his journal First Things, Linker's exposé sometimes makes it seem as if the political philosophy that animates perhaps a quarter of the electorate is essentially a one-man show. More curious is that, though his words drip with disdain for virtually every position championed by the magazine, Linker himself was an editor at First Things until barely a year before his book's publication. This book may leave readers yearning for a more broad-based study of how Neuhaus — whose journal has a circulation of well under 50,000 — and his ilk have managed to motivate a resurgence of politically minded religiosity in such a large number of Americans." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Linker's literate, reasonable chronicle and assessment of the theocons...is one of the most enlightening critiques of the Religious Right to date." Booklist
"The Theocons is invaluable as firsthand research, alarming in its implications for the future of American freedom, and devastating as a critique of the theocratic ambitions of those who now control the Republican Party." Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic
"Linker's text comprises much close reading of essays and books by the theocons — a strategy that may test some readers' patience. Will please those who believe theocons to be the real dragon, rather than Dubya." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] well-researched examination of an ideological movement....Linker's analysis of the impact of 9/11 on the theocon agenda is one of the highlights of the book." Library Journal
"[Linker's] tone is admirably restrained, dispassionate and scholarly...and he uses his insider's knowledge to build up a detailed account of the movement. The result...is a book to reckon with." Adrian Wooldridge, The New York Times Book Review
Linker demonstrates that an exclusive focus on the role of evangelicals misses the heart of the story. At its core, the Bush administration's overt religiosity represents the triumph of a theocratic governing philosophy rooted in Roman Catholicism.
About the Author
Damon Linker is intimately familiar with the rise of the theocons. His experience working in the center of the theoconservative world as an editor of its flagship journal, First Things, led to his resolve to write a critical history of the movement. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two children.
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