God and country

The splendid university where I’ve been privileged to spend the past semester proudly proclaims its commitment to “God, Country, Notre Dame” and means what it says.  If not identical, God’s purposes and America’s purposes are at least compatible and Notre Dame firmly supports both.

Mark me down as skeptical.  The older I get the more I’m inclined to see the melding of God and country as not such a good idea.  God can speak for himself, but I don’t think the merger serves the country’s interests.

My skepticism has nothing to do with Notre Dame, but with my own alma mater, West Point, where a cadet within a few months of graduation recently chose to resign in protest of what he sees as institutionalized religiosity. The First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a state religion. The United States Military Academy is certainly an organ of the state. Cadet Blake Page argues that authorities at West Point are promoting religion (especially evangelical Christianity), thereby violating his constitutional rights.  In a piece published in the Huffington Post and now circulating the web, Page explained the basis for his action.  The short article includes this excerpt from his letter of resignation:

I do not wish to be in any way associated with an institution which willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America by enforcing policies which run counter to the same. Examples of these policies include mandatory prayer, … awarding extra passes to Plebes who take part in religious retreats and chapel choirs, as well as informal policies such as the open disrespect of non-religious new cadets and incentivizing participation in religious activities through the chain of command.

Page’s accusations have stirred considerable brouhaha.  Among other things, Page himself has incurred the wrath of other cadets and recent graduates, who charge him with disloyalty.  After all, you’re not supposed to cast aspersions on your own school.  Some of the criticism is juvenile in the extreme.  An example, reprinted here in its entirety:  “Blake, I read your article. It sucked, get a better editor. You clearly don’t want to beat Navy, [signed] Chris, a grad.”

I regret that Cadet Page is resigning and would have advised him not to do so.  He is obviously a young man of integrity and conviction. For acting on principle, he deserves considerable respect.  And with his decision come consequences. Once Page leaves the Corps of Cadets, he’ll either be obliged to reimburse the government for the very considerable cost of his education or he’ll have to serve for several years in the army as an enlisted soldier. (If it’s any consolation, Blake, one of my own classmates made a similar decision even closer to our graduation—the issue was Vietnam rather than God—and eventually he became a very successful Hollywood scriptwriter. So life goes on.)

The case also has attracted the sympathetic attention of my friend Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein.  Mikey is the founder and principal proprietor of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.  Devoted to getting the United States military out of the business of religious proselytizing, the MRFF seeks to protect the rights of uniformed personnel (like Blake Page) who are not religious, along with the rights of those who may be religious but don’t cotton to anyone interfering with how they practice their faith.

I am speculating, of course, but Mikey may well be what God had in mind when he referred to the Israelites as a “stiff-necked people.”  I expect that God meant no disrespect to his Chosen People and I certainly intend none to Mikey. Yet he qualifies as one of the feistiest, toughest, and most pugnacious people I have ever met.  It’s impossible to imagine Mikey backing away from a fight that he thinks worth fighting.  Ranking near the top of what’s worth fighting for, in his view, is the Constitution of the United States, not least of all the First Amendment.  So Mikey is squarely in Blake Page’s corner.

Mikey got into this business when evidence surfaced that his alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy, had become a hotbed of Christian evangelicalism, with cadets who hadn’t yet found Jesus being pressured to get with the program.  Mikey was tipped off by an impeccable source—his own son, then a USAFA cadet, who was being pressured to convert, with academy authorities either actively complicit or turning a blind eye.  In getting Mikey riled up, USAFA and the Air Force made a very big mistake.  In what turned out to be the first of many fights, Mikey, who happens to be a very skillful lawyer, went after them hammer and tong.

Since then critics have attacked Mikey for being anti-religion or at least anti-Christian. That’s not my reading. He just wants religion to be a private matter. (I note in passing that the personal attacks against Mikey—typically by gutless cowards speaking from the anonymity of cyberspace—have been vile beyond belief.  I once fancied that anti-Semitism had gone the way of polio in our country. I now know that is not the case. The Jew haters are still out there.)

I differ from Mikey in being less doctrinaire on the issue immediately at hand.  After all, the military community does contain a large number of believers.  Some obligation to minister to the needs of soldier-believers—not all of them Christian, by any means—exists. Without being melodramatic about it, war accentuates those needs and that obligation.

