To those of us who were around in the 60’s it is, of course, reminiscent of that Bob Dylan tune with a similar title.
Bacevich reminds us that “despite a Constitution that mandates the separation of church and state, religion and politics have become inseparable.” He goes on to describe how presidential candidates, no matter their party affiliation “regularly press God into service.” America, they claim, has been uniquely chosen by God.
As the first illustration of his thesis, he quotes from a speech by Mitt Romney. Romney asserts that America must, with its military might be the leader of the world, both economically and militarily and claims “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers.”
Bacevich goes on to assure us that Romney’s claims are not unique, that “No leading contender for the Republican nomination will challenge” Romney’s positions. Whoever receives the Republican nomination will claim that President Obama does not hold this view. And President Obama will of course, argue that he does.
The article asserts (correctly) that both the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) and the New Testament writings “provide no evidence to support this proposition.” No, he claims that instead “the American Bible contains a de facto Third Testament.”
Bacevich appears to be asserting that this is a 21st century phenomenon, although, I’m sure he would agree that the origins of this idea go much farther back to before the beginnings of our nation. The present lineup of Republican candidates did not invent the idea of America as somehow uniquely chosen of God.
I’ve heard this “doctrine” all of my life and like most of my contemporaries raised during WWII, I accepted it as fact. I was taught of America’s exceptionalism in school; as Dylan says “…the history books tell it, they tell it so well…” When I became a Christian and a member of a fundamentalist church, I found that this “doctrine” was held as strongly as the doctrine of inerrancy, even the doctrine of the atonement. I would probably have agreed with Romney’s statement, “I will never, ever apologize for America.”
I suppose that America’s “civil religion” will always be with us, even though it leads to uncivil politics. It’s nothing new. All the great empires of ancient history had theirs. Many nations today have theirs, even so-called “secular states.”
But it seems to me ironic that the people of the nation that invented the concept of religious freedom should hold so tenaciously to a religion that demands total allegiance from its national leaders.
And it seems more than ironic that those who claim the uniqueness of their religion, who claim that Jesus Christ is the only Way and that all other religious claims are false, should cling to another religion. And one that demands our loyalty, apparently an even greater loyalty, than our loyalty to Jesus Christ.
I want to be clear. I love my country. I consider myself a loyal citizen of the USA. But must that love of country translate to a syncretism of my faith in Christ with a religious faith in America?
I guess that I’ll never be elected President. :^(
Perhaps the question should be rephrased, “Is America on God’s side?”