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Andrew Sullivan on The Conservative Soul

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

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HH: Joined now by Andrew Sullivan, author of The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back, in bookstores everywhere. I will link it at Hughhewitt.com a little bit later. We’ve got Andrew for the next hour and a half. Andrew Sullivan, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

AS: Thank you.

HH: Andrew, you’ve often been invited onto the program to debate about something, and you’ve always declined. Why?

AS: I think twice I’ve been invited, and said…because I just had better things to do, frankly, and I have a blog to fill all day long, and I don’t think that you’re necessarily always the fairest of interviewers.

HH: Okay. Well, we’ll see…we’ll test you at the end to find out if you think it’s fair. This is an interview about a book, not a debate, so let’s do some biography first. What year did you graduate from Harvard?

AS: Well, I graduated twice, really, because I did two degrees. I graduated in ’86 from the Kennedy School, and then graduated in 1990 from the government department.

HH: And did you get a PhD?

AS: Yeah, I got a Masters in public administration, and then a PhD in government.

HH: And the PhD was under Mansfield, Harvey Mansfield’s direction?

AS: Yeah, he was my supervisor, yeah.

HH: Oh, that’s very interesting. Have you had any training in the law?

AS: Not really. I haven’t…I don’t have a law degree, no, except whatever I’ve picked up along the way.

HH: Okay, I just was wondering, because there’s a lot of Con Law in the book, and we’ll get to that. Are you a Christian?

AS: What kind of question is that?

HH: Well, you write a lot about your faith in here, and I would just…

AS: Well then, obviously I am.

HH: Well, I don’t know. I was going to ask. Do you think you are?

AS: Well, if you’ve read the book, you’ll surely know.

HH: Okay. Let me ask you this…

AS: Are you a Christian?

HH: Do you believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead?

AS: Yes.

HH: Okay. And you’re a Catholic…

AS: What is this, by the way? Is this an inquisition?

HH: Well, no. There are questions that come from reading your book closely.

AS: No, I find…it’s quite clear from the book. And already, you see, this is why you’re not a fair interviewer, because you are…this is the kind of question people asked in the Spanish Inquisition.

HH: Well, I actually don’t think so.

AS: I’m not here to be debated on what I believe in the depths of my heart. It’s none of your business.

HH: Well, you write…

AS: I am here to be interviewed about my book.

HH: You write on page 208, “The Gospels, all of them, including some that were rejected by the early Church, are mere sketches of a life actually lived in an experience that can never be reduced to words or text or doctrines. And the world as it was, and still is, was unable to tolerate this immense occasion, and so Jesus was executed. And the life more in touch with divinity than any other life was ended abruptly, when it was still achingly young. The existence of such a life was both so wondrous that it changed everything, and also so terrifying that it had to be snuffed out.” So when you wrote that in touch with divinity more than any other life, that suggests he wasn’t divine. Do you think he was divine?

AS: Yes, I do, and I say the mystery of the incarnation in the book, as you know, because you’ve read it…

HH: Yes, I have.

AS: …so the question is in bad faith, because you’ve read the book and you know the answer to this question. This is why you’re not a fair questioner, because you already know that in the book, I say the mystery of the incarnation is that God…that Jesus is not just God, but he was God made man. You know the answer to the question you’re asking, so why are you asking this?

HH: Actually, I don’t, and I’ll go through some other questions with you here.

AS: No, no, no, no. I just want to…you stop right there, because (laughing) you’re asking these questions in a way that you know the answer already, which means you’re trying trick questions.

HH: Andrew, I don’t.

AS: Try and be intellectually honest for a change.

HH: Andrew, I don’t. I have a lot of questions based upon a very close reading of the book. And if you want…

AS: No, you can’t. If you had closely read the book, you knew the answer to these questions. You’re asking me questions…

HH: Well, actually, I think any fair reader would agree with me.

AS: …as a way to trick somebody.

HH: I’m not trying to trick anyone, Andrew. We’re here for an hour and a half.

AS: You are. You do it all the time.

HH: Let’s move on. As a Catholic…

AS: Let me ask you. Do you believe in the resurrection?

HH: Again, this is an interview, not a debate. I just want to know…I have a lot of questions about your book, fair, legitimate questions. I just want to ask them.

AS: So why…how is it, are you a Christian, about…a question about this book?

HH: Because I thought you might be a Deist at the end of this. I really did. I thought that you might be a Deist.

AS: You think Deists are not Christians? You think…was Jefferson a Christian?

HH: You write that he is, correct?

AS: And you don’t think he was?

HH: No, I don’t.

AS: And you don’t think any of the founding fathers were Christians?

HH: No, I didn’t say that. I don’t think Jefferson was a Christian, and I think…

AS: Who else wasn’t a Christian?

HH: Hamilton was quite clearly a Christian. I think George Washington, it’s debatable. I think Benjamin Franklin probably not, and Thomas Paine absolutely not. Do you agree with those characterizations?

AS: Pretty…well, pretty much, except this binary are you Christian or not. There are many, many varieties, as you know Christianity. Huge, huge differences.

HH: No, I just was asking…for your self-identification as a Catholic, which leads me to my next question. Do you consider yourself under the authority of Benedict, or before him, John Paul II?

AS: What do you mean under the authority? I’m not legally under his authority, no.

HH: No, under a moral authority.

AS: As I say in the book, I am obliged, as all Catholics are, to take his teachings extremely seriously. But the truth of the Church is based on three things, and you’re not a Catholic, so you may not know this. But the Second Council said quite clearly that the authority that we are under as Catholics is both the Pope, secondly tradition and scripture, and third, what Catholics call the Sensus Fidelium, which is the sense of the faithful, the experience of faith in everyday life. It’s the tripartheid way in which Catholics understand their faith. And you’re not a Catholic, are you.

HH: And when we come back…excuse me?

AS: You’re not a Catholic, are you?

HH: When we come back, we’ll continue with that. Yes, I actually am, and I will return to that when we come back to the Hugh Hewitt Show. I’m an Evangelical Roman Catholic Presbyterian, Andrew. But it’s not about me. It’s about your book, and we’ll be right back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

- – - – -

HH: Andrew Sullivan, when we left, we were talking about Roman Catholic Church doctrine, and…

AS: You were saying you were an Evangelical Presbyterian Catholic (laughing)

HH: No, it’s Evangelical Roman Catholic Presbyterian, and…

AS: Oh, now you explain that to me.

