I have a very mixed response to certain types of religious involvement in American politics. The practice of, and dangers of, civil religion are often very real. Most conservative Christians are virtually oblivious of these problems, which date more to the era following the Second World War than to an earlier time in U. S. history.
While I do not care for "political religion" I do think the culture has clearly had a long relationship with faith, and in particular, Christian faith. Sometimes reading a bit of history will give a little perspective to these things. Here is a famous declaration from President Abraham Lincoln. I wonder if anyone could conceive of such a statement being issued by any president today.
President Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation:
A Day Of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer
in the The
United States Of America
April 30, 1863
WHEREAS, the senate of the United States,
devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and Just Government of Almighty God,
in all the affairs of men and of nations, has by a resolution, required the
President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation:
And whereas, it is the duty of nations as
well as of men, to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to
confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope
that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the
sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that
those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord:
And, in so much as we know that, by His divine
law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements
in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war,
which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our
presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole
People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have
been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in
numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have
forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace,
and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined,
in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by
some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success,
we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and
preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us,
then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national
sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request ,
and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this proclamation,
designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of
national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the
People to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to
unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in
keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the
religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let
us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the
united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no
less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now
divided and suffering country, to its former happy condition of unity and
In witness whereof, I have here unto set my
hand, and caused the seal of the
to be affixed.
Done at the city of
this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one
thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the
of the United States the eighty-seventy.
By the President:
William H. Seward, Secretary of State
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Wow! Can you imagine how people today, so filled with pride and self-righteousness, would react to such an almost Old Testament call for public repentance?