The Future of America's Civil Religion Lies in New Directions
Against this decayed tradition, the South has produced a near-fanatical authoritarian Christianity at ease with war and contemptuous of democratic traditions of equality, the rule of law, and traditional conservative values of respect for tradition. They have explicitly allied themselves with corporate power. While not a majority, a ruthless dedication to winning at all costs makes up for their lack of numbers. Only now is this reality beginning to be grasped by many Americans.
Terms of revival
I do not see a revival of American civil religion until new moral and spiritual underpinnings support it. I think these underpinnings exist, and one of the most perceptive early observers of our country intuited what they are, though he did not approve. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that Pantheism was a natural outgrowth of Democracy. I think he was correct.
Spiritual traditions in harmony with a Pantheistic sensibility are in greater accord with the new society America's principles helped bring into being than are the spiritual traditions of our Founders' time. Those traditions have atrophied, undermined by the society they helped to create.
Hope rests with a new spiritual sensibility that is not necessarily a new religion, but rather can shape the way in which many spiritual traditions are practiced. This sensibility emphasizes divine immanence and the importance of the Sacred Feminine as well as the Masculine. It is within this context that the best of America's civil religion can be renewed and given life again.
Today the dominant spiritual quality of our society is a kind of secular nihilism that worships American power or loses itself in consumerism. The former often combines with a spiritual nihilism that emphasizes God's power over qualities such as love. These currents are incapable of preserving the best of American society because they celebrate power as their ultimate value, or retreat into a purely private existence.
Hope for us lies in those Christian and other long-established religions opening themselves up to immanentist and feminine insights, as well as new religious movements, NeoPaganism in particular, which explicitly emphasize those values as central. It is for these reasons that I think Pagan insights carry far more weight than our rather modest numbers might suggest.
Gus diZerega is a Gardnerian Elder with over 25 years practice, including six years close study with a Brazilian shaman. He has been active in interfaith work off and on for most of those 25 years as well. He has conducted workshops and given presentations on healing, shamanism, ecology and politics at Pagan gatherings in the United States and Canada. Follow Gus on Facebook.
Gus blogs at Pointedly Pagan.