HH: But I’m not…my audience can always call me up. They don’t often get to hear you. So I really would like to stay on your book, Andrew, and so…

AS: Well, let me just urge your audience if they’re interested in this, to read the book, because…

HH: It’ll be linked at Hughhewitt.com…

AS: …in it, it’s quite clear that I’m a Christian.

HH: It’ll be linked at Hughhewitt.com.

AS: And they can also read my blog every day, where only last week I said I have great hope that what Jesus taught and was is true. So…

HH: But is it iconoclastic Christianity, Andrew Sullivan?

AS: I bet your pardon?

HH: Is yours an iconoclastic Christianity?

AS: No. The iconoclasts destroyed my Church where I grew up in England. They destroyed the Catholic Churches I loved. They destroyed icons. I have great respect for the beauty and majesty and imagery of Catholicism throughout the ages.

HH: But an ordinary orthodox Roman Catholic Church would assent to the idea that Benedict as Pope has teaching authority over their lives, and that bishops can, in fact, interpret scriptures and issue orders which ought to be followed by the faithful. That’s a…

AS: No, you’re wrong. You’re completely wrong. The Second Council was very clear, and I’ll say it again. They absolutely should respect and listen to carefully, as I have done, and as you know, the Pope, this Pope’s first encyclical I greeted with great delight, and explained and wrote about, and supported, and thought was quite beautiful. We have every duty to listen with great respect to what the Church teaches. But we are also supposed to listen and read the Gospels, and the tradition of the Church, and we’re also supposed to look for God in our own lives, and understand how God impacts our actual lives. So there’s three authorities for Catholics, not just the Pope. That’s the first Vatican Council, which I know you regret. But the Second Vatican Council said something very different, and that’s what’s now the Catholic faith.

HH: Now on page 46, you write, “to take a very basic issue, like the matter of conscience. For many non-fundamentalistic Christians, conscience is the ultimate arbiter of what they believe. In fact, the right to believe only what one’s own conscience can ascent to was at the root of the Reformation…long defined such denominations as the Baptists. The Catholic hierarchy long resisted such an idea until the Second Vatican Council, when it was endorsed, along with religious freedom, and an acceptance of religious pluralism.” There are no footnotes in The Conservative Soul, Andrew Sullivan. What would you footnote that to?

AS: The Second Vatican Council.

HH: But is there…

AS: Have you ever read John Courtney Murray?

HH: No, I haven’t.

AS: Well, then, you need to…

HH: Is there a particular…

AS: …because he was the greatest American influence on the Second Vatican Council.

HH: But there are documents of the Vatican Council. There are…

AS: Yes, there are, but this is…there are many documents, as the…

HH: So which one elevates conscience to the authority of the teaching of the bishop or…

AS: No, what it says is, because it was the first time in history, and I mean, you know the Second Council was the first time that the Catholic Church renounced the fact that the Jews were responsible for Christ’s death. It democratized, in many ways, decision making in the Church, and it said yes, your conscience matters, and you as a Catholic are not supposed to simply submit to what some Pope says. You’re supposed to actually try and believe it. In order to believe it, you have to understand it. In order to understand it, you have to get a little distance from it to think about it, and you have to ask in your entire soul, the depths of your soul, whether you can believe it. And that is what is called your conscience. Now Benedict, of course, has attacked this idea of the Second Council, even though once before, as you know, Benedict was an architect of the Second Council, along with Hans Kung. He was a liberal, a Catholic liberal, in the old days. But both he and the previous Pope really tried to ratchet this back, but they’re the radicals.

HH: And so Andrew Sullivan…

AS: The real Catholic…Second Vatican Council Catholics of course believed in the conscience of the arbiter, not the sole arbiter.

HH: Let me try this a separate way. If, in fact, a Catholic is in a state of mortal sin, as the Church defines mortal sin, may they receive communion?

AS: I think that’s a very hard…no, they should not, if they sincerely believe that they are in a state of mortal sin, yes.

HH: And if the Church has a teaching about what moral sin is, and it is sufficiently clear, and it’s in the Catechism, and you reject that definition, or a Catholic rejects that definition, does that empower them to receive communion?

AS: I think that’s up to the individual. What the priest would say in any particular pastorl sense is that that depends between what you and your priest say, and the conversation you have, and the conscientious decision you reach. Now your entire mindset is authoritarianism. That’s your politics, that’s your belief, that the point of all faith is to submit to authority, and to give up judgment and conscience, and the kind of faith that I believe in. I disagree, and I think most Catholics disagree, and I think the Second Council disagrees.

HH: And it’s…

AS: But you know, that’s what you want. You support a president who has complete unitary executive authority to seize people at will and imprison them and torture them. And you believe in a form of Christianity in which the individual conscience has almost no role at all.

HH: Given that I haven’t written any of that, I find it interesting you’ve come to that conclusion. But you may hold that opinion for as long as you’d like.

AS: You support a president that suspends habeas corpus. I’ve read it.

HH: I’m more interested in this book. Again, I would love a footnote.

AS: And you support his imposition of torture. I’ve read it.

HH: I would love a footnote at some point, and I have not. But I would like you to go back to the book again. When you write that…

AS: You don’t support the president’s detention policy?

HH: Again, Andrew, it’s your book. If you want to have me do an interview with you on your blog about my book at some time, I’d love to do that. But I want to focus on The Conservative Soul.

AS: But the basis of your arguments are entirely based upon your worldview. It’s perfectly up to me to be able to ask you to describe where you’re coming from, because you’re not simply asking these questions, Hugh.

HH: You can. I allowed you to do that.

AS: You are accusing and cross-examining.

HH: I…no…

AS: That’s the way you do these interviews.

HH: I’m just asking questions about what you wrote.

AS: No, you’re not. You’re asking loaded questions to which you know the answers, to trick people into…you do it all the time, Hugh. That’s your modus operandi.

HH: You quote a lot from Montaigne. What’s your favorite essay in Montaigne? There, is that a loaded question?

AS: No. I think if I had two favorite essays, I think De l’experience, which is the final essay in the collected essays, and the great Apology For Raymond Sebond, which is the central essay.

HH: And which translation did you use for the book?

AS: Donald Frame, whose translation is peerless. And if any of your readers want to read Montaigne, get that translation.

HH: I have it in front of me. I have it in my hands. My question is why didn’t you footnote your references to Montaigne?

