A Widely Accepted Moral Rhetoric

In a survey [First Things, August 2008] on the current lack of a widely accepted moral rhetoric, Joseph Bottom writes:

Among conservative Christians, much attention is devoted to the question of whether the hole in public life can be filled by either Catholicism or the evangelical churches. I have my doubts. The evangelicals may have too little church organization, and the Catholics may have too much. Besides, both are minorities in the nation’s population, and they arrive at our current moment with a history of being outsiders—the objects of a long record of American suspicion, which hasn’t gone away despite the decline of the churches that gave the suspicion its modern form.

Perhaps some joining of Catholics and evangelicals, in morals and manners, could achieve the social unity in theological difference that characterized the old Mainline. But the vast intellectual resources of Catholicism still sound a little odd in the American ear, just as the enormous reservoir of evangelical faith has been unable, thus far, to provide a widely accepted moral rhetoric. . . .

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