Wednesday, January 26, 2005

My response to Rauch's response to everybody's response to Hewitt's response to Rauch

Hewitt spoke with Jonathan Rauch on his radio program the other day, and he very handsomely apologized for the awkward -- and unnecessary -- implicit slur on anti-abortion Republicans. He also made the entire Atlantic article available. (Text at Hewitt's site; I had already seen it, since I subscribe to the magazine.)

First, all praise is due to Rauch for his forthrightness and willingness to respond. He is clearly a serious person. I appreciate and completely accept his apology. The cheap shot was not really germane to the point he was making anyway. Of course, I still disagree about that point.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that the "immune system" analogy I drew makes sense. Institutions must have a way to police their boundaries -- both their physical boundaries and their philosophical boundaries. This means that ideas and people that are destructive to the central purpose of the institution must not be permitted to take over.

This is not a moral point, actually: the survival of an institution is not necessarily a moral imperative. (Think about the Mafia.) But if we accept that an institution is a good one that ought to be preserved, then we will want to find ways to exclude what needs to be excluded. Political parties, being important institutions in our republic, fall into this category, and I think that they need to keep irresponsible extremists at arm's length.

To extend the principle: Is part of the problem with so many "mainstream" Protestant churches simply that they have damaged immune systems and are no longer able to resist ideas and forces that are basically inimical to the Christian tradition? Taking my own church as an example, is there any new trendy theological or social idea that the Episcopal Church in the United States could successfully reject?


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