AS: I don’t…none of my books are footnoted in the sense that they’re essays. I don’t want…this is an essay. I don’t want to clutter it up with all that. It’s…you can find…you can find these things. I’m not misrepresenting Montaigne.

HH: I’ll be right back with Andrew Sullivan. We’ve got another hour and fifteen minutes, so it’s going to be great fun on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

- – - – - –

HH: Andrew Sullivan, on…my favorite essay of Montaigne’s is the education of children, the first book, number 26, in which he writes, the surest sign of wisdom is constant cheerfulness. You’re not very happy today, so I’d like you to enjoy the interview a little bit more. It’s really not an inquisition.

AS: Oh, it is an inquisition. You know it is.

HH: Okay. Let’s get…

AS: I’m having a blast on this tour. I…and as you know, I have plenty of…I’m running the cheesiest 80′s videos on my blog. I have fun all the time. I’m a very cheerful, happy person.

HH: All right.

AS: I just know Savonarola’s when I hear them.

HH: I just wanted to get…make sure that the audience understood that you were occasionally a happy guy.

AS: I’m extremely happy right now.

HH: Page 176…

AS: I’m very happy fighting back against ideologues and fanatics.

HH: Page 176…

AS: It gives me great joy to do so.

HH: Plato is telling us…you’re talking about from the Republic, the myth of the cave. Plato was telling us that seeing the truth is not completely beyond us. A few can wrestle, writes Andrew Sullivan, have wrestled themselves free of the bondage of illogic, prejudice, sentiment, bias, self-delusion, fear, self-interest, passion and misunderstanding, that human thought is err to. But this is rare. A Socrates or Jesus, or Mohammed, or Einstein, does not come every day. Andrew Sullivan, do you think that Mohammed and Einstein wrestled themselves free of illogic, prejudice, sentiment, bias, self-delusion, fear, passion?

AS: I think they certainly did so more than you or I, Hugh, don’t you?

HH: Well, but you’re holding them up as a standard for the ages.

AS: I’m saying that the part of that book that I’m talking about is how truth…I mean, what is…and the great question that Pilate asked, what is truth? The truth is not quite as easy and as simple as we sometimes think it is. And the truth about everything, the meaning of the whole universe, is something that is, by definition, very hard for humans to grasp. I mean, God, if God exists, must, by definition, be unknowable to us. So that anybody who claims they know exactly what God is, what His position is on the capital gains tax, that he’s a Republican or a Democrat, is just telling you they don’t know God, that there is a critical part of faith which must accept the ineffability of the Divine. And what I find very troubling about today’s…some of today’s, not everybody, but some of today’s fundamentalists is their absolute certainty not only about what God is, but their right to tell other people how to live their lives, according to their view of what God is.

HH: But do you think Socrates…

AS: The lack of humility among these people is staggering.

HH: …Jesus and Mohammed are all on the same plane morally?

AS: No, but they’re all part of the same search for this great truth about the meaning of our lives, and the meaning of the universe.

HH: And did one of them…

AS: And different people will accept…I’m writing this book for anybody, Christian, non-Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, agnostic.

HH: So they’ve all got part of the truth?

AS: Everybody’s searching for the truth, yes. And the thing about truth is that there can be shades of it. You can capture a part of it, but not the whole of it. That’s what philosophy is about.

HH: I’ll be right back.

AS: That’s what faith is about.

HH: Andrew Sullivan is my guest. The book is The Conservative Soul. I’ll link it at Hughhewitt.com.

- – - – - – -

HH: Andrew, last half hour, I wanted to get through the religion parts of the book in the first half hour, but I’ve still got a couple more questions. When you write about the Gospels, all of them, including some that were rejected by the early Church, which rejected Gospels do you think ought to be part of the canon?

AS: I don’t. I just think they’re interesting, and should be looked at as any sensible is. Can I just make a comment about how many advertisements you have on this show? You must be raking in a lot of money. It’s just interesting to hear a Christian network, where Jesus said you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven if you have any money at all, spending half the time raking in money. Do you find any conflict in that?

HH: It’s not a Christian network. I mean, Andrew, it’s not a Christian network.

AS: Salem Radio Network?

HH: No, it’s a publicly traded company, and this is a secular show heard on a hundred stations across the United States.

AS: Secular show? The Salem network, I was told, is a Christian talk radio show.

HH: Well, no, it’s a mistake. They have some Christian teaching and talk stations, but this is…I’m not one of them, and I’m not carried on them.

AS: Well, all I can say about…

HH: We’ve got Bill Bennett and Laura Ingraham and…

AS: …show is so many advertisements. I mean, it’s like been ten minutes sitting here waiting to come back on.

HH: I actually think it’s the industry norm, which is about 38 minutes of talk, versus 22 minutes of news, sports, weather, traffic and advertisements. And I think it’s about 12 minutes an hour of ads.

AS: Wow. It just seems forever.

HH: Well, sorry you didn’t like it, but that’s…we’ve got to make the wheels go ’round, and we’re successful. That’s why we’re not bankrupt like Air America, I guess. Andrew, going back, though, which of the non-canonical Gospels do you recommend to people?

AS: Well, I think what I would recommend is…to anybody, is to read, for example, Elaine Pagel’s work, and some of the amazing scholarship that’s happened in the last ten or twenty years, to see how Christianity, at its very core, was a very contentious and debated and quarrelsome organization. And people disagreed from the minute Jesus died and rose from the dead about what he meant, and they fought about it, and talked about it, and prayed about it, for two centuries and longer. And they still are, and we still are. And that’s not something to be frightened of. As Jefferson pointed out, inquiring into faith, thinking about your faith, doubting about your faith, is part of the process of believing. And the early Christians did it, we still do it, and there’s something about the certainty and intolerance of some contemporary Christian fundamentalists that I think that should be alien to the spirit of Jesus, and alien to the spirit of humility and faith that I’m trying to recover from the politicized Christians which you support so strongly.

HH: So there are no particular of the non-canonical Gospels you want to offer up as a good one?

