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10/28/2005

CIVIC RELIGION

“There have been times when Christians have made effective use of the rhetoric of American civil religion to advance goals deeply rooted in the Gospel. However, civic religion is just as likely to lead Americans into thinking of the United States as the biblical city on the hill (which it is not), to equate American values with Christian virtues (which they are not), and to see loyalty to the American Republic as obedience to God's kingdom (when in fact these loyalties can and sometimes do conflict).”

~H. Jefferson Powell, Professor of Law and Divinity, Duke University


Originally posted by Jason Jenkins (Duke Divinity student/comedy genius, picture inset)) here. Parenthetical comments are Professor Powell's.

16 Comments:

Blogger GrovesFan said...

Shaun,

You never pick the easy stuff do you? I must say (I know, you're shocked to say the least) I agree with this statement. It's difficult for me to live it out sometimes, but I do agree with it.

Beth

10/28/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome.

seth

10/28/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

In this quote AMERICAN VALUES and CHRISTIAN VIRTUES are said to be in conflict at times. What are some examples, if any, of this conflict? What are American values and Christian virtues? Who/What defines them as such?

SG

10/29/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

American Values- success, big house, nice car, democracy, rights

Christian virtues-faith, hope, love

faith does not mean that you will own a big house. name it claim it faith.

to have Hope does not mean that we Hope that all nations will be "free" and democratic.

And we are not to love just the ones that are easy to Love, -the successful, and our fellow americans and democratic nations. but to love our enemies. it does not mean that we deserve love as we deserve our rights.

city on a hill-a country that can do no wrong. a government is not the Church. loyalty to America is not or ever was loyalty to God's kingdom. democracy is not a Christian virtue. not many people are calling our gov the great peace-maker lately.

this what your asking for?

Seth

10/29/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

I think Christian virtues are defined by God. The Bible lists several, qualities if you will, for how believers should live their lives. Some are rules (The Ten Commandments) and some are things we aspire to in our journey of Christlikeness. American values are defined by Americans and of course vary for each American. I don't value a big house, an SUV, etc. I value my freedom and my democratic government, flawed as it is. My eternal freedom is sealed in Christ and I would hope that my American freedom will not be in danger. If it were, I would hope that I'd have the faith to rely on God to see me through instead of taking it into my own hands. I have had my life threatened and I can tell you that prayer is all the strength I could muster and it was awesomely powerful! I do not view my country or my government as my God. I do believe that America was founded on Christian principles by Christians (mostly) and over time, those principles have eroded. Largely due to the fact that Christians have not been vocal enough, nor taken enough of a stand to keep the erosion from happening (another discussion for another time).

If Hilary hits the White House (again) in 2008 (God forbid!!!), I'll be not only changing the "American" values I have, but I'll be looking for a new country of residence/citizenship and my husband will be a conscientious objector too!


Beth

10/29/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

"founded on Christian principles"...which are?

I sincerely don't know what those are? I'm with you when I read the first half of your comment, grovesfan, when you said American values vary from citizen to citizen. I get that. So in the beginning of our nation, when the wigged guys sat down and wrote this whole experiment of a country up on paper etc, you say they built it upon "Christian principles." I hear this kind of thing A LOT. But no specifics are given. I don't question that these kinds of statements are true. I'm just totally ignorant of what those specific principles were. My history teachers never covered that I guess.

Teach me.

10/29/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Shaun,

I hear it a lot too. I've researched some websites, etc. trying to find the answers. Unfortunately, since none of the founding fathers are still around, it's kinda hard to get a clear picture. Depending on whose take you read, the writers of the Constitution were Christians, Freemasons, Calvinists, "Enlightened," etc. Things I read while taking a Jeffersonian History class eons ago, tended to lean on the Christian side of things where he was concerned. Sorry I can't remember the titles. I guess what leads me in this direction is many Supreme Court rulings specifically stating that America was a Christian nation (from 1799 till about 1947- about 80+ rulings), and the "Constitutionality" of laws, etc. that are constantly being challenged today that are aimed at the Judeo-Christian part of our society. I'm sure I'm guilty of spouting the party line on this and I'd like the right answers too. You're A LOT smarter than me Shaun and I have no doubt that we'll get to the bottom of this eventually.

Beth

10/29/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I'm not at all smarter than you. I know a lot about a very few things. Talk about one of those and I may seem smart for a minute but color outside those lines and I'm not so smart seeming anymore. But thanks for the vote of confidence.

Allow me to push back a little, Beth, in hopes of getting an answer to this riddle of Christian principles. For now it's only you and me here discussing this post, but on Monday, when traffic here quadruples, I'm hoping other folks will jump in an fill the wholes in your and my databases on this subject. My pushing back is this...

