|Why did you call the book Saving Leonardo?|
The book is an intellectual survival guide to the varieties of secularism that are undercutting freedom and dignity in America today.
The reference to Leonardo da Vinci is a metaphor for the powerful way worldviews are “channeled” deeply into people’s minds and emotions through the books they read, the movies they watch, the music they listen to. Saving Leonardo will help you recognize secular ideas when they are conveyed not just through words but also through images and stories.
The book includes more than 100 full-color illustrations. Why is that?
Ideas do not come neatly packaged with a warning label attached, so people know what they’re getting. Instead there is a kind of “stealth” secularism that permeates society through books, music, movies, TV, radio talk shows. As a result, people are often co-opted by secular worldviews without even knowing it.
Saving Leonardo asks: Who’s writing the script for your life? It gives you the tools to decipher the worldviews that are competing for your allegiance. From the classical Greeks to Van Gogh, from Camus to Scarlett Johansson, you will “see” secular ideas unfold in fresh and surprising ways.
The introduction asks “Why Americans Hate Politics.” What’s the answer?
The American founders were motivated by the conviction that politics should be driven by moral ideals like justice and the common good. But in the 20th century, political thinkers accepted the idea that morality is merely subjective—nothing but personal preferences. The problem is that private preferences are not open to rational discussion. Persuasion becomes impossible. All that’s left is power and coercion—each group seeking to impose its own preferences on everyone else.
A famous economist once said, when we disagree over personal values, “it is a case of thy blood or mine.”
Saving Leonardo shows that the best hope for liberty lies in a worldview that is rationally defensible, life affirming, and rooted in creation itself. As the Declaration of Independence puts it, human rights are secure only when a society respects them as unalienable givens endowed by the Creator.
Your book says secularism creates problems not just for religious people but for everyone. Explain why.
Because the word secular is the opposite of the word religious, people often assume that secularism is a problem for religious groups only. Not so. When politics loses its moral dimension, we all lose. When political discourse is debased, the entire society suffers. When government coercion increases, we all lose our freedoms.
The reason Christians should be concerned is not just to protect their own subculture, but to protect the democratic process for all people.
The “religious right” has been trying to counter secular ideologies for the past few decades. Why hasn’t that worked?
The problem is that the religious right put all its eggs in one basket—the basket of political activism. Secular people know better. In a famous quotation, Todd Gitlin, former president of the radical SDS said that, after the student unrest of the sixties, the Left began “marching on the English Department while the Right took the White House.”
Today we have to ask ourselves: Which was the more effective strategy? Those who marched on the English department are now in the White House—and they’re bringing with them the radicalized secular ideologies they learned in the classroom.
It has become a truism that politics is downstream from culture. It’s time to go upstream in order to get a handle on the cultural forces that drive politics.