AS: No, because I frankly think some of them are gobbledygook, and some of them have insights, but I think there’s a reason that the four Gospels were selected by the Church as being the most reliable, even though of course, they contradict each other, and contradict themselves internally, so that they are also fallible, obviously fallible as human documents. But I think they are inspired by this astonishing moment of God made man, called Jesus. And I think at the same time, they’re just words. And the real experience of Jesus is beyond words, and He’s definitely come into my life at times, and taken me by the lapels, and shaken me to my core, and told me to cut out the pride, cut out the certainty, and be humble before God. And I’ve had many experiences like that, and I was told I had a death sentence, and I went through a deep spiritual journey in that, as other people have done in different circumstances. And I learned that the key Christian virtue is humility and listening to God, not telling everybody else the way they should live their lives, let alone fusing faith with politics, and telling people, as Ann Coulter just did, if you don’t vote Republican, you’re Godless. That’s, I think, despicable and wrong.

HH: On page 210, you write that…

AS: Do you agree with me on that?

HH: I’ve got too many questions to debate Ann tonight.

AS: No, no. Answer me that.

HH: No, actually, I want to get to the interview.

AS: Do you think Ann Coulter…the words, using, writing a book called Godless is a despicable thing to write?

HH: It’s impossible to reach, for my audience, for them to get an understanding of who you are, Andrew, and what you’ve written, unless we proceed.

AS: Well, I think they need to understand better how you are, and who you support, and what your politics are, as well.

HH: I think, in fact, from my e-mails, they’re sensing, and I’ll just tell you this. I know you’re on the defensive here, and you’re worried about this, but they’re sensing great defensiveness here, that…

AS: I’m not defensive at all.

HH: All right. So let’s get back to the question. On page 210, you write that, “a core feature of fundamentalism is the notion that the end time will come.” Now does Roman Catholic doctrine believe in an end time?

AS: I think at some point, but it’s not the central focus of Catholicism at all.

HH: Do you believe in an end time?

AS: The focus of Catholicism…I think there may be at some point, yeah. But I’m not here to be quizzed on my…on catechism.

HH: Well, no, it’s just because you wrote this here, and I thought maybe you were trying to separate out from that, that you didn’t, that you rejected it.

AS: No, I think that there is a kind of…some people, a large number of people in America today are convinced, if you read the Left Behind series, it’s amazing. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also is convinced the world is coming to an end very soon. The early Christians were absolutely convinced the world was coming to an end imminently. You read the acts of the apostles, they’re convinced of it. Now they were wrong, weren’t they?

HH: Obviously, depending on…

AS: So the early Christians were wrong. St. Paul was wrong.

HH: Well, that’s what…I was coming to your qualification of St. Paul next. It was the last of my religion questions. You don’t like him much.

AS: Oh, I think that some of what St. Paul wrote…he’s a religious genius.

HH: But you said fatally…

AS: And he turned…but he’s definitely different than Jesus. Jesus didn’t construct a Church. Paul did. Jesus didn’t have a theology. Paul created one.

HH: This is where…

AS: So you have to understand the distinction between Jesus and Paul in order to understand Christianity at all.

HH: The line I’m reading from is on page 220. “The conservative account of Christianity, it is first and foremost of a single life, of one man, Jesus. It’s subsequently both an attempt to distill what it meant to be Jesus, most fatally, in the abstract religious genius of Paul.” And I…what do you mean by fatally there?

AS: Because if you just have doctrine, and you do not feel Jesus in your actual life, if you do not feel it in the practice of faith, if you just cling to doctrines and certitudes, you become what Jesus criticized, which was the Pharisees, who said oh, we’ve got it all down. We know what the laws are. And they did exactly to Jesus what you’re doing to me, which is ask them all these trick questions. And Jesus, actually, was smart enough to be silent, and to say no, what matters is love and forgiveness, and how we live our lives. And that’s what Jesus said.

HH: Well, Jesus didn’t write a book, though.

AS: Hugh, you and your pharisaical form of religion, and your cross-examination. You remind me exactly of the Pharisees and scribes in the Gospels.

HH: But Jesus didn’t write a book or go on a book tour, and you did.

AS: So what?

HH: And so when I ask you about what you’ve written in your book, it’s not really a trick question.

AS: Well, I’ve answered what you’ve asked me about that. I’m saying exactly that’s what I mean by…if you mistake doctrine for faith, you are confusing two things. That’s the answer to your question. So ask me another one.

HH: So when you write…and so Paul fatally…I still don’t understand what you think about Paul. Is Paul’s scripture inspired and part of a Christian’s package of…

AS: Yes, but it comes with it, and certain people, certain followers have taken Paul, and believed more in Paul’s certitudes, than Jesus’ example. And that is, I think, a mistake. And what I argue in the book is that taken to its logical conclusion can lead you away from Jesus, not towards him.

HH: All right. Now let’s go to…

AS: So understanding Paul properly, within the context of the Gospels, which is…the Gospels are the core of our faith. St. Paul is an attempt to create a theology out of it. You have to go back to the words of Jesus, as Jefferson did. You know, Jefferson cut out the words of Jesus that he thought were the core truths. By the way, Hugh, from what you’ve said, you don’t believe that America is a Christian nation.

HH: Again, I don’t think I’ve said that, or the opposite. I’m trying to ask questions.

AS: Well, let me ask you.

HH: Again, Andrew…

AS: Let me ask you…

HH: …I’ve invited you, and I’ll have you back to debate…

AS: You refuse to answer questions.

HH: I want to get through the book for people.

AS: You refuse to answer questions, because you know that if you…

HH: I do want to get through the book.

AS: …if you told the truth, if you told the truth about what you believe…

HH: No, I think you’re filibustering, Andrew. Andrew…

AS: your listeners would see you for what you are.

HH: Andrew, I think you’re filibustering, but I’ll make you an offer.

AS: I’m not. You are filibustering. I asked you a question. Answer my question.

HH: I will answer questions for you. (Duane,) who do we have on in the third hour?

AS: Answer my question.

HH: Oh, we have Michael (Barone) at 5:20, eh?

AS: Do you believe that America is a Christian nation?

HH: I believe that America is made up of Christians, but it is not a theocracy at all, no.

AS: So it’s a secular nation?

HH: It’s a secular nation, absolutely.

AS: Great, good.

HH: As I’ve written at great length.

AS: I hope your listeners heard that.

HH: Of course they heard it. They know I’m a Constitutional majoritarian. I wrote this…I talk about it every day. And so that’s what I want to get to, is your idea of government, at this point. First of all, just a note. I’m always alarmed when I find obvious errors in a book. And this was probably an oversight on your part. But Benjamin Disraeli did not bring universal suffrage to Great Britain, as you write on page 268.

AS: You mean he excluded women?

