New at Cato Unbound: Philip Jenkins versus Mark Lilla

In his spirited reply to Mark Lilla’s lead essay the eminent Penn State religion scholar Philip Jenkins contests both Lilla’s reading of history and the lessons he draws from it. In contrast to Lilla’s claim of American innocence of political theologies, Jenkins points to the centrality of religiously-motivated politics in “the moral crusades of the late nineteenth century, … the Social Gospel, the era of Progressivism and Prohibition” and the civil rights movement. Jenkins’ alternative theory of the rise of liberal toleration emphasizes “changes in the material life of Western societies” brought about by increasing commercialization, which “has nothing to do with the intricacies of Christian theology, and was only marginally connected with Enlightenment political theory.” Muslim theology and culture aren’t at the bottom of Muslim intolerance and religious militancy, Jenkins says, but the failure of these societies to create “economic development, … free institutions and free media.”

Don’t miss Wednesday’s essay from Damon Linker, author of The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege, and be sure to tune in Monday when blogging eminence Andrew Sullivan joins the fray.