Monday, October 15, 2007

Religion and Nation

James Carroll, who's book Constantine's Sword rocked my core, takes on U.S. claims to be a "Christian nation" in this editorial.

Even pious Americans have been properly wary of efforts to use state power to enforce uniformity of conscience. The vaunted separation of church and state is a minimal protection from such abuse, but civil religion points to a need for the broader separation of religion and nation. That protection comes not from law, but from the knowledge of citizens, which is unreliable. The fact that, since the founding of the United States, Christianity has been much used, against the intentions of the founders, to justify governmental impositions and adventures is one cause for concern. That is what McCain's critics warn of, in the name of a better America. The last thing needed today is a Christian nation embarked on a new crusade, at home or abroad.

But a warning must be sounded in the name of a better Christian religion, too. What's bad for the state can be worse for the church. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and all religious minorities are assaulted by even implicit claims of a "Christian nation," but so are Christians. A government that blesses itself in the name of Jesus Christ, while waging war and advancing empire, must first demolish the meaning of who that man was - three centuries before Constantine.

Scholars know very little about this Galilean rabbi (nothing, for example, about his attitude toward homosexuality), but there are two things that can be said with certainty. Jesus lived and died in resistance to the Roman empire. And Jesus rejected violence. If there are two notes of identity that go to the heart of what America has become, they are violence and empire. A Christianity that makes its peace with those, as has so often happened, is an apostate religion. John McCain, and the objects of his appeal, betray the nation - and the faith. (emphasis added)

Exactly. Reclaiming that Jesus is what I am about.

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