?• InI INCHARDI InI ?n»^«i(^^|’^oic^’|’^ (OilsnCenter on Religion & Society in NewnYork. In interviews with Newsweek,nTime, Nightline, and others, PastornNeuhaus explained vrfiy the concept ofnsecular America is historically andnsociologically false and why religiousn36inChronicles of Culturenconvictions should be part of the country’snpolitical dialogue. “The presentnconfusion,” he explained, “… can turnnout to be a watershed moment in Americannpolitical and cultural life if we beginnto reconstruct a public philosophy, onenthat is responsible to, and in conversationnwith, the religious-based values ofnthe American people.” Much discussed.nPastor Neuhaus’s book The NakednPublic Square: Religion and Democracynin America also helped to definenthe terms of the Church-state debate.n(Further discussion of this work willnappear in fiiture issues of Chronicles.)nUnfortunately, the political leadersninvolved in the debate abandoned it beforensome central issues were addressed.nFairly early, Reagan’s aides urged him tondrop the subject, while Mondale’snadvisers likewise steered their candidatenaway from the topic. In part, prudentialnconsiderations dictated the abbreviationnof the debate. Reagan’s camp believednit already had the religious votensewn up and did not want to alienatenother constituencies. Mondale strat^^stsnon the other hand were worried aboutnsagging support among Southern Protestants.nBut beyond these calculations layna more fundamental barrier to prolongedndiscussion of religion in modemnelectoral politics.n”Religion,” Santayana observed, “is thenenjoyment of life in the consciousness ofnimpotence.” Contemporary politiciansnare all for the enjoyment of life. Theirnslogans invariably promise more andnmore of it. Consciousness of humannimpotence is another matter. A sense ofnhuman contingency and sinfulness hasnalways been at the center of a religiousnsensibility, yet such themes rarelynsurface in American life today. Whennduring a rare moment of clarity PresidentnCarter rashly suggested that Americansnmight be suffering fl-om a “malaisenof spirit,” his popularity tumbled overnight.nVoters perpemally reminded howngreat they are and how much greaterntheir leaders can make them could notnstand for such talk. Even most churchesnnow softpedal religion’s humblingnnnthemes in favor of homilies less likely tonthreaten their parishioners’ tender selfesteem.nThe social gospel or positiventhinking provides safer texts.nBut besides being perilous to the soul,nthe absence of any public sense ofnhuman finitude makes for self-destructivenpolitics. Voters become unrealisticallynUtopian in their expectations andnpoliticians become Promethean in theirnattitudes. Too many political leaders arenalready like the one of whom WinstonnChurchill remarked, “There but for thengrace of God goes God.” They claim thenkeys to making everyone affluent, healthy,nand comfortable, to securing internationalnpeace, to eliminating prejudicenand inequality, and even to putting mankindninto the heavens. Once in office,nthese leaders invariably display theirnmortal limits by failing to deliver on theirninflated pledges. The result is often despairnand cynicism among the electorate.nIn a remarkably candid letter, KarlnMarx once admitted that anyone whonpondered on human contingency mustnconcede the existence of God and thatntherefore “this question is forbidden tonsocialist man.” For too long, this questionnhas been tacitly forbidden tonAmerican men and women as weU. Nonone expects the appearance of “HumilitynNowl” as a campaign slogan. But Americanwould be a healthier coimtry if all thosenengaged in winning “grass-roots” supportnfor their political policies knew,nwith Isaiah, that “the grass withereth, thenflower fadeth … surely the people isngrass.” nnFame: ftn Going to Live ForevernThe death of Truman Capote at thenearly age of 59 raises some questionsnabout the career of the artist in our time.nBy now we are used to the spectacle ofncreative talent destroying itself fornpublic amusement. Janice Joplin, JimnMorrison, and Jimi Hendrix—we thoughtnof them as heroic victims of their excessesnin the great tradition of DylannThomas and Brendan Behan. Most recently,ncomics like John Belushi andn