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The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege Paperback – September 4, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Conventional wisdom on the left holds that conservatives bring up issues ranging from abortion and gay rights to the teaching of evolution primarily as a cynical ploy to activate their political base, but Linker challenges that notion by detailing the inner workings of the "theoconservative" movement. He describes it as a group of mostly Catholic intellectuals who view American society in sometimes apocalyptic terms, whose absolute and uncompromising moral framework for law—their ultimate goal is "the end of secular politics"—holds great sway in Republican circles. Primarily and almost obsessively concerned with Richard John Neuhaus and his journal First Things, Linker's exposé sometimes makes it seem as if the political philosophy that animates perhaps a quarter of the electorate is essentially a one-man show. More curious is that, though his words drip with disdain for virtually every position championed by the magazine, Linker himself was an editor at First Things until barely a year before his book's publication. This book may leave readers yearning for a more broad-based study of how Neuhaus—whose journal has a circulation of well under 50,000—and his ilk have managed to motivate a resurgence of politically minded religiosity in such a large number of Americans. (Sept. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Linker informs us of a tiny cabal of -activist-propagandists who have forged an alliance between right-wing Catholics and Evangelical Christians that has worked so effectively for the Republican Party that President Bush, in particular, accepts its advice. The cabal's leader is leftist Lutheran minister turned hyperdogmatic Catholic priest Richard John Neuhaus, the founding editor in chief of First Things, the flagship journal of the cabal's movement, which Linker, once on staff at First Things, calls theoconservatism. Neuhaus' 1984 book The Naked Public Square advanced the idea that secularism forces religious voices out of public debates; conservative Jews as well as Christians found Neuhaus' notion very persuasive and politically useful. Linker believes that, however admirable its goals may be, theoconservatism at best misunderstands and at worst despises American liberal democracy, especially the wisdom of the separation of church and state. Linker's literate, reasonable chronicle and assessment of the theocons, that of an erstwhile colleague who shows no personal animus toward his former associates, is one of the most enlightening critiques of the Religious Right to date. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400096855
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400096855
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,246,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 56 people found the following review helpful By K. Hughes on September 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The Theocons describes a phenomenon that ought to be of concern to anyone wanting to maintain the United States as a democratic republic, the marriage of religion and politics. Randall Balmer has accurately described how the marriage of religion and politics tends to weaken and corrupt both religious and governmental institutions. Mr. Linker examines this phenomenon from the perspective of Catholic institutions, rather than from the usual perspective of Protestant evangelicalism. As a practicing Catholic, I didn't find the book anti-Catholic or anti-religion, rather, it is a just criticism of the attempts of some religious individuals to marry religion and politics. Mr. Linker describes in the book how he began his career at First Things believing in what Fr. Neuhaus was doing, and how he became a critic after observing the publication and its editor in action. I would recommend this book for anyone wanting discussion on conservative Catholic involvement in what has been described as "dominionism."
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39 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Franciscan on October 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Linker does a spectacular job in his expose of the infamous editor, conservative and convert to Catholicism, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and his theoconservative colleagues. A well-written and edited work, this book systematically approaches the chronological development of an ideology that has come to manifest itself in the current United States governmental administration.

While the book might be viewed as polemical by those sympathetic to the theoconservative agenda, it is generally a even-tempered, fair treatment of the subject of a ideological group seeking to influence public policy.

An approachably written book, this is a nice analysis of timely subject regarding politics that diverges from the bounty of polemical material currently in print regarding the Bush Whitehouse. I highly recommend this book.
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36 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Full of Eyes on October 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Damon Linker's fascinating monograph is both compelling and insightful, having been in the midst of things as editor of the rightwing Catholic magazine "First Things." This book does not reek with "sour grapes," but is a provocative wake-up call to serious observers of the American cultural and political scene. As an historian, I am impressed by the first-rate prose and organization of this book, not to mention what I perceive as a successful argument and finish. Linker's book is a good companion to Michelle Goldberg's recent book on the religious right and its threat to American democracy and the separation of religion and government (Church and State in the old way of speaking). Hopefully people will apply critical thinking and intellectual honesty to the issues Damon Linker raises.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Alvin Mcelvany on June 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I chose this book with the intention of trying to understand the "other" side of the argument. As a Christian I wholeheartedly agree with his recounting of the history of the Christian involvement with the politics of the U.S..
Me, I try my best to stay OUT of politics as I see my service to God in an entirely different light. Governments by their very nature are very secular with an occasional appearance of looking liked the "good guys".
I find it my challenge to produce the "fruit of the spirit". will suffice to show me as a true patriot.
My patriotism is wrapped up in three requirements. 1. Pay my taxes. 2. Obey the laws of the land. 3. Pray for our leaders....at that includes President Obama.
And I might add in closing, my God is a God that seeks volunteers, not coerced people.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on September 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Damon Linker, a former editor of First Things journal, details the rise of conservative theological influence on Washington politics in The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege. The emergence of religious rhetoric in political speech has been, for the most part, a recent infiltration contrasting against the secular swing of the sixties and seventies.

The Theocons chronicles the shift in loyalties of certain prominent theological leaders--namely Lutheran minister turned Catholic priest Richard John Neuhaus, and Catholic philosopher Michael Novak--from Vietnam War-inspired liberalism to the current theocracy permeating the Iraq War strategy.

The validity of Linker's assertions comes from his three and a half years of experience as editor of First Things, a publication by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, whose own goal according to the First Things website "is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society." Linker's personal observations of key players of the "theoconservative" movement, who also happen to be behind the creation of the journal, and his detailed research of prior publications made by these individuals, illustrate the deceptive manipulation of the American public by both the media and politicians, specifically the Bush Administration.

An unexpected quality of the book is that the majority of the content is relatively unbiased and is composed strictly of chronological facts. While it is clear that Linker disapproves of the agenda the theoconservative movement has created for the American people, the actions of those involved do well to create an image of an insidious political conspiracy, whether intentional or not.
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