Straussians love to talk about their conversion stories, which typically involve revelations in undergraduate courses taught by disciples of Leo Strauss. “The class was on the Nicomachean Ethics,” begins the generic form of this story. “We didn’t get past Book I.” My introduction to Strauss was less revelatory.
Takoma Park, Md., Jan. 20—The congregation of about 80 huddled together in the room, awaiting the descent of the spirit. The messiah they had followed for years during his public ministry—the man whose rebuke could lower the seas—had departed. Many struggled to hide bitter disappointment. He had not been the leader they had hoped for, had not turned his mass of followers into a lasting force. Instead he left them vulnerable in a world that despised them, in which the vulgar temporal authorities mocked and persecuted them. Had they deluded themselves? Did not their hearts burn within them while he spoke to them on the road to Washington? That seemed so long ago.