Conservatives Are at Each Other’s Throats. Alan Jacobs Weighs-In


I have not been following this whole David French–Sohrab Ahmari dust-up happening right now conservative circles, but I am guessing it has something to do with Trump.

But I did get a kick out of this exchange between an editor at First Things and David French.

But wait, there’s more:

As I noted above, I am not really following this debate.  But when Alan Jacobs weighs-in on something I read it.  Here is a taste of his piece at The Atlantic:

A story commonly told these days on both the left and the right says that American Christians, and especially evangelicals, are solidly behind President Donald Trump. The real story is far more complex, and has led many Christians to some fairly serious soul-searching, and others to ask hard questions about whether we even know what an “evangelical” is. Among Christians, as among so many other Americans, one of the chief effects of the rise of Trump has been to widen some fault lines and expose others that we didn’t even know existed. It is at least possible that some good will come from this exposure.

You can see some of these fault lines opening up in a recent controversy that has greatly occupied many journalists, scholars, and ordinary people who care about the relations between Christianity and conservatism. The controversy began when Sohrab Ahmari, the op-ed editor of the New York Post, tweeted, “There’s no polite, David French-ian third way around the cultural civil war”—referring to the lawyer, former soldier, and senior writer of National Review who has often made the case that Christians in the public arena need to practice civility. Ahmari then expanded that tweet into a full-scale attack on French, and since then, the conservative world has been fairly obsessed with adjudicating the dispute.

It’s important to note that Ahmari sees the differences between him and French as rooted, ultimately, in their different Christian traditions: Catholicism for Ahmari—who recently published a memoir of his conversion—and evangelical Protestantism. But whether this is indeed the heart of the matter, the dispute so far hasn’t fallen out that way. Some Catholics are with French, some Protestants with Ahmari. And in any case, I’m more interested in the ways this dispute illuminates questions that all Christians involved in public life need to reckon with than in choosing sides. How Christians choose to reckon with these questions will have consequences for all Americans, whether religious or not.

Read the rest here.

17 thoughts on “Conservatives Are at Each Other’s Throats. Alan Jacobs Weighs-In

    • Rick,

      Our discussion started by you implying that Alan Jacob’s statement was somehow unfair. Do you think Paul Krugman has been fair to President Trump in his NYT columns? Even before Trump was in office, Krugman hysterically predicted that Trump’s election would result in a major economic catastrophe. In fact, the opposite has been the case. Do Krugman’s blatantly partisan blinders cloud his fairness?



  1. Is it time to start differentiating between regressive reactionaries and reasonable conservatives?

    A large portion of the divide is between traditional American values such as the democratic notions of egalitarianism and pluralism and not those things.

    Do we recognize all Americans (or human beings in general?) as fully human and deserving of their Creator-given and unalienable rights or not? Is denying water in the desert to desperate people not denying them an unalienable right to life, not to mention liberty and happiness? Is prosecution of those that see that providing water is following their Lord’s command really an American value? This seems a violation of religious, not to mention secular, conscience and the free practice traditional religious, not to mention secular, moral and ethical values – preserving life. And, from a strictly Christian point of view, it is highly likely that many people crossing the border are, themselves, Christian of one stripe or another (look at the religious composition of the countries that they’re fleeing).

    This divide splits the secular as well as the Christian realms. What gets described as conservative in the world today is more a backlash against modernity and the democratic norms enshrined in the DOI, US Constitution and some 234 years of building and aspiring. In the revolutionary sense, we have many anti-revolutionaries trying to reverse the seemingly more human/humanity-friendly and truly revolutionary principles (for their times) and attitudes coming from our first rebellion/revolution in which the founders and framers and ratifiers enshrined so many Enlightenment ideals. And let’s not forget the subsequent generations of citizens and their representative magistrates that have continued to ratify these American ideals.

    You can’t be against the Constitution and American principles and be a patriot. You can, however, like Trump, be a self-dealing nationalist.

    We don’t need a second American Revolution to redefine our ideals, we’re still fighting the first.


    • I was pleasantly surprised to see a secular Manhattan journal like The Atlantic allow Jacobs to state his case. It’s hard to know their motives, however. Do they want to allow space for all sides or are they simply hoping to broaden and highlight certain existing fissures within the Christian intelligentsia? I don’t know enough about the magazine’s staff to comment authoritatively.


    • Anybody who uses the word “secular” to describe people cannot be taken seriously. That this author is a college professor is shameful.


      • Paul,

        Alan Jacobs is a distinguished academic. What is wrong with the word “secular?” It is a perfectly appropriate word within this context.



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