AW: Who is your all-time favorite political philosopher? Theologian? Do the two ever inform the other?
MT: John Locke would seem to be the most important philosopher of Anglo-American limited government. As a Methodist, of course John Wesley is my favorite theologian! Wesley read Locke, of course. Wesley himself was very much in agreement with the British constitutional system, as it emerged from the Glorious Revolution.
It was popular in 2008 to talk about the divide between the fiscal cons and the social cons. Are the tensions overstated? How do you see that relationship playing out?
Yes, almost always overstated. Both believe in limited government. Fiscal cons need to understand that a nation not wholly dominated by the state needs vibrant religious life and strong families.
In a given week, what are you reading in terms of magazines, journals, and news sources?
I’ve read The Washington Post almost every day since I was 11 years old. I’ve read National Review since high school, and Christianity Today since college. I regularly read American Spectator, WORLD Magazine, Weekly Standard, sometimes Commentary, most of the Methodist publications, Christian Century, Books and Culture, sometimes the Wall Street Journal, Touchstone, Frontpagemag.com, Sojourners, different blogs, conservative and liberal, every week.
AW: What book are you writing now?
MT: I’m finishing “Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century.” It starts with Methodist leaders praising a Methodist president, William McKinley, for his seizure of the Philippines and other territories. It ends with Methodist elites condemning another Methodist president, George W. Bush, for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The book tells the story of how the church journeyed from one to the other. Strangely, even though Methodism was America’s largest church for most of the 20th century, no one has comprehensively chronicled its intense political witness. This book should be instructive not just to Methodists but all Christians interested in how the church relates to society and to America.
AW: What book will you write next?
MT: I’d like to write a book about why Stanley Hauerwas, and John Howard Yoder, are so wrong! But first I may need to write something more broadly about Jim Wallis and the Evangelical Left.