As a believer myself who was once a soldier and who commanded soldiers, I would not want the dividing line between faith and military life to be too sharp. Let me concede that making religion available to soldiers while still respecting the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment poses a bit of a puzzle. So there has to be some sort of line, sufficiently visible for commanders to distinguish between what’s permissible and what’s not. In the past, the line was so blurry as to be indistinct. With some embarrassment, I can recall hosting “prayer breakfasts” at which attendance of subordinates was “expected” and therefore informally coerced.  What was I thinking? That said, we want to don’t chase away the chaplains.

Yet beyond the military realm, the ongoing debate that Mikey is promoting raises questions that call for especially serious reflection. It’s we believers who are not soldiers who ought to reflect. After all, when agents of the state promote religiosity, their primary interest is not necessarily saving souls. Throughout history, states have employed religion to advance their own purposes, which they routinely insist coincide with God’s own. Religion thereby becomes an adjunct of state power. Gott Mit Uns, as it were.

Whenever they have deemed it expedient to do so, U. S. political leaders have adhered to this practice. Especially in times of war or national emergency, they have unhesitatingly appropriated religion, enlisting God on America’s side.  To cite just one recent example, in the wake of 9/11, President George W. Bush, himself a believer, deployed God to provide a moral rationale for his Global War on Terrorism.

More often than not, American church leaders (to include the hierarchy of my own Catholic Church) have endorsed the proposition that America’s purposes align with the Almighty’s. When doing so, they validate the reassuring pairing of “God and Country,” as if implying a partnership of equals.  In fact, what all too often ensues is “Religion Subordinated to State,” an unequal and even exploitive arrangement that serves chiefly to facilitate the exercise of power unconstrained by moral considerations.

Mikey’s chief interest lies in ensuring that people like Blake Page can freely exercise their constitutional rights—a worthy cause. My chief interest differs. My argument is that it’s past time to recognize the problematic implications of this contrived (and to some extent cynical and corrupting) alliance between God and country.

Only by keeping the state at arm’s length can churches enjoy moral autonomy.  Only by guarding that autonomy can they assist citizen-congregants in reaching informed moral judgments on what the state is doing or proposes to do.  For a nation such as ours, where the state wields enormous power pursuant to vast ambitions, those moral judgments are of critical importance. They provide the ultimate check against vanity, arrogance, excess, and self-deception.

The point here is not for Notre Dame to revise its motto. Nor am I suggesting that believers should pit God against country. But they might assign to God a position that allows him to stand apart and speak for himself. Then perhaps we’ll hear him.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a visiting fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.  He wishes the Fighting Irish well when they play for the national football championship on January 7 and notes with regret that Navy has defeated Army in football every year for the past decade. 

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar John Gorentz December 7, 2012 at 12:17 am

I agree with what he says. And if he also favors the separation of government and public radio, I agree with what he means by it.

avatar Jordan Smith December 7, 2012 at 1:24 am

Well said.

avatar Reader John December 7, 2012 at 6:28 am

There’s no gainsaying friendship, but Weinstein has pursued some pretty dubious litigation, as chronicled by Howard Friedman at the Religion Clause blog. (Friedman just reports, maintaining all the neutrality one can while still deciding what’s newsworthy enough to be blogworthy.) One can work backwards from this report of the latest in a saga: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2012/12/chaplain-sues-church-state-activist-for.html

avatar Chris Travers December 7, 2012 at 7:47 am

The idea that there is this obligation to minister to the needs of soldiers and this must be squared with the establishment clause may present a puzzle to those who need to convert the world, but I think that when one puts aside that need, the answer is clear and remarkably simple. We are humans, and sometimes humans get put in a place where they need a religious thinker to talk to, and I would even say that every human is religious in some way (even atheists).

Having respect for other religions and traditions is a prerequisite for pluralism. We should not shrink from integrating our religions into all aspects of our lives, but where the First Amendment is directly in force, we must recognize and respect that others have different religions. In this way the Odinist can fight along side the Catholic, accept eachother as comrades in arms, and yet in the right time and place be still willing to debate and talk about religion even with eachother. It’s that last bit only that is a puzzle and only because of perhaps a few people who do not understand it.

