A nation as religiously diverse as ours (quite happily!) is can't afford to define its identity in religious ways. Domestically, because it threatens to inflame religious conflict, and you don't need to study the civil wars of early modern Europe to realize how threatening that is. And internationally, because our cause is ill served by identifying ourselves as a (Judaeo-)Christian nation. That's why it was an awful slip when President Bush referred to the war on terrorism as a "crusade." That's why it was worse than embarrassing to learn about General Boykin's statements that our enemy is Satan, fighting us because we are, you guessed it, a "Christian nation," and that our God is "real" but Allah is "an idol." You can be sure that all that inflammatory language still circulates on the Arab street. You can be sure that the retractions and apologies don't.Perhaps the only mistake in that is the parenthetical "quite happily." When the "Christian nation" moniker is used more and more frequently as a means to exclude ideas or lifestyles (in Bartlett's case, gay marriage), or to place ourselves in opposition to members of other nationalities or religious (as in General Boykin's case), it becomes more difficult to think that for its users there is anything happy about the diversity of this nation.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Words of Wisdom on the "Christian Nation"
From Left2Right's Don Herzog in response to comments made by Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland: