A former editor of the principal “theocon” journal First Things, now an apostate, warns that the religious zealotry of his one-time colleagues is a danger to American democracy.
The movement began shortly after the ’60s, says Linker, when some of the theocon (theologically conservative) architects—Michael Novak, George Weigel, Richard John Neuhaus—became disenchanted by the secularity of the causes they had initially supported (civil rights, Vietnam War opposition). These thinkers veered to the right, underpinning their political philosophy with conservative Roman Catholic theology. (Neuhaus, raised a Lutheran, was ordained a Catholic priest.) They crafted an alliance with Protestant conservatives and hoped that born-again Jimmy Carter would be their standard-bearer (he was not). They supported Ronald Reagan (though they were disappointed that he was divorced and rarely attended church), endured George H.W. Bush (who was uneasy around theocons), reviled Bill Clinton (and were stunned by his popularity throughout his impeachment trial), believed their prayers had been answered when George W. Bush was elected—twice. Although 9/11 changed the country’s focus from domestic to international issues, the theocons, Linker argues, twisted themselves into pretzels to support a first-strike war against a nation (Iraq) that had not attacked us. The author also takes us through the theocons’ involvement in (and reaction to) some current social issues and events—the Terry Schaivo case, stem-cell research, the Darwin debate, gay marriage and their central concern: abortion. Linker does not believe that the theocons are interested in a sort of Talibanized America (he makes this point a couple of times), but he does think they envision a sort of fantasy ’50s world in which men are in charge, women stay at home, gays go to therapy, everyone attends church on Sunday and Christian principles pervade the marketplace and the corridors of power. 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.