Conservatives have been known for promoting “civil religion”–investing patriotism, the flag, American heroes, etc., with spiritual significance. Christians warn about slipping into that kind of idolatry, even as they value patriotism and the like in their proper sphere.
Liberals, on the other hand, have tended to be civil religion iconoclasts, critiquing American history for its evils and failures. But now a liberal Democrat, in his zeal to repair the alleged damage Donald Trump has done to our country, is calling for the Left to bring back civil religion.
Read what Peter Loge says in Democrats should bring us together and revive our faith in civil religion | TheHill (my bolds) :
The argument needs to be “America is a special place, and we’re in it together.”
A way to conceive of this specialness is through civil religion. First articulated by Rousseau in 1762 and popularized by Robert Bellah in 1967, civil religion is the idea that America is the “understanding of the American experience in the light of ultimate and universal reality.” For Bellah, our system can be described as a “secular government for a religious people.” This American civil religion provides an origin story, makes sense of our world, and assures citizens that we have a special place in history.As Bellah wrote, “What we have, then, from the earliest years of the republic is a collection of beliefs, symbols, and rituals with respect to sacred things and institutionalized in a collectivity.” This “religion” has its sacred texts including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, its sacred places such as the White House, the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, its sacred holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving, its rituals including presidential inaugurations, and its martyrs, President Lincoln, President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
In his 2017 book American Covenant, Philip Gorski wrote that at its best civil religion speaks to the vast numbers of Americans who “know that the American project has a moral and spiritual core.”
President Trump is being blamed by some and credited for others for bringing back “nationalism.” How ironic if he is causing liberals to re-discover nationalism!
But I think it makes sense for the Left to stop its America-bashing and to cultivate its own version of civil religion. After all, whose ideology best accords with the divinization of the state? What ideology encourages us to have faith in the government to provide our every good?
Look for the “spiritual but not religion” to look to a new leftist civil religion to fill their void.