avatar Lacey December 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Well stated, with great presentation of many of the issues.
On the other hand, Mr. Bacevich clearly illustrates the foundation of many of the issues with the statements “After all, the military community does contain a large number of believers. Some obligation to minister to the needs of soldier-believers—not all of them Christian, by any means—exists.” His assertion that there are many believers in the military community is absolutely factual. His assertion of an obligation to minister to their needs, however, merits further inquiry.
Does he mean the faith traditions have an obligation to find a way to minister to the needs of their group members who serve in the military? Or, as implied in the manner in which he framed the statement, does he mean the military has an obligation to minister to the needs of servicemembers who are also members of a variety of faith traditions? I don’t think I’m overreaching to say that Mr. Bacevich is suggesting the military holds the obligation. This is a perfect representation of the ingrained sense of entitlement that believers apply to the practice of their faith, frequently with no consideration of the implications of their expectations. Mr. Bacevich reaches a conclusion that an obligation exists to provide ministry, and implies that the military holds the obligation. Let us first ask the question “Does the mlitary have an obligation to minister to its religious members?” Then we can ask the next obvious question (based on Mr. Bacevich’s implication of entitlement to ministry) “Why does the military have an obligation to minister to its servicemembers?”
What has been entirely lost in the conversation – not only with Mr. Bacevich, but more broadly as well – is any discussion of the tacit assumption that religion and faith are valid positions. The failure to address this basic assumption is the point at which the discussion consistently goes awry.
We have faith traditions in America for whom military service is anathema. To carry the religious support argument to the comic extreme – if the US government has an obligation to minister to those serving in the force, then the US government ought to be able to compel service by members of these other faith traditions – and then find a way to minister to their religious needs as well. In reality, any potential servicemember should be able to determine for himself if a commitment to service in a non-theistic military is compatible with his own personal faith obligations.
While I am abbreviating the analytical process significantly, I believe a rational analysis would conclude that servicemembers, as members of a publicly-funded organization, have no claim to government-funded ministry.

avatar USAFA Graduate December 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Bravo to Andrew Bacevich. His argument, “…that it’s past time to recognize the problematic implications of this contrived (and to some extent cynical and corrupting) alliance between God and country,” is precisely the mission of MRFF, a need recognized by many military academy graduates. Chris Hedges, and others, have also described the poisonous relationship with the intermingling of religion and government

Bacevich continues, “Throughout history, states have employed religion to advance their own purposes, which they routinely insist coincide with God’s own. Religion thereby becomes an adjunct of state power. Gott Mit Uns, as it were.” I contend that the tail now wags the dog with religious groups, most notably, evangelical dominionist Christians, employing the state to advance their very narrow and extreme agenda.

Bacevich warns, “where the state wields enormous power pursuant to vast ambitions, those moral judgments are of critical importance.” I believe the religious right, as exemplified in the recent election, has attempted to influence, if not take possession, of the enormous power of the state to pursue extreme religious ambitions.

Religious groups should possess no political power but, indeed, with other groups of conscience, “provide the ultimate check against vanity, arrogance, excess, and self-deception.”

MRFF, and other organizations of conscience, represent a counterbalance to the overreach by religious fanatics over the past several decades.

Attacks by the same few religious zealots fearful of losing gains in past decades of religious encroachment into the machine of government are drowning in their own self-deception.

One of MRFF’s outspoken critics, “Klingenschmitt, offered an imprecatory prayer in 2009. aimed at Weinstein and an ally, paraphrased the Bible in asking God to “let their days be few,” among other calls for divine punishment.” (http://www.stripes.com/blogs/stripes-central/stripes-central-1.8040/new-lawsuit-filed-in-ongoing-religion-dispute-1.199304) More recently he has written an article alleging President Obama has been ruled by demons. (http://www.goddiscussion.com/102144/former-navy-chaplain-offers-free-ebook-alleging-that-president-obama-has-been-ruled-by-up-to-50-different-evil-spirits/)
Another detractor, calling himself “The Christian Fighter Pilot” of the “God and Country” Blog was the subject of an article by Chris Rodda. (http://www.talk2action.org/story/2012/9/28/121443/556)
Embarrassingly, these two religious zealots are military academy graduates. This attests to the importance of honorable military graduates Weinstein, Bacevich, and others continuing to expose the danger of the toxic mix of religion and state, and the importance of the First Amendment of The Constitution.

avatar Lee Zehrer December 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Cadet Page is a real leader. I’d follow him into battle.

- USN/USMC Vietnam, 1966-70

Wars are not won by fighting battles: Wars are won by choosing battles.
-George Patton

avatar Duke December 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I find that Patton quote an interesting choice in light of the battle this cadet chose. I’m not saying I disagree on the young man, he’s probably going to make a fine soldier.

avatar Robb Davis December 7, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Glad to see Dr Bacevich exploring his inner Anabaptist. Right on. Thanks.

avatar Tom December 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Rendering Cadet Page’s so-called resignation far less meaningful is that his decision to do so came only after he was disqualified from commissioning as an Army officer due to personal issues. “You can’t fire me, I quit!” If he genuinely wanted to effect some sort of cultural change within the military, then he should have persevered to actual become a member thereof. Maybe wider society is more forgiving, but in the Army we don’t really give a damn about the excuses quitters make for their failures.

avatar Anymouse December 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm

I think we should not underestimate the extent to which “culture arises from the cult”.

Religious belief may be necessary for any true civilization, and I do not think excessive religion is the main problem in the military today.

avatar Steve December 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I don’t see any conflict between the Establishment Clause and soldiers’ basic religious needs. Just have the chaplains available for people to talk to them if they want to. They can also make public the dates of religious services and other events they want to hold. Then people can attend if they wish to. There is nothing wrong with that and the chaplain corps in many other countries works just fine like that.

But what needs to stop is the constant prayer and presence of chaplains at basically any unit function. And forcing people to bow their heads at these prayers. And forcing people to attend religious events, which starts right at the beginning in boot camp.
There is also a huge problem with using chaplains instead of trained mental health professionals. While they have always served as informal counselors, that role has become too official in recent years because the military lacks enough trained secular personnel.

avatar D.W. Sabin December 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm

When we presume God to be over our shoulder while our thumb is on the button, we insult both God and our own spirituality.

God likely kicks all of our asses by letting us war freely upon one another.

The very idea that a nation might possess an army presumptuously in God’s service is about as good a reason for atheism as I can think of. They say there are no atheists in foxholes…likely because they are dead already.

avatar Rob G December 11, 2012 at 10:02 am

“I contend that the tail now wags the dog with religious groups, most notably, evangelical dominionist Christians, employing the state to advance their very narrow and extreme agenda.”

Sorry, but this is a secularist ooga-booga story. The “dominionists” are an outlier of an outlier, and are so ridiculously small in number as to not have the sufficient ergs to wag the smallest of teacup chihuahuas.

Anyone who fears some sort of government takeover by the “Religious Right” apparently has not spent much time among them.

avatar gw December 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

As expected, you continue to hit the nail on the head. If only our political leaders were as analytical instead of supporting the dangerous alliance of state power and religion. Kudos to you, Mikey and Cadet Page. We need more like you.

avatar Jonathan White December 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Dealing with young soon to be officers on a daily basis, I have to wonder whether there is more going on here than meets the eye. Frequently, Cadets are found to be unfit for service in the military as an officer. (It is not for everybody.) In some cases, this is due to medical issues. In others the issue is academics, personal behavior, or just a change of heart. I suspect that one of these is the real reason Cadet Page has “resigned.”
That said, he has signed a contract and been given an education at the tax-payers’ expense in exchange for his promise to serve as an officer for a prescribed number of years. He is now reneging on that commitment, which means he owes the taxpayers some money or a number of years of service as an enlisted member of the Army. If this is attempt to avoid the consequences of failing to meet his obligations, Cadet Page, by recouching this as a religious freedom issue, may actually be allowed to walk away form his service obligation.
In twenty-seven years of military service, I have been present for Jewish religious ceremonies, Muslim ceremonies and others. I have been overtly proselytized by Muslims, asking me to become a Muslim. I have always listened politely, thanked the proselyte for concern for my spiritual well-being, and gotten on with my life. Perhaps cadet Page could have done so as well.

avatar robert m. peters December 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm

The separation of church and state is just one more false dichotomy of Modernity. It is absurd to believe that a people can bifurcate the fundamental moral principle of their lives from the economic and political domains of those lives. Far more dangerous is when the state becomes god and masquerades as “objective” or when the state assumes a pseudo-religious cloak and therewith pursues Jacobin agendas such as equality, fraternity, social justice,diversity, multi-culturalism and making the world safe for democracy, all far more dangerous than being “informed,in the most literal sense of that word, by the faith of the people for whose common good the government is to be working.