You say in your last comment that America was, at it's founding, a "Christian nation" and that the founders, many of them anyway, were various kinds of Christians. But saying founders were Christians does not mean the nation was and does not at all explain specifically in what way we are a Christian nation. None of your post actually explains specifically what founding principles were distinctively Christian. And you say as much. Can you or anyone else make the leap for me from Christians involved in the founding of America and America being founded upon specific Christian principles?

If we don't know what these Christian principles were then we can hardly say they have been eroded, or that they contradict principles which have replaced them in our society can we?

SG

10/29/2005  
Anonymous kat said...

Do you think that Christians too often "see loyalty to the American Republic as obedience to God's kingdom"?

I've been wondering lately if we as Christians are too concerned with making sure laws reinforce our faith rather than just sharing our faith with others. Like the whole deal about the 10 Commandments in a court room. Does it really matter? (I'm not being cynical - I'm seriously asking.) Is it pointless to fight for the 10 Commandments to remain in a court room? Is it useful, effective or worthwhile for believers to fight for certain laws? Could our time be better spent living out the Gospel and leading people to Jesus or is it too unrealistic to think that way?

Could involvement in politics be an American value that is in conflict with the Christian virtue of evangelism (in it's purest most un-snakeoilsalesmen form)?

I don't know, I've really been wondering about this.

kat

10/29/2005  
Anonymous kat said...

This may be a silly question, but does is really matter whether our country was founded on Christian principles? If so, why?

And if those principles have eroded, is politics the vehicle we should be taking to return to those roots?

kat

10/29/2005  
Blogger ks said...

There are so many things I could write... I'm not quite sure where I stand on all of these questions, but I think what some people mean when they say that America was founded on Christian virtues was simply this:
The value that a human being, regardless of their social standing, religion, color, etc has "Unalienable rights". It truly is a Christian principle to believe that each individual has value. You don't find it in most other religions - Hindus, for example. They think that those who are of lower standing in society are that way because of choices made in their past lives. America was founded by individuals who believed that human freedoms are not defined by other humans, but by their Creator.
I think freedom itself is a Christian principle, and it is also a very American idea. Prior to our nation's founding, the idea of religious freedom was not really heard of. Religion was determined by the government in most places, which was why the Pilgrims left their country in the first place.
While the founders were not all Christians and perhaps were not intending to base the entire nation on biblical principles, there are certainly evidences of their worldview in play that aren't consistent with other governments/religions/nations.
I want to say lot more about other ideas being discussed, but I have to balance my time so I won't. There are some good Christian text books that cover this idea from a more wholelistic standpoint, beginning with the revivals and spiritual awakenings in England that affected those who came to America. I think the one I have in mind is put out by A Beka(homeschool curriculum).

10/29/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Shaun,
I love it that you never let me off the hook easily! As for you being smarter, I'll stick by my original assessment. I know a little about a few things, so you're way ahead of me!

Good questions above too from Kat, KS, and KT. I do believe that our main purpose as Christians is to bring others to Christ. That is our commission from Christ and that should always be our main focus, even though we bring them there in many different ways.

As for whether or not we should use politics as an avenue, that's a tough question. It's not always prudent to do so, but neither can we just sit idly by. If we do nothing, we are A, saying it doesn't really matter, and B, making it easier for laws to be enacted that could eventually lead to it being a crime. I know that sounds far fetched, but it really isn't. Already there are laws in Canada that make it illegal to speak about homosexuality in a negative way and Britian is heading down that road too. We can't adopt the mentality that it cannot happen here too, because it can, if we let it.

OK Shaun, that's all I can muster for early Sunday morning. I'm sure you'll come back with more tough questions. Thanks for teaching me and making me step outside the box.

Beth

10/30/2005  
Anonymous kat said...

I like Beth's point about not letting things continue to erode to the level that our beliefs or values are inhibited or perhaps outlawed. I agree that we shouldn't sit idly by. I just can't figure out what to actually DO.

I can't help but wonder if getting involved in politics - which can produce immediate results - is really just like sticking a finger in a dam that has a thousand holes. I suppose that laws tend to reflect the heart of the nation and if we as the Church aren't being the Church and profoundly affecting people on a personal level, then is it really worth our time (or the best use of our time) to affect things on a political level?

Or maybe it's not a question of either/or.

10/30/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Shaun,

Did a bit more research today. One book I'm borrowing from my Bible Study teacher is called "Original Intent" by David Barton. He is one of the country's leading historians and authorities on the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. He owns hundreds of original documents by our founding fathers and spent his life researching them and their beliefs. This book is authoritative and comprehensive and is an indepth look at the original intent of our Constitution's authors.

His website is www.wallbuilders.com and is a wonderful site with tons of information. I could post for days here, but I'll just encourage all to go to the site and find out for themselves.

I hope this helps. I hope to get the book this week and start reading.

Beth

10/30/2005  
Blogger Roger said...

I posted a link to pastor Adrian Rogers looking to God's word for help on the topic of 'Christian citizenship'. It was broadcast today (11/01) and can be listened to online.

Christian Citizenship

11/01/2005  
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