Cracking the American Civil Religion


Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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8 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I think that Eisenhower nailed it when he said:

    “(O)ur government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.”

    I alternate between being tickled by that and being infuriated by it. “And I don’t care what it is.”Report

  2. Avatar Jon Rowe says:

    Yes, I think he nailed it. Check for my next Off The Cuff post that continues this theme.Report

  3. Avatar Heidegger says:

    Jon, how can someone be a Christian and not believe Christ was God Incarnate? Who are they praying to, some carpenter with a way with words? How could such a mortal man deserve such veneration? What exactly did he/He do that set him so far apart from the rest of humanity?While there were obviously very strong theological debates among the Founders, it seems that the belief Christ was the Incarnation of God, was one point in which they were all in agreement upon. And if I’m not mistaken, the Unitarians held much different religious beliefs in the 1700s than in today’s version of Unitarianism–they believed in the unity of the Trinity even giving the greatest weight to the Holy Spirit aspect of the Trinity.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Heidegger says:

      As someone who was raised Southern Babtist, I am familiar with the whole “oh, they’re not *REALLY* Christians” conversations.

      Presbyterians baptize babies, don’t you know.
      Episcopalians drink.
      Catholics are cult members.
      Mormons? Fuggitabowdit.

      As a post-post-theist (or post-post-post-theist or whatever the hell I am), I am less and less comfortable with saying that someone who self-affirms Christianity isn’t “really” a Christian.

      Look at John Crossan (does Crossan still claim to be Christian? Maybe he’s not the best example). Look at Marcus Borg. Look at John Spong.

      Borg and Spong (what the hell is up with these last names? I’m trying to write a serious paragraph here but the first three words are “Borg and Spong”) are serious thinkers and if they claim the mantle of Christianity, I don’t see how anybody who is not God has standing to say whether they are or aren’t.

      But that’s just off the top of my head.Report

      • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Jaybird says:

        Jaybird—God knows, I’m the last person to try and identify who’s a Christian and who’s not–I’m a Christian pantheist for that matter–still believe Christ was the son of the Big Fella. I’m just wondering if someone can be a Christian and renounce every church doctrine and all Scripture. Must run now-back later. Thanks for the reply.Report

  4. Avatar Jon Rowe says:

    “Jon, how can someone be a Christian and not believe Christ was God Incarnate?”

    Good question. The unitarians of the 1700s (and 1800s) believe ONLY the Father was God and that Jesus — the Messiah — was *something* less than fully God. He was either 100% man, not divine at all in his nature and who saved man thru his perfect moral example (i.e., Socinians) or some kind of created but subordinate divine being (Arians). Here the word “divine” becomes tricky. It means more than man, but not full god. (Like a demi-god or super-angel.)Report

    • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Jon Rowe says:

      Jon–thanks for the interesting reply. I still don’t get it, though. When did they start to veer off the Christ is God track and what precisely caused this break? Obviously, there was no earth shattering discovery that would have challenged this fundamental core of Christian belief–I mean, it’s not like some wise man, said, “Ah, now we have it–Jesus, was really only 88% God, 12% man.” It certainly leaves one to wonder what Jesus did or did not do that made them change their minds so abruptly about His divinity, especially since it was more than 1000(?) years after His death. And speaking of…what about the Resurrection? Without the Resurrection, you have NO Christianity.Report

      • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to Heidegger says:


        Good questions. One answer is man’s reason (after all this was the age of “Enlightenment”) determined because 1+1+1 = 3 not 1, Jesus could not have been God, but something less than God.

        Re the Resurrection, Jefferson didn’t believe in it. But the unitarians J. Adams and Priestley (the theological mentor to Jefferson, J. Adams AND Franklin) believed this was God the Father doing for the most moral man (Jesus of Nazareth) what He may one day do for all GOOD men, perhaps all men.Report