Hurrah for civil religion, the more Christian the better! Though they rarely can say why, there is a new fashion amongst some evangelicals to speak of “civil religion” in tones usually reserved for the Klan or Nazis. (Such people rarely have hard words for Communists who are usually simply misguided in the eyes of the critic of American civil religion.) Generally, this disdain for a valuable bit of social glue (and we need more of that not less) comes from two mistakes.First, the critic of civil religion assumes that American civil religion in not “Christian.” Let us assume for the moment that it is not Christian, though given the fact that the population is overwhelmingly Christian that would be hard to argue. Civil religion may not be fully Christian, but it is compatible with Christianity. Civil religion is a set of ideas necessary to the Christian faith (and other religions), but not sufficient for a full expression. No one will be saved by American civil religion. Just as intelligent design allows for a creator, without naming Him, so civil religion allows for a sovereign God without giving all the (important) theological details. It is a common platform for Christians of all persuasions and Jews to work together. Next from the critic comes the list of American evils: abortion (or not, depending on the writer), unjust wars, porn, oppression of the author’s favorite group. What the person writing usually misses is that the evils described, even when they are real (and our citizens have many problems) are rarely national policy. They are the result of freedom. I do not believe that abortion should be legal, but making abortion legal is not the same thing as the government performing abortions. Our government does not perform or fund abortions. Our government makes the internet possible, but it does not make us use it badly.Recognition of our Creator in civic functions shows citizens that the state is not supreme. That is good by itself. Though imperfect, and not sufficient for individuals, civil religion should be supported and not attacked.
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