HH: Well, no, he also excluded a whole bunch of men. There was still a tax, you had to be a property holder, he excluded most of the rural poor. It was not even close.

AS: No, no, no. The point is that he brought a huge number…I mean, he faced down the Torry elites and brought in huge numbers of people into the…now if you want to be pedantic like this, which is the way you normally are, because you’re not interested in the real points, you’re interested in catching people out, because I’ve read your interviews, and listened to you. I know what you’re up to. Fine, yes. If you mean that…do you not disagree, do you disagree that he brought in huge numbers of people into the electoral system who weren’t there before?

HH: Yes, but you didn’t write that. You wrote universal suffrage, and I thought it was an error that should be noted, because small errors, and in fact, that’s kind of big, made in effort to prove a point…

AS: You’re pathetic. You really are a pathetic…you’re such a pathetic pedant. You really are.

HH: All right. Good. On that note…

AS: You missed the whole point of this book.

HH: We’ll be right back.

AS: You’re not interested in the truth, Hugh.

HH: Andrew Sullivan is my guest on the pathetic pedant show. Don’t go anywhere.

- – - – -

HH: We’re playing some cheer up music for Andrew Sullivan, who is my guest, and will be for the balance of the hour. His new book, The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back…

AS: I am very cheerful, Hugh, right now. I’m tired of being told I’m not.

HH: All right, Andrew.

AS: I’m cheerful because your conservative is finally being exposed for what it is, and your big spending, big government, bossy conservatism is being rejected by the people of this country. And you can feel it and see it. So I have never been as happy as a warrior in these political wars than I am today.

HH: All right. Now I want to go to the politics of the book. On page 231, you write, “The defining characteristic of a conservative, as I define them in the last chapter, is someone who knows what he doesn’t know.” You put a fine point on doubt.

AS: Yes.

HH: Explain why.

AS: Because ultimately, what conservatives are about is empiricism, is understanding that the further you’re away from something, the more likely you are to make an error. Big government is far away from, for example, transactions and trade. Therefore, free markets therefore makes mistakes. So free markets are more likely to get things right. Conservatism in government wants to stop any single person in government from dictating to everybody what it believes is truth, or the founding fathers created a system where they divided government up to check it from doing too many things too quickly, to deliberate, to prevent government doing too much harm to individual people. And so doubt is at the core. It’s the core, it’s the politics of imperfection, conservatism, against the utopianism of the left, or the utopianism of the right. And that’s what I think conservatism really means. It means limited government, balanced budgets, low spending, and prudent, strong foreign policy. And that’s what I believe in as a conservative, and that’s what these people have destroyed.

HH: You quote, approvingly, on page 244, from Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania versus Casey.

AS: I did it just to annoy you, Hugh.

HH: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood, were they formed under the compulsion of the state.” And you applaud that, don’t you?

AS: I do. I believe in religious liberty. I believe in individual liberty. I believe in the right to be left alone in your home, and in your Church, and in your conscience. Yes, I think that’s at the core of what America means, which is why when this President abridged and abrogated habeas corpus, he attacked the very core of liberty in this country, and has suspended liberty in this country, a tradition that goes right back to 1215.

HH: Now the reason I find it…

AS: And you supported him.

HH: The reason I find it confusing that you applaud the Casey decision, but yet you say doubt is at the heart of conservatism, is at the very first line of that opinion, a joint opinion by O’Connor, Souter and Kennedy, is “liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt.” That whole opinion stands for the rejection of doubt, and of incrementalism.

AS: No, it doesn’t.

HH: It stands for the imposition of the majority rule of nine unelected judges. And it simply is inconsistent with your theory of doubt and incrementalism to ever quote Casey as other than a radical…

AS: I am quoting those sentences, Hugh.

HH: What’s that?

AS: I’m quoting the meaning of those sentences alone.

HH: Well, those sentences…

AS: I’m not saying…I do not make an argument in the book about Planned Parenthood. I just use it because I think that’s a beautiful statement of the freedom of individual conscience, and the freedom of the individual liberty, of the individual person, which you, of course, disagree with profoundly, and want the executive to be able to pluck people off the streets and jail them without charges. That’s your position, right?

HH: You see no inconsistency in quoting from an opinion…

AS: I see inconsistency in someone who calls himself an Evangelical Catholic supporting torture, like you do.

HH: I go back to it. You don’t find any inconsistency in quoting from an opinion, a central aspect of which refutes your fundamental proposition?

AS: No, because I’m only relying upon those sentences to make a point. How are you, as a Christian, able to support torture, Hugh?

HH: Now I want to go back…again…

AS: Again, you’re not answering.

HH: We’ll have…I’m not going to be interviewed…I’m interviewing you, because I did a lot of work to get ready for this interview, not to debate you. I want to know about your book.

AS: You can’t answer. You refuse to answer these questions.

HH: Has any…you are a proponent.

AS: How do you support the abrogation of habeas corpus, and the imposition of torture in America? That’s a very profound question. And why are you ducking it?

HH: Well, actually, as Justice Marshall said, it’s a very important question, and it’s also not a very difficult one. I don’t do either of those things. So that’s the end of it.

- – - – -

AS: So you don’t support this President’s torturing of al Katani, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and you opposed the detention bill in front of…I’ve read your blog. You’re not telling the truth right now.

HH: Well, I don’t support torture, and again, I know you want to divert from the book.

AS: No, I am just exposing…

HH: I don’t want to let you filibuster.

AS: …your contradiction.

HH: I will be happy to have you back to debate torture, but torture is not the part of the book that is of interest.

AS: It’s the core of the book. It’s the core of the book. The book’s center ends…

HH: Now here is the core of the book.

AS: The central part of this book ends with Bush torturing a person in a jail. That’s the point.

HH: You’ve made a lot of statements about…You’ve made a lot of statements about executive power. You’ve made a lot of statements about how America works, and they’re just fundamentally ill-informed about basic Con Law, and how the government works, Andrew.

AS: I want you to tell me how you as a Christian, as a Constitutionalist, support the suspension of habeas corpus and the use of torture, and people who have not had a right to be heard in court.

HH: I want you to tell me how, when you write the government…

AS: You’re not going to answer, are you?

HH: Well, I’m not, because your book is fundamentally flawed, and I understand your defensiveness about it, and I understand why you don’t want to answer…

AS: No, I’m not being defensive. I’m answering the questions. You’re not.

HH: No, what you want to do is divert this into something other than the book, because the book is a mess. It’s intellectually a mess.

