Mark Noll attempts a theological explanation of the “conundrum” of America’s successes and failures in regard to race in his book God and Race in American Politics. To set the stage for the explanation he quotes Walker Percy’s book Love in Ruins.
Noll says Percy “got it right”:
What a bad joke: God saying: here it is, the new Eden, and it is yours because you’re the apple of my eye, because you the lordly Westerners, the fierce Caucasian-Gentile-Visigoths, believed in me and in the outlandish Jewish Event even though you were nowhere near it and had to hear the news of it from strangers.
But you believed and so I gave it all to you, gave you Israel and Greece and science and art and the lordship of the earth, and finally even gave you the new world that I blessed for you. And all you had to do was pass one little test, which was surely child’s play for you because you had already passed the big one.
One little test: here’s a helpless man in Africa, all you had to do is not violate him. That’s all.
One little test: you flunk! (God and Race, 178)
Noll replies, “ The conundrum that Walker Percy phrased so forcefully as a religious question requires at least an effort at religious explanation.”
I will try to sum up Noll’s effort tomorrow.