Going Out on A Limb: Needed: A National Religion
I said that after retirement I will “take off the gloves” here. There are some things I just couldn’t say before, while I was still employed, especially in institutions that highly valued “separation of church and state” in a fairly strict way. I do still believe in separation of “church” (denomination) and state. However, I have come to believe that a community, which America should be, cannot go on forever being a community, without some public, even governmental, recognition of a religion, however, vague, as the “glue” that holds it together and undergirds its laws.
I recently “googled” what countries in the world officially recognize Christianity as that, the foundation for public life together in the so-called “public square.” I found one country in Africa that officially recognizes Christianity as such: Zambia. So I delved deeper into the situation. Zambia, like some other countries, does not outlaw or persecute non-Christianity or non-Christians. However, from the top down, the government recognizes Christianity, not any particular denomination, as its organizing principle, its foundation for laws and public policies, etc.
Zambia is not the only country that does such with Christianity.
In the not-too-distant past America was unofficially Christian or at least Judeo-Christian. Some will argue that it was deism, but most early American deists considered deism a form, perhaps the right form, of Christianity. I do not believe that America’s founding fathers ever conceived of a time when America would be radically pluralistic or secular. They mostly believed in true toleration of religions and non-religious people. And that because they believed in the God of the Bible, especially the New Testament.
I am not advocating a new Christendom, only public acknowledgement that our life together is based on Christian principles, some of them, many of them, shared by non-Christians. What principles? For example, the sanctity of every individual human being. How is that to be supported? Only on the basis that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, whatever that means exactly.
In America today, pluralism has gone wild and is undermining community. For a long time now, sociologists of religion have argued that what holds the USA together in community is “civil religion,” regarding the US Constitution as if it were divinely inspired. Theologian Stanley Hauerwas argued that the real religion of America today is war. It is heresy to criticize any conflict the US gets involved in, where our soldiers are fighting and possibly dying.
This is one reason I am leaning toward supporting Robert F. Kennedy, Jr for president. I have seen and heard his Christian testimony. It’s very profound and moving, including humanitarian ethics based on his belief in God. And it does not carry any particular denomination or church.
I envy countries like the UK where Christianity, however “lowest common denominator,” serves as a kind of implicit foundation for social cohesion. My only complaint about it is the establishment of one Christian church. That I don’t believe in. However, public schools in the UK can teach Christian values, read the Bible, pray, and pay homage to England’s and Scotland’s Christian heritage without apology.
So, you can count me as an advocate for a return to a time when Christianity, in its transdenominational manifestation, was at least the implicit “glue” that held Americans together as “one nation under God.” (Yes, I know the “under God” part was added during the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s.) I do not think that absolute pluralism works to maintain any community.
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