There is no such thing as “moral autonomy.” That is a worthless abstraction. To live Christianly is to live as Christ in the real world, in all areas because all areas are domains of creation; no area is exempt. The “moral” is who we are all day every day. It is not a life or a part of life cut off and ensconced in an enclave.

Perhaps we should be asking if the state has grown so territorially and demographically large that it cannot claim a specific faith as the core of it common good is not a state which has grown to large and which has thereby become a threat to any notion of the common good.

avatar Gian December 12, 2012 at 6:10 am

I agree with the above poster. Man needs to worship in common (Dosteovesky)-the religion is not and can not be an entirely private matter
The nations are founded on cults. A certain shared moral sense is essential for the national sense and unity.

avatar robert m. peters December 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

Gian,

The very term “secular” has emerged out of a Christian context, i.e. the secular clergy as opposed to those who took religious vows – monks. Protestantism needed the princes and came to trust the princes because the cultural context created by the Medieval Order still prevailed. While Protestantism in all of its forms was a different idiom of Christianity, the dominate cultural milieu still reflected a Christian mindset, or so it seemed, in which it was assumed that the princes and the national states emerging from their aspirations would remain. So, many things once the domain of families and the church, including “marriage,” were entrusted to the “state.” However, with the advent of the Hobbesian state and with the atomization Western culture into the “autonomous individual,” Christianity was no longer the primary moral imperative which informed, the the literal sense thereof, the state.

In British America, societies were ordered in thirteen colonial republics, sharing the common heritage of Western culture with its dominant Christian meme, but also uniquely different, with some having and jealously having their own official church. There were, in addition, regional differences, with, for example, the Calvinism of New England taking a quite different trajectory from the Calvinism of the South, the former morphing into neo-Arianism and Unitarianism and the latter consolidating into orthodox Trinitarianism.

The essence of the first amendment pertaining to “religion” was that the general government – which the states had created through the Constitution which their delegates had drafted and which their respective peoples had ratified in their sovereign capacity in convention – could not establish a mega-state church to be imposed on all of the republics nor could it interfere with a state which might establish or disestablish one. There was no American “nation.” There was a union of constitutionally federated republics which were the principles and a general government which was the agent or the creature of those republics.

Of course, the unconstitutional 14th amendment laid the ground work for the federal courts using their assumed extra-constitutional power to incorporate the states by fiat into the Bill of Rights and flip the Constitution on its head, no longer protecting the states and their respective peoples with their unique sets of traditions, customs and habits, including those of religion, from the general government, but positioning the Hobbesian state in the guise of the general government to overthrow subsidiarity and to posit itself as the guarantor of abstract Lockean rights for Rousseauian “autonomous individuals” or the abstract aggregate thereof as “the people” against the states, against the church and against any other association which claims authority outside the framework of the Hobbesian state.

In short the false dichotomy of separation of church and state is merely a weapon in the hands of Jacobins in their attempted to, as Voegelin stated, overthrow the created order or the order of being and thereb immanentize the eschaton.

Cadet Page is merely one of the would be Promethean selves who would conjure up his god, the Hobbesian state, to rid himself of the inconvenience of dealing with what he believes to be the pesky proselytizing by lesser gods.

As a Christian, I do not need the state to help me remain faithful; my faith depends on an entirely different Source; it seems, however, that Cadet Page needs his god, the Hobbesian state, to assist him in maintaining his faithlessness.

avatar B-Will December 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I shall sum up my feelings on Faith in the Public Sphere with this phrase: “And by their fruits shall you know them; Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matt. 7: 16a, 17) Faith is what guides our actions and governs our minds (in theory, though it is harder to practice in everyday action) as to what is good and bad, and this carries over to our interactions with others. In this sense, Faith is omnipresent for those who subscribe to belief. An understanding of the finer points of Faith, and Wisdom derived from this understanding, is put into action. To separate Faith and Action, particularly in politics, is a futile effort. What is needed is, as Dr. Bacevich understands, is an understanding of the interaction of Faith and action in a long-view of consequences. I agree that Faith is primarily a private matter, but as Faith influences actions, it cannot remain a purely private thing. It’s drawing the line where Religion, as opposed to Faith, becomes oppressive that some Christians, but more so the Civil Religionists and Secularists, need to discern.

