The striking thing about this moment’s radicalism is that it is aimed not just at the great constitutional order, or at Christianity itself, but also at the Boomer generation. They played with radicalism, but settled down into homes they defend with policies of real estate inflation, and jobs they defend with tenure and work protections that will not be afforded the next generation. The moral impulses and turbulent energies at work will not be satisfied by “material” pursuits alone.
Only a culture soaked in a belief in original sin can honor men for the good they did, for the events at which they were present. Michelangelo’s David stands in Florence, and it does not stand as a tribute or endorsement of the murder of Uriah the Hittite. Just as George Washington’s name does not grace our capital city or the names of our schools because he owned slaves.
The Christian faith allows us to appreciate the ironies of history. A creed that enjoins its adherents to sweetly sing the name of an obscure Roman viceroy, Pontius Pilate, will make a people who can appreciate that Providence will bring forth a land of liberty from those who enslaved other men. It is also a faith that will dan and channel religious impulses toward religious objects, rather than investing every civil gesture with angelic or demonic energy. If George Will wants a nation led by cultured, worldly atheists who study history with reverence and humility, he should hope the next generation is surrounded by the Christian liturgies and hymns he has lately deemed unnecessary.