Of course, a stupefying event like 9/11 should never be reduced to a matter of personal growth or understanding. At the same time, to be unchanged by such an event, or not to notice such changes, is to be ranked in the top tier of those who are not really paying attention.
The American public square is teeming with people, and therefore opinions, and 9/11 brought many of those opinions about public aspects of faith into sharp conflict with one another. Two of these opinions have stood out in the past decade: radical Islam and Western secularism. The radical Islamist option is a hard, sectarian line, but the postmodern-affected secularists appear to be about as firm and steady as Belshazzar’s knees. We need an alternative.
But what—besides residual motor memories from a distant and vanishing era—can provide us with a foundation for a continuing free society? Christian forms of a reactionary and tight sectarianism seem both doctrinally wrong-headed and impractical.
As a consequence, a line of thought since 9/11 has brought me, by degrees, to champion something called mere Christendom. This is, I am convinced, the only genuine alternative to secular American exceptionalism on the one hand, and radical Islam on the other.