Also, question: How is the 14th Amendment unconstitutional? I just read the language and nothing except maybe the prohibition against ex-Confederates being in Congress strikes me as unconstitutional. Maybe I didn’t read it as closely as I should have, but I would like an explanation behind that assertion. Thanks and Merry Christmas!!

avatar Robert M. Peters December 15, 2012 at 11:39 pm

B-Will,

I do not understand your last sentence:

“It’s drawing the line where Religion, as opposed to Faith, becomes oppressive that some Christians, but more so the Civil Religionists and Secularists, need to discern. ”

The 14th amendment is unconstitutional because it was not constitutionally ratified. Reference the sites infra:

http://www.constitution.org/14ll/no14th.htm

http://www.barefootsworld.net/14uncon.html

http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2012/09/the-unconstitutional-14th-amendment-2466518.html

avatar Siarlys Jenkins December 29, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address sets a good example for always looking toward what God expects of us, but never assuming we have it right. Of course he had before him the example of a Civil War, in which both sides prayed to the same God, and God certainly couldn’t grant the prayers of both, and might not have cared to grant the prayers of either. Afterward he remarked that the speech would not be popular, because men do not like to be reminded that the Almighty has purposes other than their own.

avatar robert m. peters December 29, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Yes, Lincoln who was never a member of a church, who liked to make disparaging jokes about Christians and who was likely, according to several who knew him, an atheist; nevertheless knew how to quote scripture and speak biblical jargon. In his Second Inaugural, he astutely gave God the credit for the war which he launch and which he pursued against home and hearth, kith and kin and civilians. He was indeed a modern politician.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins December 31, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Cynical Peters, truly cynical. Jesus made jokes about those who claimed to be deeply religious, should Lincoln do less? Pray tell, give some details about the case that a man who said he many times went to his knees because there was no place else to go was an atheist? I give credit to God for leading America into civil war… and for putting courage into the faltering confederate armies, just as he put courage into the heart of Pharaoh, for his own reasons. Nobody did more to secure passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments than Robert E. Lee. If McClellan had won a quick and easy victory in 1862, then none of these amendments would have been proposed, much less ratified. Indeed, God had his own purposes, which far surpassed the platform of the Republican Party.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins December 31, 2012 at 11:52 pm

There was no American “nation.” There was a union of constitutionally federated republics which were the principles and a general government which was the agent or the creature of those republics.
—Robert M. Peters

“The United States is a government, not a league.”
—Andrew Jackson

In short the false dichotomy of separation of church and state is merely a weapon in the hands of Jacobins in their attempted to, as Voegelin stated, overthrow the created order or the order of being

I have only your word for it Mr. Peters, that the union of church and state is “the created order.” I Samuel 12 suggests otherwise to me, among other considerations. I believe James Madison was onto something when he said the separation was in part to preserve the church from the profane hand of the civil magistrate. Certainly profane hands were laid on both the Papacy and the Church of England.

But then, you said somewhat the same thing: “As a Christian, I do not need the state to help me remain faithful; my faith depends on an entirely different Source.” Well said.

avatar Michael Ard January 1, 2013 at 7:02 am

A good article by Bacevich. Mikey Weinstein seems anti-religious, though. He lent his name to the production of Constantine’s Sword, James Carroll’s anti-Catholic screed. Why do that if your only concern is separation of chruch and state?

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Constantine’s Sword is an excellent documentary piece on the origins and persistence of anti-Semitism in European Christianity. It could have been about half as long, if Carroll had left out the introspective navel contemplation, and the fantasy about his conjectured Vatican III. I didn’t find it anti-Catholic. For some reason, God only knows why, and he isn’t telling, Carroll insists on remaining a Catholic, albeit a dissident one. But as a Protestant, I don’t have a dog in that fight.

avatar robert m. peters January 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Mr. Jenkins,

A cynic I am not; I simply do not abide the fictions about Lincoln when the countervailing facts are known and have been known since he walked the earth.

I give you the following references to read and to reflect on if you are so inclined. There are, of course, online, in libraries and in archives many more which utterly, completely and totally refute the Lincoln myth.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo174.html

http://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/index.php/media-library/message/the-lincoln-fable

These resources are a good beginning.

