Podcast: Yuval Levin on How Religious Minorities Survive in America—Then and Now

The editor of National Affairs joins us to talk about the changing majority culture in America, and what anxieties that culture provokes in the minority.

Christmas decorations. Alessandro Bremec/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Christmas decorations. Alessandro Bremec/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Dec. 31 2020
About the authors

A weekly podcast, produced in partnership with the Tikvah Fund, offering up the best thinking on Jewish thought and culture.

Yuval Levin is the director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he also holds the Beth and Ravenel Curry Chair in Public Policy. The founder and editor of National Affairs, he is also a senior editor at The New Atlantis, a contributing editor at National Review, and a contributing opinion writer at The New York Times.

This Week’s Guest: Yuval Levin


American democracy is a nation of nations. Muslims, Christians, and Jews, women and men from every nation on earth have made themselves into Americans. Nevertheless, across its early history a unique majority culture developed within this nation of nations: a kind of big-tent Protestant Christianity. In that culture, the dominant Jewish anxiety was about assimilation into Christianity. Today, however, America’s widely shared cultural pieties are no longer overtly Christian. There remain pockets of Christian vitality, but those pockets are now minorities in a new kind of American culture, one characterized less by its religious sensibilities and more by its secular liberalism.

In a short essay called “Christmas, Christians, and Jews,” published in National Review in 1988, the writer Irving Kristol suggested that the democratic principles of civility and prudence should govern how American Jews and Christians relate to one another. But are those principles, and the other habits of mind American Jews adopted to resist melting into America’s old Christian-majority culture, adequate for resisting assimilation into America’s new secular culture?

That’s the question Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, takes up in conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver. The two also explore what the principles that Kristol suggested require today—not only of American Jews but of Christians too—as they figure out how to address themselves to a secular liberal culture that can be hostile to traditional faith.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

More about: Politics & Current Affairs