AS: (laughing) I think the book is far from a mess. And the fact that it is destroying…

HH: Well, then, let’s explore it, and the audience can decide.

AS: It destroys your particular version of conservatism, and takes it on. And I urge your readers to read it, to make up their own minds about whether they think it’s a mess or not.

HH: Andrew, it’s got nothing to do with…you just don’t understand Con Law. I mean, at a very basic level…

AS: But the very last part of…the central part of the book says the following. If conservatism had begun as a political philosophy designed to check power, to ensure individual liberty, to protect individuals from lawless government authority, it ended in a dark room with a defenseless detainee strapped to a board, terrified beyond most of our imagining. That’s in my book. That’s what I’d like to debate. I’d like to ask how you…

HH: And there…that’s nice and emotional, and it’s really dramatic, and it has nothing to do with the American Constitution which you purport to write about with some authority.

AS: …you, a Christian, a Constitutionalist, can support torture. I want to know from you right now…

HH: You don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to the Constitution, and I understand why you don’t want me to get to it. But I’d like to get to it.

AS: I would like to get to the core of the book, which is The Conservative Soul, how we’ve lost it. When conservatives are abrogating habeas corpus and torturing people, they have lost their soul. And that’s what this book is called, and that’s what it’s about…

HH: Andrew, is the Constitution a fundamentally…

AS: And that’s what I want to debate. I’m not going to be trapped into your little trick questions, and your cross-examination.

HH: Andrew, it’s not. It’s your book. You write, for example, on page 240, that the government needs a compelling reason to treat citizens differently. That’s flat-out wrong. That would flunk any law student in America. Are we supposed to ignore the fact that you do not have a basic grasp of Constitutional law?

AS: I deny that. I think that’s an insult, and you should withdraw it.

HH: Well, it says, page 240…

AS: I just want to know why you support torture.

HH: The government needs a compelling reason to treat citizens differently. That is 180 degrees wrong.

AS: You don’t think the basic equality of people in this country, the civil equality of people in this country, isn’t a critical element…

HH: Andrew, the government…the only time the government needs…

AS: …is a critical element of the American experiment?

HH: We’re going to a break. The only time the government needs a compelling reason to treat people differently is when they do so on the basis of race. I mean, that’s what’s so astonishing about this book, is that you purported to write a book about the Constitution, and you don’t know how it works.

AS: I didn’t write a book about the Constitution. I wrote a book about conservatism.

HH: We’ll come back and continue the conversation with Andrew Sullivan, who apparently wants to forget the last third of his book.

- – - – -

HH: Andrew, in the history of the United States, from the founding forward, has any state ever passed, and a governor signed into law, marriage for two people of the same sex?

AS: Do you agree with this statement? I don’t think we should deny people’s rights to a civil union, if that’s what a state decides to do?

HH: No, I don’t agree with that statement, but I asked you a question.

AS: That’s George W. Bush. That’s President George W. Bush, just to clarify things.

HH: In the history of the United States, has any state legislature ever passed, and a governor signed into law, a bill establishing marriage for two people of the same sex?

AS: In the state of California, of course, as you know, the legislature did vote, and the governor vetoed it.

HH: And so it has never actually happened anywhere in the United States in history, has it?

AS: Not yet, but boy, considering that only eleven years ago, I wrote a book suggesting the idea, it’s happened pretty quickly, hasn’t it?

HH: Well, given that it’s never happened with a legislative and an executive predicate, is it a radical thing for New Jersey to impose it on New Jersey, or Massachusetts courts to impose it…

AS: They’re not imposing it. What they have done is actually agreed with the President, as he said, I’ll repeat, the President’s words, for your listeners, I don’t think we should deny people rights to a civil union, if that’s what a state decides to do. The state court has decided that its own constitution, which guarantees equal protection of the laws to all citizens, whether they’re gay or straight…I know you think gay people should not have equal citizenship…they’ve decided that there should be equal rights. And then they’ve sent it back to the legislature, which is directly elected, to decide what to do with that, just as in Massachusetts, the people will be voting in 2008, whether the terrible thing of allowing two people to commit to each other forever, in responsibility and fidelity, whether that’s going to destroy civilization, the people of Massachusetts will decide. Let the states decide in time. It’s…this has happened very quickly. I think the process should go on state by state, and we should deliberate and argue, and the courts and the legislatures, and the executives can all fight this out in the way the founders intended.

HH: Yeah, but this is not the way the founders intended, because it is, of course, three articles, and the third branch was the least dangerous, and had no executive or legislative authority, and it’s inventing it. So my question is, given…

AS: 39 states have amended their own constitutions to make this impossible forever, okay?

HH: But Andrew, is it a radical act…

AS: You don’t think the states have power to stop this if they don’t want to?

HH: Again, the filibuster, I think, is self-defeating. The question is, is it a radical or a conservative act for a court to dictate to a legislature that they must pass laws establishing that civil unions or marriage are open to two people of the same sex?

AS: It is a conservative notion, a very conservative notion, that the court should look at…when presented with a case, should look at its own constitution, and see what it asks. What’s happened here, Hugh, as you know, is that our view of homosexuality has changed dramatically over the last 20, 30, 40 years. We understand what homosexuality is more than we used to. We used to think it was something that heterosexuals did that was bad and immoral, and should be punished and criminalized and actually have the death penalty in some cases. We then came to understand that gay people are gay because they are gay. And therefore, it’s something intrinsic to them in the way that race is. And therefore, it is subject to equal protection. And courts that have constitutions with equal protection clauses are really up against a wall on this.

HH: Well, and Andrew, this is where…

AS: They can’t deny the fact that their constitutions demand equality.

HH: …this is where you’re a radical. The equal protection clause was passed by people with very specific ideas in mind in the 14th Amendment, and in the New Jersey equivalent…

AS: Which as you know, that that’s changed over time dramatically, for all sorts of things.

HH: Well, it has not changed with regards to race which motivated it, and the women right to vote was an amendment to the Constitution. What I am pointing out, what a Constitutionalist points out, and what you ought to be coming to, given what you write, that as a means of restraining government’s necessary power we have constitutions, and that conservatism is primarily a politics of means and not ends. You cannot, at the same time that you believe this, believe in the judicial imposition of same sex marriage, because it’s radical, and it makes you a radical.

AS: No, I don’t believe in the judicial imposition of it.

