Mr. Brooks and the "Quasi-Religious"
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jun 09, 2007 at 09:07:22 AM EST
Leave it to self-described "recovering secularist" neoconservative shill David Brooks to pretend that he is complimenting moderate and progressive Catholics when he is really denigrating them. His now trademark esoteric Straussian babble, ripples to the surface of a piece in which it seems that Mr. Brooks has come to praise loyally dissenting Catholics - but in fact, he has come to bury them.
Although David Brooks may be an atypical "cultural warrior" -- he is the real deal.  While t  he absence of the crudity and vulgarity (of say, Bill O'Reilly and Bill Donohue), may be disarming to some he his soft and soothing, but nevertheless condescending observations are dressed to kill.  But make no mistake about it (it could be fatal) twice a week in the New York Times op-ed pages, the war upon mainstream faith continues unabated.

On May 25, 2007, New York Times he wrote a piece with seemingly the innocuous title "The Catholic Boom":

Quasi-religious people attend services, but they're bored much of the time. They read the Bible, but find large parts of it odd and irrelevant. They find themselves inextricably bound to their faith, but think some of the people who define it are nuts.

Whatever the state of their ambivalent souls, quasi-religious people often drive history. Abraham Lincoln knew scripture line by line but never quite shared the faith that mesmerized him.

Quasi-religious Protestants, drifting anxiously from the certainties of their old religion, built Victorian England. Quasi-religious Jews, climbing up from ancestral orthodoxy, helped shape 20th-century American culture.

Then the former Weekly Standard editor began extolling the virtues of Catholics like me--well, sort of:

Well, they started from their traditional Catholic cultural base. That meant, in the 1950s and early '60s, a strong emphasis on neighborhood cohesion and family, and a strong preference for obedience and solidarity over autonomy and rebellion.

Then over the decades, the authority of the church weakened and young Catholics assimilated. Catholic values began to converge with Protestant values. Catholic adults were more likely to use contraceptives, and fertility rates plummeted. They raised their children to value autonomy more and obedience less.

The process created a crisis for the church, as it struggled to maintain authority over its flock. But the shift was an economic boon to Catholics themselves. They found themselves in a quasi-religious sweet spot.

Ah yes, David Brooks, master of the backhanded compliment!

At first glance, "The Catholic Boom" may seem complimentary towards the religious individual who does not buy into every single orthodox pronouncement, but in fact, it isn't. Just the labeling of moderate and progressive as "quasi-religious" betrays David Brooks' true feelings. The esoteric message in this piece is that those who dissent from orthodoxy are defined as truly religious, but quasi religious.

This is a man who has a particularly nasty habit of pigeon-holing into categories based upon ancient notions of inequality. His past writings have described American society as simplistically divided into Red and Blue halves. And it is not too difficult to discern where his sympathies lie:

Red America is traditional, religious, self-disciplined, and patriotic. Blue America is modern, secular, self-expressive, and discomfited by blatant displays of patriotism. Proponents of this hypothesis in its most radical form contend that America is in the midst of a culture war, with two opposing armies fighting on behalf of their views. The historian Gertrude Himmelfarb offered a more moderate picture in One Nation, Two Cultures (1999), in which she argued that although America is not fatally split, it is deeply divided, between a heartland conservative population that adheres to a strict morality and a liberal population that lives by a loose one. The political journalist Michael Barone put it this way in a recent essay in National Journal: "The two Americas apparent in the 48 percent to 48 percent 2000 election are two nations of different faiths. One is observant, tradition-minded, moralistic. The other is unobservant, liberation-minded, relativistic."

In a later piece, Brooks chastises the "quasi-religious," essentially telling them "you don't know how to be faithful." For example:

Fifth, the recovering secularist must acknowledge that he has been too easy on religion. Because he assumed that it was playing a diminishing role in public affairs, he patronized it. He condescendingly decided not to judge other creeds. They are all valid ways of approaching God, he told himself, and ultimately they fuse into one. After all, why stir up trouble by judging another's beliefs? It's not polite. The better option, when confronted by some nasty practice performed in the name of religion, is simply to avert one's eyes. Is Wahhabism a vicious sect that perverts Islam? Don't talk about it.

This is a serious mischaracterization of a liberally democratic secular society, falsely casting it as one that is to be deemed hostile towards religion unless it is intolerant and orthodox in nature. Contrary to David Brooks' dissemblings, a truly secular society maintains religious neutrality in order to maintain civil tranquility. Would Mr. Brooks prefer a society that has the occasional religious civil war?

Brooks' neoconservative hackery demonizes liberalism -- and leaves out a critical truth about secular societies. While liberal democracies such as ours' do "not judge other creeds" that does not mean that certain religious behavior -- that which tramples upon the rights of others -- is also not judged. Those of us who may not wish to judge the validity of a given creed do in fact enforce a just public order. We do not hesitate to punish any individual who, acting upon his creed, decides to crash an airliner into an office building or blow up a Planned Parenthood office. A just and religiously neutral society may not judge creed, but it does judge behavior contrary to the common good. (That said, individuals and groups may debate the merits of each other's creeds all they want -- because that is what free speech is all about. If Brooks has a critique of Wahabism, let's hear it.)

And just as he demonized secular society, Brooks has back-handedly besmirched those who question orthodoxy. While he says some nice things about dissenting Catholics such as yours truly, there is still the not-so-esoteric thread running through "The Catholic Boom" that those who do not accept authoritarian religious leaders and instutions -- are something less than the genuine article.

