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Mark Lilla's mistake

From "The Politics of God," Mark Lilla's lead story in today's NY Times Magazine, which posits a sort of Clash of Religions Civilizations separating the West from the Islamic world:
Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones....

Islamists, even if they are learned professionals, appear to us primarily as frustrated, irrational representatives of frustrated, irrational societies, nothing more. We live, so to speak, on the other shore. When we observe those on the opposite bank, we are puzzled, since we have only a distant memory of what it was like to think as they do. We all face the same questions of political existence, yet their way of answering them has become alien to us. On one shore, political institutions are conceived in terms of divine authority and spiritual redemption; on the other they are not. And that, as Robert Frost might have put it, makes all the difference. [emph. added]

From President George W. Bush's State of the Union Speech on January 28, 2003, roughly two months before the invasion of Iraq:

Americans are a resolute people who have risen to every test of our time. Adversity has revealed the character of our country, to the world and to ourselves. America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.

We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know -- we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. [emph. added]

May He guide us now. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Lilla's book--The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West--comes out next month. Perhaps there's still time for some pre-publication tweaks?

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