Our Changing Civil Religion

by Dave Schuler on January 27, 2014

When I say our “civil religion” I mean something different than Diane Butler Bass apparently does here. I mean beliefs like all men are created equal, that the Founding Fathers were virtuous and far-sighted, that George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, that Abraham Lincoln was exceedingly honest, the American Dream, and so on.

Be that as it may I still found the article, on how President Obama has changed our civil religion, interesting. Here’s a snippet:

Gone is the God of biblical revelation, the generalized God-as-Father-in-Heaven, and the distant God of Providence. Rather, Obama’s public God is a personal spirit, the relational presence of inclusion, community, empathy, irony, justice, and service. The God of this new and emerging American civil religion is a God who is with humankind, a far more embracing rather than judgmental figure, who loves and acts in the world through the works of human beings. Most theists can recognize this God (or gods) in their own religious traditions; most non-theists can interpret this sort of God as a spirit of beauty or justice in humankind.

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PD Shaw January 27, 2014 at 10:49 am

I think yours is the more conventional use of the term, but its Lincoln’s conception, so it must be correct. Religious identity does not unify the country, but adherence to sacred documents, respect for the virtues of notable historic personages, and belief in a special role for America do. I think Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech was quite exemplary of the usage.

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