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Doce me faces voluntarem tuam quia Deus meus es tu

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
I am terribly late in offering my thoughts on the initial Evangelical Outpost Blog Symposium. Gelernter's essay is an interesting piece of scholarship, and one with which I primarily concur. I am frankly surprised that this idea has just now been promulgated. As it stands, I see something of a fulfillment taking place. One could look at Gelernter's analysis and say that Christian America is the fulfillment of the Hebrew vision of a nation, in much the same that Christ was the fulfillment of the Hebrew law. Now, I don't mean to imply that America is a divine fulfillment. I don't get into prophecy or any of that sort, but I think you follow me.

I think those who note America's unique role as a "Christian" nation have done a poor job of explaining what this means. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob offers a set of principles for life and governance. These principles aren't exclusive to the Jews and Christians (see The Abolition of Man), but clearly these two faiths have the strongest sense of principle. The fact is that American values are rooted in two religions; one that is also ethnic and has long been the source of scorn and resentment in the Western world. The other is ultimately a purely voluntary faith, but one that is resented for the absolute claims it makes to all human joy, peace and redemption.

The world grows to reject Americanism for the same reason it rejects both Judaism and Christianity; all "-isms" present an absolute set of values, from which they refuse to budge. While there is no apology, these values are optimistic, inviting, forgiving. There is something in the sinful impulse of man that resents such a notion, the idea that peace and equality and freedom can truly be established. While I readily agree with President George W. Bush that all men desire to be free, there is something poisonous in our educated minds that rejects that idealistic notion that men can live in peace and democracy, in much the same way that men reject the Christian ideals of forgiveness and redemption.

Listen to a man who says that he believes in God but he won't be told how to live. He rejects accepting a faith that puts limits on himself while promising inner peace. Besides, he says, life's a b***h and then you die. Keep listening to him if the topic turns to politics. You speak of the war, and as it concerns September 11, our man is unforgiving and unconcerned. To hell with Iraq, he says, let's turn that place into a parking lot.

It's the same impulse, really. A refusal to believe in any hope beyond what is visible, a denial that any values exist that can bring either the soul or the physical world into a state of peace, at least in the more limited terms of human existence. Gelernter's essay has extrapolated the historical traces of our Americanism; I hope my own humble contribution has offered some of the more common responses, even among Americans, towards this view of America.
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