Senator John Danforth has written a book, Faith and Politics, which is subtitled: “How the ‘moral values’ debate divides America and how to move forward together.” It sounds hopeful enough. Indeed, had it been a magazine article I would have liked it well enough. As an 80,000 word book, it is a disaster.
As a magazine article, it would have worked as a moderate’s plea to extremists. You see, Danforth is a social moderate. Although he is an ordained Episcopal priest, he is definitely one of the “let’s leave religion in church” variety. To him, Christianity is all about reconciliation. This is a priest, after all, who finds ostentatious displays of religiosity embarrassing. He doesn’t like saying grace in public, for example. I’m with him on all that.
Just the same, I can see why radical Christians would simply disregard what he has to say. He doesn’t speak for them. What’s more, he doesn’t seem to understand them any better than I do—and that’s saying a lot.
So even as a well-focused magazine article, what the Senator has to say would only resonate with other social moderates. It is always interesting to be reminded that not all religious people are extremists. But other than that, what exactly does a polemic such of this accomplish?
The big problem with the book is that Danforth does not have a great deal of material. As a result, the book is heavily padded with anecdotes from his life—anecdotes that are, almost without exception, boring. How could a man with the career he has had, have lived such a mind-numbingly tedious life?
I think the answer is in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. In it, he asks a couple how they manage to make their relationship work. The woman says, “I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.” The man then adds, “And I’m exactly the same way.” I thus conclude that Senator Danforth is a happy man, but he’s not a carrier.