Leo Strauss, the philosophy guru to the neoconservatives, used to teach his students that in order to find the true message of the great philosophers their works had to be read in an esoteric manner. Code words and dual meanings had to be extrapolated. And while David Brooks is no Plato, the same can be said of him.


I don't understand why even some liberals believe this man to be so brilliant: he is not.

David Brooks is the personification of Fred Clarkson's belief to learn as much as you can about your opponents. Once you understand Leo Strauss and the methods of his neoconservative followers (Remember: not all Straussians are neocons, but most neocons are Straussians) you'll be able to truly understand what David Brooks is really getting at.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Jun 09, 2007 at 09:17:18 AM EST

I don't consider him to be very bright, although there are enough people who don't know better. I think like most Straussians and the right in general, he's more interested in feuding with his fellow citizens and regarding people who disagree with him as "the enemy within." I'm not very orthodox internally, and I resent attempts to pigeonhole how I feel into some sort of category.

Brooks is a shill alright, but I rather doubt that enough people will see through him until it's too late.


by khughes1963 on Sat Jun 09, 2007 at 09:35:23 AM EST

I read this man's columns regularly at first but gave up when I quickly discerned that he is a very clever writer who begins with his premise du jour, and proceeds to decorate it with "facts" that are difficult if not impossible to ascertain, assumptions that sound convincing but are ultimately proven false usually in his own telling, and a confidence bereft of humility. He, like others of his ilk, know they are 'right' and no amount of subsequent contrary evidence to the contrary stops them from going on their merry way from one phony prognostication to another. Worse even than Safire whom he replaced, the Times must have writers like this to avoid more criticism than they already get when they print annoying facts that are unwanted by close minded zealots that hurl ad hominems instead of countervailing facts at them. At best these are silly romantic dreamers that can only write in an (no fact checking please) opinion piece. They are best left unread. dci
by lackawack on Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 01:21:03 PM EST
Brooks sets the bar for lazy pundits. No fact checking, no reading, not much effort writing, harps on same old subjects that can be handled (badly) by a few anecdotes, refuses to take on subjects that might require a little study or a little interviewing (eg. economics, science)

by NancyP on Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 08:29:08 PM EST

Try this one: David Brooks bio

by Meek Zeke on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 02:15:34 PM EST
Good heads up; correction made!

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 08:10:22 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

The Catholic Right Star and the Porn Star -- Revised and Updated
An international network of some of the world’s most vitriolic Religious Right activists and self-proclaimed orthodox religious leaders is holding its ninth global conference......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
Banned In Boston (And Elsewhere): The American Tragedy Of Censorship
When I was kid, the phrase "Banned in Boston" confused me. I thought of Boston as a liberal, cosmopolitan city. Surely they didn't censor......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Bill Donohue Mum While Andrew Napolitano Calls Pope Francis "A False Prophet"
Catholic League president Bill Donohue goes after anyone he believes is engaging in anti-Catholic behavior, real or imagined. But as we have come to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
A Decade Of Disgrace: Marking Ten Years Of The `Values Voter Summit'
The annual Values Voter Summit (VVS), the nation's largest gathering of the Religious Right, begins today. The event, sponsored by the Family Research Council......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Looking Beyond the Francis Frenzy
Much has been and will be written about the Pope regarding his historic visit to the U.S.  But it will be important to try......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Barton Bounces Back: Religious Right Purveyor Of Ersatz History Still Going Strong
Three years ago, Religious Right phony historian David Barton published a ridiculous book called The Jefferson Lies that argued, in part, that Thomas Jefferson......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
The Papal Visit Brings Forth Ugliness From the Right
In a recent press release, Catholic League president Bill Donohue warned, "Pope Visits To U.S. Occasion Ugliness." Donohue then went on to describe the......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Coercion In Kansas?: State Worker Claims She Was Fired For Non-Attendance At Christian Service
Let's say some people at a company want to get together during lunch hour and hold a Bible study. It's totally voluntary, and they......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
Kim Davis and Southern Civil Disobedience
Kim Davis, the county official who refused to grant marriage licenses, fits the profile of a long line of civil disobedience from the South.......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
An Anti-Theocratic, Progressive Christian Leader
I recently posted a short excerpt here, from an interview I published with Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, the new General Minister and President of......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Litany Of Lies: FRC's Perkins Packs An Email With Copious Falsehoods
I realize that people may be tired of reading about the saga of Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Ky., clerk who is in jail......
By Rob Boston (6 comments)
Kim Davis is No Jack Kennedy
Kim Davis, the embattled Kentucky county clerk who sits in jail for defying a Federal Court order to issue marriage licenses to everyone who......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Book Report: Yes, Politicians, We Know You Love The Bible. What Else Have You Read?
Real estate magnate Donald Trump says lots of outrageous stuff, but none of it seems to slow him down. His latest gaffe, however, ought......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
American Renewal Project
On my journey to the American Renewal Project in Austin, Texas, I listened to hard right talk radio out of Houston.  There was an......
By wilkyjr (7 comments)
`Just Go Somewhere Else!': A Cavalier Dismissal Of A Serious Concern
A few years ago, I took part in a panel discussion on church-state issues at a Seventh-day Adventist church in Takoma Park, Md. During......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)

Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (1 comment)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (0 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (1 comment)
Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (10 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (2 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (2 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (3 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (5 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.