A group blog to promote discussion, debate and insight into the history, particularly religious, of America's founding. Any observations, questions, or comments relating to the blog's theme are welcomed.
Johnson once again paints us a picture using a subtle stroke and broad palate. However, the picture he paints of the founders is distinctively Enlightenment. It’s one of sentiment, not dogma. This is pronounced in the Scottish Enlightenment but also apparent in Locke’s “The reasonableness of Christianity.” You might say this is a more spiritual religion as opposed to doctrinal and creedal. We see an emphasis on empathy (that core principle of the Scottish Enlightenment) as Johnson quotes Adams' reliance on the Golden Rule (the key to morality according to Kant). There are general references to religion as if it was merely another way to say “moral and ethical.” And there is ample use of religion to refer to the natural. In general, Johnson is describing the fusing of a spirituality with natural and secular phenomena. Here Johnson gives us an interesting statement to parse:”The United States of America was not, therefore,a secular state; it might more accurately be described as a moral and ethical society without a state religion.”What does this mean? Secular means pertaining this this world. Moral and ethnics are rules for living in this world. It is literally a difference without a distinction. Of course, by secular he means anti-religious. It does not mean that at all. What he describes is a picture where the founders found the secular and spiritual inseparable. But without a “state religion” he is removing all doctrine and dogma--leaving only sentiment. Ah, that’s the Enlightenment! (fixed typo from earlier posting.)
Jason, I think Paul Johnson's statement works well with thwe concept of Judeo-Christianity being synonymous with "ethical monotheism," which I maintain is uniquely the product of Biblicism [Abrahamic religion minus Islam].http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/mono.htmlJohnson's quite correct that dogma and doctrine were parked at the door, as I'm fond of noting, soteriology, the business of salvation. Soteriology is of little use [and is often a great obstacle] in designing a workable society.
Yes, good point on soteriology.Prager’s views are interesting but they don’t sound like Johnson’s description. In Prager there is a large separation between nature and God with nature being totally devoid of ethical law (a view that rose to prominence in the 19th century -- post-Hume). In Johnson’s description of the founding era there seems to be a great (although not complete) integration. The old Augustinian or more recent Hobbesian cynical view of life on earth seemed to recede into the past as a more hopeful Novus Ordo Seclorum emerges. Providence brought us deliverance in this world. Did it not? Perhaps that brings us back to the "almost chosen people."
Yes, Jason, there's an overlay of "historicism" via Christianity, that is to say, that life just doesn't cycle and repeat.____________http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0001.htmlIn an essay entitled “The Christian View of History,” Christopher Dawson wrote:For the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation is not simply a theophany — a revelation of God to Man; it is a new creation — the introduction of a new spiritual principle which gradually leavens and transforms human nature into something new. The history of the human race hinges on this unique divine event which gives meaning to the whole historical process.
Tom,"history in the light of Divine Revelation"....absurd! This is what has made for war; TRUTH wars! and they aren't ending with "spiritual claims"! That is like putting one's head in the sand and asking for the air to come to the "rescue"! That is how I see "christian framing" to life...like putting one's head in the sand....(a Chrstian/religious context)...Human understanding is much more than religious understanding or experience! The aesthetic is understood "personally", and neuroscience understands that people will have different comfort zones. History has borne out the fact that religious claims to "Truth" do not pacify religious understandings about "God".. it only makes religious people more defensive.Art has been a way to express the human, and has been a way to "worship God", but when "God" is understood as mystery or holy, then art is malaigned, and destroyed as a form of "idolatry"! And humans destroy one another based on their "self understanding" projected as "God"!
There is no eternity....that was a way to frame history for people who had no political power or life to speak of, then their hope could be "promised" in the sweet by and by and they wouldn't fear the death that was immanant due to co-ercive political powers...
Let tribal identities continue, without intervention...then, we won't be stirring up a hornet's nest...
"In a passage evocative of contemporary problems, Dawson described the fundamental challenge to Christian culture as “the revolt against the moral process of Western culture and the dethronement of the individual conscience from its dominant position at the heart of the cultural process.” The medieval insight concerning the central importance of the rationality and freedom of the individual personality, an insight that is a hallmark of Western thought, is in danger of being overwhelmed by a reabsorption of the individual person to a collective identity, whether it be based upon nationality, ethnicity, or gender.When Western society no longer emphasizes moral effort and personal responsibility, Dawson questions the very survival of civilization as Christendom has known it for a thousand years. Modernity is not merely a return to a pre-Christian paradise, as some New Age adherents would claim; rather, it is a sudden wrenching of the course of history. Instead of a slow reversal of the past millennium, Dawson says, “Neo-paganism jumps out of the top-story window, and whether one jumps out of the right-hand window or the left makes very little difference by the time one reaches the pavement."
Christianity is a culture today in America, and it ain't pretty. It borders on theocratic understandings of our national identity, instead of understanding America's liberty, the Christian Nationalist have become dictators of their religious understanding. Thank goodness for "secular law" or the "godless Constitution"!One's religious affiliation or religious sentiment (spiritiuality) is not the business of the State, unless it imposes itself upon another's "rights". And isn't this where "God's right" abrogates any other right, in a religious person's understanding?
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