To the Editor:
I AM NOT optimistic that Sohrab Ahmari’s article will bring back into the liberal fold those conservatives who have recently strayed (“The Terrible American Turn Toward Illiberalism,” October). Traditional Christianity pairs moral discipline with humility and charity toward others. The test of this commitment is the willingness, when necessary, to endure persecution. The current political climate is nothing like the persecutions of the past, but conservative Christians are starting to realize that they may have to pay a price for their morals if they remain meek at heart. Sadly, many are being encouraged—even by their own leaders—to abandon the demands of Christian charity in favor of a power grab.
Instead of a whitewash that makes globalists sound like guardian angels, I wish this essay had featured an honest assessment of what power is: often, merely the illusion of peace and security for those who possess it. A more meaningful appeal could be constructed if we urged those who are not yet fully committed to their position to return, not to liberalism per se, but to the demands of their faith. After that, everything else will follow.
To the Editor:
SOHRAB AHMARI asserts a moral equivalence between the left and right flanks of the culture war when he writes that “neither side stands for a positive principle worth going to war over.” Yet despite this claim, he fails to accurately portray the two warring factions as equals in terms of tactics, behavior, or principles. Nothing that Mr. Ahmari writes about the conservatives comes close to being as damning as what he writes about the leftists. This article makes a strong case about which side merits the blame for our culture war, but unfortunately, Mr. Ahmari cannot bring himself to make that explicit.
One more thing: Our national interests in Iran, Syria, North Korea, China, and Europe all benefit from our having good relations with Russia. President Trump knows that. Without an interest-based dialogue with Russia, the road ahead is that much more difficult for our country. Does Mr. Ahmari really believe that there is another explanation for the president’s positive attitude toward Putin?
Sohrab Ahmari writes:
JANE KERBER is correct. Christians are called to endure persecution, following the footsteps of their savior. But such endurance needn’t equate to political quiescence. Christians (and other people of faith) shouldn’t run away from politics and the culture but should proclaim their values—even if this means courting persecution. Thankfully, the American order invites a Christian presence in the public square, and the Constitution itself rests on Judeo-Christian ideas about the purpose of human freedom and inviolable dignity of the person.
I can’t blame my fellow Christians, then, for trying to influence public policy and for defending their rights against a relentless onslaught from the cultural left. But I worry about the tendency, growing among some Christian thinkers, to reject democracy in toto. A succession of culture-war defeats has led these thinkers to conclude that, despite its promise of freedom of conscience, the American order is another form of totalitarianism. It was this tendency that I criticized in my essay. In doing so, I didn’t glorify “globalists” but called for realism and a recognition that liberal democracy is far from the worst type of regime from a Christian perspective–that it is, indeed, the least bad.
I am willing to concede this much to Martin Sattler: American conservatism is going in an angry, populist, dark direction owing in part to the illiberal, identity-obsessed, doctrinaire turn in American liberalism, particularly during the eight years of the Obama administration. The left fired first. But there have always existed subterranean rivers of illiberalism and authoritarianism on the right as well. Donald Trump the candidate flirted with these forces, as has Donald Trump the president, particularly in his response to the Charlottesville riots.
As for the president’s apparent affinity for Vladimir Putin: An “interest-based dialogue” with Russia needn’t involve praising the thuggish autocrat in the Kremlin or morally equating one’s own country with his. Whatever Trump’s motivation, such conduct is un-American.