One must assume that no one who claims the name of Christ has the hubris to arrogate to himself what the intentions of God might be regarding a particular historical incident. It is not more reasonable to believe that God was punishing American by means of the War to Prevent Southern Independence than to ask why He allowed other slave holding and slave profiting Europeans to avoid such a catastrophe, particularly since slavery in antebellum America was compared to slavery in other regions of the Western Hemisphere among the most benign. To suggest that there is a direct objective correlative between the outcome of the Battle of Sharpesburg and the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments carries no more or no less weight than suggesting that they would not have been “passed” had New England traders never brought the first slaves to North America, it would not have been so had the Republican Party not been so, or it would not have been so if Lincoln had not been assassinated.

avatar robert m. peters January 1, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Me. Jenkins,

Your one quote from Jackson holds little water, although he reflects a certain story line which can be traced back to Hamilton, Marshall, Story and Webster. There are literally hundreds of articles, letters, documents and books which refute that position. I strongly suggest that you read “The Founding Fathers: Guide to the Constitution by Brion McClanahan. Infra is a link to the reviews of the text:

http://www.amazon.com/Founding-Fathers-Guide-Constitution/dp/1596981938

Mr. Jenkins,

I assume that your reference point concerning church and state are the magisterial confessional churches – Lutheran, Reform and Catholic – which emerged in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation. That is certainly Madison’s reference point. That is not my reference point at all, although I used the modern shorthand for my statement “church and state,” which reflects precisely the post-Reformation realities which were emerging. My reference is prior to the advent of the modern dynastic, then nationalist and then global state, specifically to the organic realities of the Medieval order and to its antecedents in classical antiquity and in biblical antiquity.

I strongly suggest that you read “The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society” by Brad S. Gregory.

There is certainly a profane hand on creation and the social orders which flow out of it: the fallen and Satan. The privatizing of religion, which Madison and others advocated, is in fact a manifestation of that profane hand in the worst way. Israel had no king prior to Saul; however, it had governance under the authority of God’s law and His tabernacling with them. This is precisely the point: there was no dichotomy between governance and faith. Nothing, including the “state” which has emerged is outside the created order; it may conspire to operate against the created order; but it cannot be outside it.

avatar robert m. peters January 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm

As a good antidote to Carrol’s “Constantine’s Sword,” I suggest on read “Defending Constantine” by the Reform theologian Peter Leithart.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Mr. Peters, you are certainly prolific in your use of the English language, but your assertions of Truth are primarily the products of your own imagination, and your vaunted reference sources are the most banal collections of ideological advocates, bending and cherry-picking history to suit their own perverse point of view. Your advice is rather like telling me if I want to know the real significance of Karl Marx to human history, to begin by reading V. I. Lenin’s The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. It is also clear that you deeply admire the medieval political and social order. I admire medieval architecture and music (I love crummhorns), but it was a brutal period when the Seven Deadly Sins rode roughshod over an illiterate population, often in the name of God’s Holy Church, which was entirely complicit.

One speech by T. Jefferson Davis reveals as fiction the notion that secession was about anything but slavery. We all know that the Republican Party platform did not call for interference with slavery where it existed, only with barring its expansion into the territories. Davis highlighted that this intention would at a stroke nullify many millions of dollars of property. That was the key point: a great deal of southern capital was invested in human chattel, and the value of this capital, like the value of investments in the stock market, or real estate, depended on an expanding market of eager buyers. No new markets, value collapses. For this reason, the aristocrats of the South were prepared to go to war, and cynically inveigle their subject poor white trash population to shed their blood on the theory that this was all about “independence.”

The relevance of southern resort to conscription, which we have discussed previously, was not that the confederacy somehow violated its own principles, because it had none, but that there was an insufficient commitment by southern manhood, in aggregate, to put their lives, their misfortunes, and their sacred honor on the line for so dubious a proposition. Thus, the barons had to conscript them, literally at gun point.

I rely to begin with on Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote, I’m not averse to reliance on Eric Foner.

When you conflate the politics of Alexander Hamilton with those of Andrew Jackson, I can only dismiss this with passing smile. Both could be wrong, both had their good points, Jackson I think more often than Hamilton. Whatever might be said of the thirteen original colonies, and on a somewhat different basis, Vermont, Texas, and Hawaii, every other state in the union came into existence AS a state under the terms of the federal constitution, on federal territory, which did not constitute a state at all until given permission by congress. Jackson, of course, targeted his native South Carolina with the Force Act, on the understanding that the individual states had sufficiently committed to each other, and sufficiently intermingled their fortunes and liabilities, that it would not be ethically or politically possible to pull one out with any kind of equity vs-a-vs the rest. History has proved him right, whatever revanchist fantasies you care to indulge.

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