The Irrelevance of Damon Linker
Damon Linker is a relative irrelevance. Any attempt by a significant figure to refute his glaring errors only serves to validate the bête noire role he has chosen for himself. Happily, I can point out why he is wrong without the risk of giving his arguments any oxygen. For I am even more irrelevant than he is.
Linker, if you are not familiar with his work, briefly rose to notoriety when he published a book savaging his former employers at First Things and unpersuasively claiming they were part of a theocratic conspiracy. The book had disappointing sales, and Linker’s name faded. Now, in a recently published interview with the Economist’s Democracy in America blog, he has made a very silly charge that he means to be very serious. He has accused home-schoolers of fomenting religious violence:
When evangelical homeschoolers treat social and political withdrawal as a preliminary step toward cleansing the nation as a whole of spiritual contaminants, it raises the spectre of theologically-inspired conflict and oppression.
This is a faddish opinion, I suppose, and the world of fashion is fueled by exaggeration and provocation, by the outre. Linker’s claim that religious people wish to “cleanse” the nation of “spiritual contaminants” is meant to invoke the rhetoric of the Third Reich. Perhaps some will be taken in by this lazy ploy. Others, though, will realize that every good citizen should hope for a better country but that is different — immensely different — from thinking violent means could help us achieve it.
In a pluralistic society, just what a better country is will be different to different people. Most people (though perhaps not some progressives) will realize that perfection can’t be obtained. Religious Americans understand this. They see that our world is a vale of tears. They understand that all our efforts are tainted with sin but touched by grace. Thus, ours can only be an imperfect nation. Home-schoolers have noticed this imperfection and its particular manifestations in the American school system. Consequently, they have chosen to school their children at home. That is all they have done, and I resist Linker’s conspiratorial, wild-eyed, Glenn-Beckian attempt to read more into the action than is really there.
I have real grounds for disagreement with many secularists and liberals, and I welcome the debates we will have as citizens of a democratic republic. I do not have real grounds for disagreement with Damon Linker. His arguments are red herrings, non sequiturs, and outright lies. Linker’s continuing efforts are not so much a problem for religious Americans as they are for secular ones. We religious conservatives are not concerned about Linker’s malign influence on the public debate. We do not assign him the secretive power and pernicious intent he assumes in his opponents. However, Damon Linker remains an embarrassing ally for his fellow secularists. Publications like the Economist should stop interviewing him in order to spare him the embarrassment of his misunderstanding and us the awkwardness of pointing it out.