NOTE: Over the coming days Andrew Sullivan and I will be engaging in a dialogue/discussion/letter exchange regarding his new book, The Conservative Soul, and my book, Tempting Faith. For those who do not know him, Andrew is one of today’s most formidable and provocative social and political commentators. He also edits “The Daily Dish,” one of the most widely read political blogs on the Web.

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Dear Andrew,

Would that I knew where to start this discussion/letter/dialogue.

Truth be told, when we talked about this idea of a “blogalogue” I hadn’t read all of your book and therefore didn’t understand what a monumental work you had produced. In many ways, it is improperly titled. This isn’t just The Conservative Soul; it is really First Things (with all appropriate respect to the journal of the same name), because the driving narrative of the book seems to me to be understanding God, prioritizing God, and loving God. Everything else flows from that–for well or for ill.

But that doesn’t cover the political part of your book. A couple of years ago, a good friend–who is also a good conservative with a background in philosophy–exclaimed after flipping through one of the neo-conservative journals, “These guys have no clue why they are conservative…and neither do most conservatives. They have no philosophy.” Conservatives need to read your book to get a better understanding of that philosophy, no matter their definition of conservatism.

For me? Of course after reading your book, I think I am not so conservative as I once thought–after all, I am a compassionate conservative who would spend lavishly to help faith-based and non-faith-based groups care for the poor and do maintain a ridiculous optimism that such a thing would be transformative.

More than anything, though, I am struck by your willingness to lay your life bare in order to make an argument so important to you. We won’t and don’t agree on some things, but I so respect you and your candor. I hope my part of this dialogue will do justice to the significance of your book and your story.

Thanks for doing this, and I look forward to reading your response at “The Daily Dish.”

Read: “Dear Andrew: Part Two”

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