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The Fracture of Good Order: Christian Antiliberalism and the Challenge to American Politics
Jason C. Bivins
The University of North Carolina Press, 2003
232 pp., $37.50
by Eugene McCarraher
In Democracy We Trust
In his timely, provocative, but disappointing new book, Jason Bivins examines Christians who have broken or frayed their allegiances to a liberal democracy which, in their view, is an adversary of the kingdom of God. Especially in our imperial moment, we need reminding that our loyalties in the earthly and heavenly cities are not easily or finally reconciled. Yet if Bivins provides an informatively sympathetic account of these witnesses against the liberal order, his reluctance to engage a theological critique of American democracy suggests an imaginative impoverishment in Christian criticism today.
An assistant professor of religion at North Carolina State University, Bivins collects three case studies of antiliberalism: the evangelical Sojourners community, headquartered in the Columbia Heights district of Washington, D. C.; the New Christian Right (NCR), especially the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA); and the Jonah House community in Baltimore, home to the renegade Jesuit Daniel Berrigan and his late brother (and ex-priest) Philip. While this alignment might seem unlikely, it's a shrewd combination, the very incongruity of which has an oddly persuasive effect. You have to pay attention to a scholar who puts Jim Wallis, Tim LaHaye, and Elizabeth McAlister in the same book.
However motley, Christian antiliberals denounce what they consider the corruption and illegitimacy of contemporary American liberalism. Tracing their immediate discontents and methods to the 1960s, Bivins follows their roots back through the New Deal and the Populist and Progressive eras to the birth of modern America during Reconstruction. While their common enemy is the triune Leviathan of federal bureaucracy, corporate capitalism, and secular culture, Christian antiliberals are responding to a broader "legitimation crisis" in Western democracies occasioned by the decline of the welfare state, the globalization of capitalism, and the subsequent inability of Western societies to guarantee ...