In the following is a transcript of a portion of the video containing an interview of David Horowitz on the Eric Metaxas show in late March 2019. The discussion focused on Horowitz’s March 2019 book, Dark Agenda: The War to Destroy Christian America. While the interview ultimately focused on the contents of the book, the first portion dealt with Horowitz’s understanding of Christianity relative to the founding principles of America.
The transcript below provides insight into Horowitz’s personal beliefs and his proximity to embracing Christianity for himself, with Metaxas asking some probing questions.
Background on these two men can be found as follows:
The transcript begins at 10:15. Explanatory comments are in square brackets.
EM: You’ve written a lot of books. You’re known in many circles. What is it that led you to write a book specifically about the war to destroy Christian America? And again, you are not a Christian. What led you to write this book?
DH: But I’ve always…since leaving the left I’ve had a lot of sympathy for the Christian community: it’s under siege. When I left the Left, I had to re-examine; I understood that I was involved in an evil movement, and that’s why I know who Barack Obama is, for example, because he was raised in the same communist background that I was. But he never left the Left. He never left the communists. And it’s true of Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, his two closest advisors. If you know you’re involved with evil, the first thing you want to do is warn others, particularly one that has such a seductive face as the Left. You want to warn others.
EM: Of course many people on the Left have no idea that the roots are evil, or that it’s become evil. You know and I know that not everybody who’s a Democrat in the last 50 years, you know, has made a common cause with the Black Panthers or Saul Alinsky. There are many people voting Democrat who don’t have any idea that it has become this, or that it was this in its roots.
DH: Yes, that’s right. You always have to be careful. But anyway, the first thing I wanted to do was to re-examine America we thought of, the system that we wanted to destroy and see if there was a case for it. And the first thing that struck me was these inalienable rights we have for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, something every radical wants. You can’t have them unless there’s a God. Because if they’re given by government, then they can be taken away. And that was an easy idea to understand, but difficult for an agnostic to embrace. And I had to recognize that if you didn’t have respect for believers and for their religious beliefs, if you didn’t respect them, then you couldn’t defend your freedoms.
EM: Well there’s no doubt… I didn’t see it really clearly until fairly recently. I wrote a book called “If You Can Keep It” [The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (2016)] on this very subject. I had not before I wrote that book really understood the inextricable link between faith and freedom, between self-government and virtue; all the founders got it.
DH: The First Amendment: religious liberty, freedom of conscience. You can’t hold the ideas that you have, and if you can’t defend them, you can’t defend any of your freedoms. It’s the most basic freedom, and it’s under continuous assault from the Left. But that was just the beginning. 98% of the people that settled America and created the United States of America were Protestant Christians. 98%. And then I realized that everything we hold dear: the principle of equality, the principle of pluralism, inclusion, diversity; they’re all a product of the Protestant Reformation. And there are two key doctrines in the Protestant Reformation. One is salvation by faith, which means we are so flawed, we are such sinners that none of us deserves to get into heaven. And therefore we can only be saved by God’s grace. And the second idea, which is really the revolutionary idea – although the other is critical – is the priesthood of all believers. Before the Reformation, you could not get to heaven without going through the Catholic church and its priesthood. You know, they sold indulgences if you were stuck in Purgatory to get you to heaven. What the Protestant Reformation said was that every human being created by God faces God one-on-one, without an intermediary; without a church, and without a government. And that’s a very profound idea, and it’s why we’ve always had this national ideal that we judge people on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin, which has been betrayed totally by the Democrat party.
EM: It’s a staggering thing, not just to be a Christian and hear a Jew say what you just said, but to have written books on the subjects you just spoke about, and to realize that I have NEVER said it as eloquently and as pithily as you just said it. That really is a staggering summation of millennia of history. How do we get to American self-government, how do we get to have this glorious Republic, and to understand freedom; all of that in fact comes out of Luther. Really, I say that he freed freedom. It’s not that it didn’t exist in the Catholic church, but it was sort of like kept in a vault some place, and they sort of forgot about it. And it was there. And he let it out. And once you let that idea out — the priesthood of all believers — all of these ideas, eventually work their way into what we’re talking about.
