January 17, 2011

That Old Time Religion...

Just for fun, a couple of snippets from David Gelernter's essay, Americanism—and Its Enemies:
...Americanism is potent stuff. It is every bit as fervent and passionate a religion as the anti-Americanism it challenges and rebukes.

That Americanism is a religion is widely agreed. G.K. Chesterton called America "the nation with the soul of a church." But Americanism is not (contrary to the views of many people who use these terms loosely) a "secular" or a "civil" religion. No mere secular ideology, no mere philosophical belief, could possibly have inspired the intensities of hatred and devotion that Americanism has. Americanism is in fact a Judeo-Christian religion; a millenarian religion; a biblical religion. Unlike England's "official" religion, embodied in the Anglican church, America's has been incorporated into all the Judeo-Christian religions in the nation.

Does that make it impossible to believe in a secular Americanism? Can you be an agnostic or atheist or Buddhist or Muslim and a believing American too? In each case the answer is yes. But to accomplish that feat is harder than most people realize. The Bible is not merely the fertile soil that brought Americanism forth. It is the energy source that makes it live and thrive; that makes believing Americans willing to prescribe freedom, equality, and democracy even for a place like Afghanistan, once regarded as perhaps the remotest region on the face of the globe. If you undertake to remove Americanism from its native biblical soil, you had better connect it to some other energy source potent enough to keep its principles alive and blooming...

...I believe that Puritanism did not drop out of history. It transformed itself into Americanism. This new religion was the end-stage of Puritanism: Puritanism realized among God's self-proclaimed "new" chosen people—or, in Abraham Lincoln's remarkable phrase, God's "almost chosen people."...

...Although historians often skip over this point, Truman's world-view centered on the Bible nearly to the extent Lincoln's had. By his own account, he had read through the Bible three times by age fourteen; he read it through seven times more during the years of his presidency. It shaped his understanding of the American enterprise. Truman makes this remarkable comment in his Memoirs: "What came about in Philadelphia in 1776 really had its beginning in Hebrew times."..."

I myself think Americanism had it's beginnings in the the influence of Catholic faith on certain Germanics tribe—Angles, Saxons, who knows—in the Dark Ages. The American Revolution was fought for "The Rights of Englishmen." Which is a concept that was old when Magna Carta was written. Western Civilization is a mysterious amalgam of Greco-Roman civilization, barbarian tribes, and Christian faith—(which was still purely Catholic Faith).

Posted by John Weidner at January 17, 2011 6:36 PM
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