26th February 2013
Why Priests? falls below his usual low standards. The main thesis is that priests ruin everything. They’re power-hungry monsters who’ve taken over the Church, destroying the affirming, companionable, and egalitarian message of Jesus. Moreover, the priestly fixation on ritual sacrifice adds a bloodthirsty, prosecutorial, and altogether primitive cast to Christianity, which Garry Wills promises to deliver us from, restoring for the first time in two millennia the original spirit of Jesus and his followers.
Wills has been coasting on the virtues of his one good book, Nixon Agonistes, for about 40 years now. (If you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so; it contains valuable insights about the sixties and seventies, even to those of us who lived through them.) Like the Republican apparatchik who hates Republican principles (cue Kevin Phillips, David Frum, Conor Friedersdorf, and David Brooks), he makes his living off of pandering to the Crust while pretending to be from the other side. (You’d think they’d get tired of this sort of thing, but they don’t.)
Like many other pretend Catholics, Wills makes the Protestant mistake of thinking that he knows more about what Christ intended than the people who were taught by Christ and or the people whom they taught. (This is an attitude that I have never been able to understand, myself, but it’s sufficiently widespread that it appears to be deeply rooted in human nature.) Odd thought: Nobody ever tries to tell the Latter Day Saints that they’ve got Joseph Smith all wrong. I wonder why that is….
There’s a lot of angry bluster in Garry Wills, but little else.
And that pretty much sums it up.