HH: So you condemn the Massachusetts Supreme Court?

AS: I believe that the courts, if they’re presented with a case, have to make the decision based upon the Constitution. And I also believe the legislatures of those states then have an opportunity to respond. And then, if necessary, if people think the court is out of control, they can amend the constitution to prevent it from happening, as it happened in the overwhelming majority of states. In one state…

HH: Is Massachusetts Supreme Court out of control?

AS: …only in one state. Say what?

HH: Andrew, is the Massachusetts Supreme Court out of control, and arrogating to itself the lawmaking power?

AS: No, because the legislature has every opportunity, and had every opportunity to stop it.

HH: And on this point…

AS: And the people will have an opportunity to stop it…

HH: And on this point, I think it’s revealed that ultimately, you’re not a conservative if you believe in an untrammeled judicial power to dictate legislatures.

AS: I don’t believe in untrammeled. I’ve just said I believe it should be checked.

HH: But if you do not believe it is wrong…

AS: I do believe it has some power…

HH: It has the power that it is absolutely given under the Constitution not to legislate.

AS: Power is to interpret the Constitution, that of its state. That’s its power. It has to make that decision.

HH: Andrew, if the Massachusetts Supreme Court tomorrow declares that you’re a German, does that make you a German?

AS: Of course not.

HH: Of course not. And so that would be a radical court, correct?

AS: But I agree with the President, that I think we shouldn’t deny people rights to a civil union, if that’s what a state decides to do.

HH: Oh, sophistry. We’ll be back with more sophistry, but not of a conservative sort, with Andrew Sullivan when we return to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

- – - – -

HH: Andrew Sullivan, I’m looking at page 248 of your new book, The Conservative Soul, part of your critique of George Bush as irritated by cumbersome procedures as parliamentary maneuvers, rules about rules, necessary legal hurdles to overcome before action. They are not really conservative, those who are frustrated by such things in the Anglo-American sense. Now I would put aside the gay marriage debate, because those who profess to endorse court decisions are themselves upset with parliamentary maneuvers, and rules about rules, etc. But I’d like to go to Hamdan.

AS: You don’t think courts have a role to play?

HH: What’s that?

AS: You don’t think courts have any role to play?

HH: I think they have a very narrow role as foreseen by Hamilton as the least dangerous branch, and is completely…

AS: By the way, Hugh, I just want to…I actually do want to thank you, because I’m having a ball.

HH: Oh, good. Good. We needed to get you happy. You should come back more often, because we needed that.

AS: You know, I’ve decided…I was completely wrong. I…you know, I grew up in the Oxford Union. I love debating, and you’re a hell of a debater, and I’m having a great deal of fun. I’ve wanted to have a fight about this book ever since it was published, and I’m having a great time here. So sorry…

HH: Okay. Now I want to go back to Hamdan. You say George Bush, and I’m paraphrasing here, I’m not quoting, but I could find the quotes, as an out of control autocrat who via his signing statements, et cetera, is attempting to usurp all power to himself. After Hamdan came down, a 5-3 decision, arguing that the military tribunals as proposed were unconstitutional, and Common Article 3 applied to the non-legal combatants, the President drafted, sent to Congress, and they passed legislation, which he has now signed.

AS: Yeah.

HH: Doesn’t that make him a Constitutionalist, in that a court spoke…I didn’t agree with it, and neither did he, but he did exactly what was right. He drafted legislation, and he persuaded the Congress of the United States to sign it, which makes him much more respecting of the ends and means you discuss in the Constitution, than courts imposing gay marriage.

AS: Well, if you concede the fact that it took them four years of detaining people without charges, and torturing them, before he actually got around to it, yes. And it was up to the legislature, and the legislature, in one of the saddest days in American history, suspended the ancient writ of habeas corpus indefinitely.

HH: And so the legislature and the president…

AS: And people…it was a Constitutional act, yes. And now, now, let me point out. We have one other option. If you believe in freedom, because we have an election, we have an opportunity to stop this terrible attack upon our ancient liberties, by electing a Democratic Congress, or abstaining from these so-called Republicans, in order to protect our liberties from these people.

HH: And so, I’m just pointing out…

AS: So you believe in torture, right?

HH: …that the radical nature that you attribute to George Bush has just essayed forth in a legislative proposal, debate, and an action, and a signing, that has…

AS: Reluctantly, reluctantly. He was pushed to it.

HH: Well, yes, because I believe with him, that the Supreme Court decision was wrongly decided, as to the extent of Article II power.

AS: He thought he could do whatever he liked.

HH: Yeah, he did not think he could do whatever he liked. He thought he had the authority…

AS: He was very…he didn’t want this to be challenged by the court, and neither did you, because he believed in the unitary executive. He believes in the all monarchical power of someone…

HH: Andrew…

AS: Hugh, it’s important for your listeners to know the following…

HH: Andrew, when you say he believes in the all monarchical power, how does anyone who believes in the all monarchical power accept a court decision that he deeply…

AS: Well, he could have it, too, at that point, but he said…

HH: Well, I guess he’s not much of a monarchist.

AS: He did his best within the system.

HH: Yeah, but he’s not really a committed monarchist. Is he going to leave office at the end of the second term?

AS: Finally, he did. Yes, but he did as much as he could. The truth is…

HH: I’m just wondering. Is he going to step down at the end of the second term peacefully, and go peacefully?

AS: Say what?

HH: Do you think he’ll go peacefully at the end of his second term, Andrew Sullivan, or will he then spring a coup?

AS: No, of course. But what I’m saying is the instinct that he has, and people need to know this, you’re listeners need to understand, habeas corpus no longer holds in this country. It had been suspended before, but only for very short periods of time and emergencies. This was is defined permanently. Habeas corpus is suspended permanently. Not only that, executive branch has tortured, is torturing individuals, without charging them, without access to the courts. And you agree with that, and support that as a conservative and as a Christian. And I don’t understand that from you, Hugh.

HH: I don’t…I don’t, and as a result…

AS: I want you to defend that.

HH: …again, that is an attempt to divert us in our precious little time left.

AS: You’re filibustering. You’re filibustering now. I’ve asked you several times on this show, so far, to say whether you agree with habeas corpus…

HH: I don’t support torture. I don’t support torture…

AS: …or whether…

HH: I don’t. I’ve said it like a thousand times.

AS: But you supported the military detention bill.

HH: I did, yes.

AS: That is torture.

