THE winner of the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in
Religion says he is "outraged" that the United States government
acted so hastily in attacking the Branch Davidian group in Waco,
"If that was a feminist group, or a gay group, or a hundred
different kinds of groups, they would have been much more
cautious," says Michael Novak, a leading Roman Catholic thinker,
author, and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute
Mr. Novak says he believes the government felt justified in its
action against the Davidians "as long as they could call them
`religious nuts.' " This attitude, Novak says, is part of a wider
bigotry against evangelicals and other fundamentalists. "People
say insulting things about them. They wouldn't allow them to say
things like that about other human beings," he says.
To Novak, an anti-religious attitude in government is not
surprising in a democracy.
The secular forces in society, he says, "have a case of
`Christophobia.' " He relates this anti-Christian and anti-Jewish
view to the fact that "People who want to do something very
different don't like the feeling of being judged ... so they have
to throw off Judaism and Christianity."
In Novak's view, this anti-religion attitude is most apparent
among the nation's elite, especially among professionals like
journalists, lawyers, and filmmakers. He finds these groups out of
touch with mainstream America.
For example, most polls find that Americans are among the most
religious people in the world. "But you would never guess that
from our movies.... When was the last time you saw a movie that
treated religion - Jewish, Christian, Islamic - with any kind of
seriousness?" he asks.
One of his favorite examples is from New York Post movie critic
Michael Medved who went to Hollywood parties and asked people how
many Americans attend church. Most partygoers guessed only 1 or 2
percent. Only one person guessed as high as 10 percent. The real
number is 43 percent, Novak says, adding that this means more
people go to church than watch the Super Bowl. "But Hollywood
doesn't know that," he says.
Novak says that the anti-religious attitudes are part of a
broader trend toward moral relativism in America. He observes that
many people find it hard to accept the concept of truth. "They
don't think there are any truths.... They think everything is
opinion," he says.
He links relativism to such events as the rise of Hitler and
Mussolini. "That's what the dictators said - that there is no
right, there is no wrong, there is just power and will," Novak
says. If society accepts this premise, then people "will do what
they want, and no one will meet their responsibilities."
Novak warns that moral decadence, not external enemies, will be
the danger faced by free societies in the next century.
Even though Novak does not countenance homosexuality, he would
not outlaw it, since he opposes governmental meddling in people's
"I am perfectly willing to go along with tolerance," he says.
"But you can't make me say that acts that I think are evil are
good." The state should not treat homosexuals and heterosexuals as
equals, he says. "I think the heterosexual family provides such
important benefits," he says. "You need to strengthen that all
you can; it's very fragile."
Novak expects that people will disagree with him. If
homosexuality becomes a public issue, with each side operating
according to its conscience, then he advocates putting the issue to
a vote "as civilly as you can."
A vote may also be necessary, Novak says, on abortion. …