My dad and I didn’t argue much, despite our many differences in religion, politics and life philosophy in general. I suspect that’s because he was, as I am, non-confrontational by nature… to a point. My own aversion to conflict is interesting given my career choices as a Marine combat officer and a corporate litigator, but that’s for another post (or not). I also suspect the overall lack of argumentative discourse between us was because deep down, he knew I carried the core values he and my mom taught me, even though I express those values in different ways than they could have imagined.
One argument we had, though, was about the religious nature of America’s founding fathers. That argument seemed pointless to me then (in 2000) and even more pointless now almost three years after my dad’s death. I also suspect that at the time, he was in the early throes of Alzheimer’s as I recall being surprised by the uncharacteristic virulence of his tone. He emphatically believed that America was founded by God-fearing, deeply religious men and that the nation has declined in religiosity ever since. I, of course, knew better and insisted on asserting my right to be right.
So this morning, as I was walking to the subway, as usual I tuned my iPod-cast to NPR’s Fresh Air. Author, historian and professor Garry Wills talked about his new book, Head and Heart: American Christianities. During the interview, he articulated how the nation’s founders were the first group of national leaders to specifically opt a country OUT of the age old conflict between religious passion and reason.
I just wish my dad were still here today so we could argue about Wills book, passionately tempered with reason.