(Say the Jesus Creed morning and evening during Lent.)
Chp 4 of Os Guinness, The Case for Civility, could be called a “civil screed” against the Religious Right. It is not too harsh; it never falls for the uncivil, but the chp univocally calls the RR to the bar for a civil warning.
What points does Guinness make?
He wants America to draw upon its roots and to discover a renewal, but Guinness knows the problem: a fall of public man (and woman). That is, public discourse has sunk to an all-time low. It has learned to trade in negation and demonization of the opponent.
The Religious Right has fallen for this rhetoric, and it is the target of this kind of rhetoric. “Today’s puritan,” Guinness observes, “is the person who is haunted by the thought that someone somewhere may possibly have breathed up a prayer in the public square” (91).
In the hardest hitting section in this book, and the next chp will hit at the left, Guinness says the Religious Right is its own worst enemy. “I am appalled by the way the RR attacks its fellow believers and demonizes its enemies” (92). “I am angered by organizers of the RR who play the victim card and appeal openly to Christian resentment” (93). Such appeals are “foolish, ineffectual, and downright anti-Christian” (93).
“Many in the RR are more obviously fundamentalists than they are Christians” (94).
The RR has politicized faith.
And, the RR has consistently exhibited one glaring problem: “It has never articulated a clear public philosophy, or a common vision for the public good” (102). A journalist once told Guinness: “The RR talks of justice, but it sounds like ‘just us'” (103).
Guinness sees the RR as the best argument for its opponents, the most powerful factor in its own rejection, and a prime reason for the repudiation of religion in America (103). They are “generating the greatest backlash against the Christian faith in American history” (104).
Say “no to a sacred public square” is the theme of the chp.