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paper 4 - Civil Religions affect on the United States as...

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Civil Religion’s affect on the United States as well as others 12-05-07 ENWR 110 The practice of civil religion is good for the benefit of the United States, but in turn, makes a bad impression on the world. It benefits the United States by acting as a unifying force within the country. But within the tradition of American civil religion, the United States takes on a messianic role with respect to the rest of the world. From the mid-nineteenth century on, national self-understanding includes the notion of a special mission, a "manifest destiny," to lead all humanity toward civilization and progress. The father of the term, Robert Bellah, warned that civil religion will periodically be abused for chauvinistic ends; the civil religion always confronts the nation with a potential judgment over nationalistic idolatry. (Bellah p.4) Bellah knew the idea of civil religion would have these outcomes, yet still looks to it as a positive force- “to attack civil faith as vulgar nationalism is to overlook its profound and indispensable contribution to maintaining a cohesive and viable national society” (Bellah p.4) Presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Ronald Regan have drawn on the analogy between the United States and Israel to establish the status of the United States as being the place for the chosen people of god. The United States has consistently been described as the new Israel, divinely appointed by God to bring light to the nations. The mission to save the world due to this appointment forms the notion of American exceptionalism. And yet, for individual Americans "to do God's will" in the world of foreign affairs, they must necessarily rely on national leaders; they must follow, or oppose, those leaders as their conscience and reading of scripture leads them. If then, the president also prays and submits his decisions to the will of Christ, as George W. Bush claims to do, the
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identification between Christian leader and Christian individual is made all the more easily (Bellah p.6) (Sullivan p.3).” “The civil religion found in the United States has become the religion of the state and therefore a national faith- with a president officiating as its high priest” (Muller 20).Biblically infused rhetoric is effective precisely because it can blur the lines between individuals' identities as Christians and their identities as citizens of the United States, in turn participating in the notion of American Exceptionalism. President Clinton revealed his vision of a new covenant between the American
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This note was uploaded on 09/21/2008 for the course ENWR 110 taught by Professor Weckstein during the Fall '08 term at UVA.

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paper 4 - Civil Religions affect on the United States as...

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