E.J. Dionnesyndicated columnist, practicing Catholic, and think-tank fellowthinks the uneasiness about wearing religion on your sleeve in journalism and other aspects of American society is healthy. But he makes clear that healthy unease and putting faith in quarantine from public life are two far different things. He describes himself as "a columnist for a secular newspaper who will neither hide nor flaunt his commitments."
That secular newspaper is The Washington Post. Dionne writes sharp and engaging analysis of elections, ideology, and the body politic. He also offers some of the most thoughtful commentary available in the mainstream press on the role of religion in American politics and society. He is the editor of the forthcoming Whats God Got to Do With the American Experiment? (The Brookings Institution Press, 2000), and author of They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era (Simon & Schuster, 1996) and Why Americans Hate Politics (Simon & Schuster, 1991). Dionne is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a public policy research center in Washington, D.C. He was interviewed there in December by Sojourners editor Jim Wallis.
Jim Wallis: Is the use of the language of faith by political candidates appropriate or dangerous, good or bad, for public discourse?
E.J. Dionne: All of the above, depending on the context. In American history there has always been a significant amount of political talk that was also religious talk. The abolitionists were rooted in the Protestant-evangelical movements. The early progressives were rooted in the social gospel movement, to a very significant degree. It is new for our time and it makes a lot of people nervousfor some good reasons.