American civil religion is dead, to paraphrase Nietzsche. We have killed it.
The United States is back at war—that didn’t take very long. One might argue we never really stopped fighting, or, frankly, that the country has been in a perpetual state of war since World War II. Religious as well as the more generic popular responses to America’s various wars often boils down to a tension between revulsion and obligation. Not surprisingly, that dualism relates directly to the simple formula presidents have used over the years (and through every war) to justify military actions in strategic and moral terms. The threats change—fascism, communism, terrorism—as do the locations, but the moral rationale rarely does.
I understand Resident Aliens as a response to the sort of civil religion that makes people worse than they would be otherwise.
Yesterday, California Rep. Janice Hahn got mad at a James Dobson speech and walked out. Depending what media report you consult, this was “the National Day of Prayer event” or “the National Day of Prayer observance” or “the National Day of Prayer gathering” or even “the annual non-partisan National Day of Prayer gathering.” Such language isn’t exactly counterfactual, but it is misleading.
“Time in its aging course teaches all things,” wrote Aeschylus. No one learned more from it than Robert Bellah.
The National Cathedral’s going to start doing same-sex weddings! Here’s what prominent conservative blogger Allahpundit has to say: [The cathedral is] nominally Episcopal but I’ve always thought of it as the beating heart of ceremonial deism, so no surprise that it would shift as the wider public does. Say this for [Dean Gary Hall], too: He makes no bones about his political intentions. Although if you’re head of the National Cathedral and reaching out to press a hot button, why bother doing that? Why pretend it’s a purely religious decision when it’s not? Allahpundit is obviously right about the ceremonial deism part. And I’ll be the first to admit that this strange American habit is bad for church and state alike. But it’s absurd to suggest that the National Cathedral is only “nominally Episcopal.”
It turns out Louie Giglio won’t be giving the benediction at Obama’s second inauguration. Who will? Jack Jenkins is right: Minerva Carcaño, Otis Moss, Gary Hall and Brian McLaren are all fine options. Joanna Brooks is right, too: so are Pratima Dharm, Sharon Braus, Sanaa Nadim, Anapesi Kali and Valarie Kaur. Ed Kilgore suggests his own pastor, who’s related to Ron and Rand Paul. Sounds okay, too.
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning ceremonies for the 9/11 anniversary without the participation of clergy. Jay Sekulow et al. think this is an attack on religion. Jim Wallis et al. are criticizing both sides of this debate and also calling for less criticism of others, or something like that.