HH: Well, that’s where we disagree, and I have a good conservative doubt about what I don’t know, and…

AS: You don’t think waterboarding is torture?

HH: Andrew Sullivan, I know you like to fight on this ground. I know that this is the ground upon which you always like to fight, an easily…

AS: I want to know the answer.

HH: …defined issue.

AS: This is a critical question.

HH: But I want to know the answer…I’ve only got two segments left, and I’ve got to get to this. This is my last question.

AS: This is the most important question in America today, and you won’t answer it.

HH: Would you define…

AS: We have an executive torturing people, and detaining them without charge, and you are supporting it.

HH: People understand your position on that.

AS: I want to know your position. I want to know your position.

HH: Now would you help them understand what you mean…would you help them, Andrew, who wrote the book The Conservative Soul, understand the definition of what a Christianist is?

AS: A Christianist is someone who uses religion as a political tool, who uses it to rally people to a political party, who says that if you’re a Democrat, you’re without God, and that’s what Ann Coulter did, and that’s what you do on your blog all the time. You associate being Republican with being a Christian, and not being a Republican with not being a Christian. It’s offensive, and despicable, and blasphemous.

HH: And so your idea of a Christianist is someone who avowedly says if…you cannot be a Christian unless you are a Republican? Is that the test?

AS: That’s your test.

HH: Actually, it’s not, and people that listen to the show know that it’s not, but I’m just trying to get your definition.

AS: That is exactly what you believe. My view of a Christian is the cross. There is Jesus on the cross.

HH: But as a Christianist…

AS: Let me explain to you what I mean.

HH: No, no. Christianist. We’ve got the whole book. But I want that definition of Christianist, that is precise.

AS: The fusion of political power and religious ideology. It’s turning a faith into an ideology, to support people in power.

HH: But that’s hard to pin down…

AS: That’s what you, that’s what Rove has done, that’s what the current Republican Party is about. It’s an abuse of faith, it’s an abuse of Christianity, it’s turning Christianity into a partisan tool and weapon, and that’s wrong.

HH: Well, those are conclusory statements, Andrew. Do you have, like, attributes or defining qualities that we could use to sort people out from?

AS: Anybody who uses religion as a way to organize precincts to get people to vote, as David Kuo has pointed out from within, he’s seen this evil, right at the heart of the Republican Party.

HH: So it’s an evil to target faith-based voters, and ask them to come to the polls?

AS: On the basis of their faith? It is an abuse of faith.

HH: Is it an evil? You just said it’s an evil.

AS: Jesus could have had a political party. He could have supported a political movement.

HH: What do you think Tammany Hall was? Was Tammany Hall evil? Was it a Christianist organization?

AS: I’ll tell you what. Martin Luther King, Jr…

HH: Now…Tammany Hall, he wasn’t in Tammany Hall.

AS: I..I’m not here…I’m not going to…that question, because I don’t know enough about Tammany Hall, but I will tell you this.

HH: It sure knew the Catholic vote, Andrew.

AS: Organizing a political party around a religious faith is wrong. You’re doing it all the time. I mean, act like Christian, act like faith…

HH: We’ll come back. We have one more segment to discuss the history of the Democratic Party with Andrew Sullivan, which apparently the Democrats have been Christianist since the time they organized the Catholic vote in Boston and New York.

- – - – -

HH: Andrew, doubt is at the center of your understanding of conservatism, knowing what you don’t know. Having put it there, I want to ask you, do you have any doubt at all about the positions you’ve attributed to me?

AS: Well, yeah, sure. If you could show me where I’m wrong, I will be happy to see that. Can I just make one point about your last point again? In my first essay about Christianism, I specifically also said when the Democratic Party uses black Churches, and appeals on the basis of their religion to organize politically, I include them as well. This is not merely a partisan criticism. It is the politicization of faith that I’m against, because I think it’s against the spirit of Jesus.

HH: Okay, do you have any doubt at all about the benefits of same sex marriage for the society?

AS: I do think it should be done gradually. I think it should be done state by state. And I think we should cede that the beauty of federalism, how it works…

HH: But is it possible, is it possible that it could be bad for the society?

AS: I seriously doubt that, because how could it…of course, conceivably, yes, which is why I’m in favor of trying it out in one state first, and see what happens.

HH: Do you have any doubt about whether or not the administration is presently practicing torture, or has suspended habeas corpus for you, me and every American?

AS: Oh, no, that’s beyond doubt. The empirical evidence is overwhelming.

HH: And do you have any doubt that you…

AS: Because they’ve told us they’ve done it.

HH: Do you have any doubt that you may misunderstand the fundamental operation of the Constitution, given that you lack the training there?

AS: (laughing)

HH: I mean, I’m not going to debate Oakeshott with you, because I don’t know anything about Oakeshott. But I’ll tell you, the main, principal flaw of this book is it’s just…it’d flunk any Con Law class in the country.

AS: Well, that’s just an insult, Hugh, so I’m not going to respond to it.

HH: It’s not an insult.

AS: What I would say is that I urge people, Constitutional lawyers, to read the book and see what they make of it.

HH: Do you have any doubt that…

AS: If they think it flunks the test, then go ahead. But I’ll tell you, it stirred you up a lot, and it’ll stir them up a lot…

HH: I’m not really stirred up.

AS: …and can see the arguments, and make up their own minds.

HH: I’m kind of like a placid bit of water here. How about this? Do you have any doubt that Jefferson was a Christian?

AS: I mean, again, the word Christian begs a lot of questions. You have to ask yourself what does that mean? It’s too crude a term. There are many, many kinds of Christians. I think at some level, he was. But I think you have to understand he’s a very complicated form of…

HH: He did not believe Jesus was divine.

AS: I beg your pardon?

HH: He just didn’t believe that Jesus was divine.

AS: He didn’t. Now…but he nevertheless went to Church, and he went to public prayer, and he was a genuine person seeking the truth through his own conscience. And in his letter to his nephew, he said look, the important thing is the sincerity of your search for truth.

HH: Unless, of course…

AS: I don’t…I’m less interested in those labels than I am in a sincerity and honesty of these people’s search for truth.

HH: But if God is interested in something other than the sincerity of your search for truth, that would be a problem for the seeker, wouldn’t it?

AS: yes, but since God is truth, how could He possibly object to you trying to seek Him out?

HH: Andrew Sullivan, a question for another day. I appreciate your time a lot. The book is The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back.

End of interview.

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