DH: Well, what the Protestant reformers understood was, the Catholic church, the church is a human institution. The Catholic church claimed of course to be the true church, and anointed by God, and so forth. But that’s why we have a system of checks and balances in America, because the founders were believers and they understood that the problem is not society as the Left says, it’s us. We are the problem. And therefore when human beings get into government, you have the same people who create the problems, but now they have a lot more power. So everything that’s fundamentally American: skepticism about the government, the checks and balances system, comes from Protestant beliefs.
EM: It’s kind of amazing when you really understand the whole thing, isn’t it? Because it makes sense. It makes perfect sense. And you want everyone else to get it because it’s so vital to keeping the Republic. I just have to ask you, did you at any point in this journey think about personally accepting God or personally accepting the God of the Bible…
DH: Yeah, well all the time, people are…
EM: Well it seems logical that you would…
DH: Well here’s the thing. It was Pascal who said that faith is God touched by the heart. It’s not something you can think through. You have to feel it. And maybe I’ve been so embroiled in politics all my life… I wrote a book called “A Point in Time” [The Search for Redemption in This Life and the Next (2011)] in which I mention this. I quote a letter that Mozart wrote when he was actually a few months away from actually dying. And it’s filled with faith. He understands that death is what life leads to, and that’s the transition you know into the next life. And as I wrote, I wished I had such a faith. It would be much easier living if I did.
EM: Do you think that by saying you wish you had such a faith, you’re already having the beginnings of such a faith? Because why would you wish it?
DH: Well, because it would be such a comfort in life.
EM: But faith is not a feeling…
DH: But you see I’ve lived my life in a religious way. That is, I’ve tried to take responsibility for everything…
EM: You’ve just summed up faith by works, which you understand is at the heart of the problem.
EM: So it counts for nothing. In other words, you try to do everything right. Well, you and I know that it doesn’t count for nothing really…
DH: Well, I’ve always felt that if there is a God, he’s not going to punish me for not being a believer if I’ve lived a decent life.
EM: [beginning of lightheartedness] Well, Jesus was a Jew, and they can be very mean people.
EM: I’d be worried if I were you. [end of lightheartedness] No, it’s an interesting thing, because I love having these conversations because people tend to be very hide bound; in other words, if you’re talking to someone who is Reformed, they will always say “Whoop. There’s no free will.” Luther argues against free will. And you start realizing it’s a little bit more complicated. On the one hand, there IS free will, on the other hand there is no free will, and you’re talking about something that is sort of beyond our dimensions of understanding. Right? We know on some level, anything good we do – if the fall [as in Genesis 3] is true – anything we do has to be inspired by God. But if it originates with Him, any goodness? It didn’t originate with us. So it’s a little chicken or the egg kind of thing, it’s so complicated.
DH: Well, you have a choice to do good or to do evil.
EM: Right. But what I’m trying to say is that there are people who would argue that “no, you don’t”. They would say in fact, if you do good, it’s because God inspired you to do good. And I think that becomes sophistry. I’m with you, basically.
DH: You wind up being a puppet. You see, the whole point is, I also – in this book I mentioned – dealt with Dostoevsky…
EM: Hang on. We’ve got to take a break.
Transcript ends at 20:23.
In all honesty, perhaps the fact of a notable agnostic conservative intellectual’s proximity to orthodox Christian belief is overly celebrated. However, if it gives Horowitz and especially his book “Dark Agenda” an extra degree of acceptability within the Christian community, then that is a positive outcome of that celebration.
Importantly, it is noted that near-Christian intellectuals seem to be articulately opposed to the influx of Postmodern neo-Marxism and Identity Politics into Western Culture, and see it as a profoundly anti-Christian influence, while at the same time Evangelical Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, seem to be increasingly – and often, unwittingly – embracing Progressive concepts such as social justice and critical theory.
For a recent exposé of such penetration into Evangelicalism, see the early 2019 conference on Social Justice and the Gospel.
Maybe the voice of a few knowledgeable “outsiders” will be of corrective benefit to the erosion of Biblically-based belief in the all-sufficiency of scripture; that corrective is needed as rapidly and profoundly as possible in the Evangelical community.