Saturday, September 15, 2007

Nation-building and historical Christianity

The following are excerpts from a fascinating article that I found in the Spring 2004 issue of The Public Interest entitled “The unraveling of Christianity in America.” The author, Clifford Orwin, makes two key points worth highlighting: 1) the notion of imposing our form of government on Iraq is completely out of step with the historical understanding of America’s Christians, & 2) the logic of ‘war on terror’ is making America even more secular and syncretistic.

Not that many years ago, no president could have sold nation-building and the imposition of "democracy" (an almost completely useless term) to most conservative Christians. Liberals however, who believe that they must bring in the kingdom and that all of the world's ills can and must be corrected by the "proper" application of government power, have always fallen for this lie. One would think that the evangelical Christian Right would have at least a few leaders capable of understanding this distinction. (Well, maybe not.)

Here are the excerpts:

“By its deeds, not merely its words, [the Bush] administration has exceeded all previous ones in rejecting the dependency of democracy on Christianity. “

“This position is so far from that of the Christian Right as to place the administration squarely on the wrong side of the cultural divide. The conservative Christian view is that America has become and remained free only insofar as it has remained Christian, that the Christian backdrop to republicanism is a matter not of historical chance but of vital necessity. As the Reverend Chuck McIlhenny of San Francisco put it to James Davidson Hunter, ‘The Lord has blessed our nation over the centuries because its cultural heritage was Christian.’ In rejecting the notion of a “naked public square’ – that is, of public culture purged of Christianity — these conservatives implicitly rejected naked democracy as a commodity subject to export.”

“[Bush] has chosen to present America to the world not as the Christian nation for which his religious supporters take it, but as the universal sponsor of liberal democracy, which as such is impartial in principle as between Christianity and Islam.”

“[Bush] cannot revive Lincoln’s appeal to Christianity, no matter how nondenominational that appeal would be. His religious rhetoric must be ‘inclusive’, anodyne, and sterile. His administration must become American’s first genuinely Methodist Taoist Native American Quaker Russian Orthodox Buddhist Jewish (and Muslim) one [so that the world doesn’t see the “war on terror” as a religious crusade]. And so the challenge of Islamic terror will collaborate with other forces to drive official America to ever greater lengths of secularism or syncretism.”