Chastening Liberalism

Browning, Don. “Chastening Liberalism.” Christian Century 112(4):121-124. February 1-8, 1995.

In “Chastening Liberalism,” Don Browning reviews the three-part PBS series “On Values: Talking With Peggy Noonan” which originally aired February 10, 17 and 24, 1995. For this program, Noonan invited nine guests to talk about the role of religion in public life, the decline of the family, and freedom. Browning notes that the interviewees, while not all conservative, possessed some conservative leanings, mostly agreeing that American liberalism since the 1960s did promote needed justice but, in doing so, forgot the importance of character, conduct and values. This has added to the decline of the family and the breakdown of communities. Browning judges that many of Noonan’s guests desired a new, more balanced and chastened liberalism. He believes the program stated well the “political-cultural alternatives” which Americans face: following either an older liberalism of justice that is enriched by a new interest in virtue and excellence, or the conservative path of virtue and excellence tempered by new concerns of justice.