Saturday, June 12, 2021

From Hammond and Tillman to Trump: A Legacy of Shame for South Carolina

    By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

The title of  Heather Cox Richardson’s book, How the South Won the Civil War, was too tempting for me to resist.  Reading it helped me understand why Trump is so popular in America’s red states.  Trump tapped into a legacy of white supremacy in the old South and West that exploited free and cheap labor to gain wealth and power.


Richardson cited James Henry Hammond as a powerful racist politician in South Carolina (Governor 1842-1844; U.S. Senator 1857-1860), who not only promoted slavery but also sexually abused his teen-aged nieces.  Hammond was followed by a more vulgar and racist tyrant, “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman (Governor 1890-1894, U.S. Senator 1895-1918).


South Carolina was a one-party (Democratic) state from before the Civil War until after the 1950s.  Partisan divisions have since reversed, but politics remain polarized by race and party.  Most White voters now vote Republican and support individual rights and oppose social welfare; most Black voters now vote Democratic and emphasize social welfare priorities.  


The end of slavery did not end exploitation by America’s oligarchy.   Today an oligarchy of crony capitalists controls the means of production in America and promotes politics that further their wealth and control of the economy.  They condemn any regulations of big business, even though they are necessary to keep capitalism compatible with freedom and democracy.


Religion has always played a part in the strategy of American oligarchies.  Slavery was considered the will of God before the Civil War; and except during the Great Depression, white supremacy continued to provide political and economic dynasties of white men who considered economic regulations an attack by the evils of socialism on the holy grail of capitalism.


Richardson’s account of the evolution of America’s political culture describes how a demagogue like Donald Trump can gain the support of red state voters in the South and the West; but it’s no excuse for their misguided politics.  If American voters don’t support more altruistic politics that provide for the common good, American democracy will fail.


Richardson has stereotyped an oligarchy of wealthy racist White men like Hammond and Tillman who left a legacy of shame in South Carolina during the 19th century.  Donald Trump’s immorality may make him seem like a 21st century reincarnation of Hammond and Tillman, even though America’s political culture today is far more diverse than it was 200 years ago.


Minorities and women have assumed leadership roles in America’s political oligarchies.  The greatest threat to freedom and democracy today is from economic oligarchies on Wall Street and Silicon Valley that have created dangerous disparities in wealth with the support of the Federal Reserve.  Congress must end crony capitalism and regulate megacorporations and their monopolistic practices to provide economic justice and restore healthy competition.


          

Notes:


For a book review on How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America by Heather Cox Richardson, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/southern-elites-western-libertarians-and-the-conservative-coalition/2020/04/17/f4352c1c-6d4d-11ea-b148-e4ce3fbd85b5_story.html..

     

James Henry Hammond (November 15, 1807-November 13, 1856) was an attorney, politician, and planter from South Carolina. He served as a United States Representative from 1835–36, the 60th Governor of South Carolina from 1842–44, and United States Senator from 1857 to 1860. He was considered one of the major spokesmen in favor of slavery in the years before the American Civil War. Acquiring property through marriage, he ultimately owned 22 square miles, several plantations and houses, and more than 300 slaves.[1] Through his wife's family, he was a brother-in-law of Wade Hampton II and uncle to his children, including Wade Hampton III. When the senior Hampton learned that Hammond had raped his four Hampton nieces as teenagers, he made the scandal public. It initially was thought to have derailed Hammond's career,[1] but he later was elected as a U.S. senator.  A Democrat, Hammond was perhaps best known during his lifetime as an outspoken defender of slavery and states' rights.[2] He popularized the phrase that "Cotton is King" in his March 4, 1858, speech to the US Senate.  In his writings, he consistently compared the South's "well compensated" slaves to the free labor of the North, describing the latter as "scantily compensated" slaves (as he termed the hired skilled laborers and operatives).[2   ]  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Henry_Hammond.


Benjamin Ryan “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman (August 11, 1847 – July 3, 1918) was a Democratic Governor of South Carolina from 1890 to 1894, and served as a United States Senator from 1895 until his death in 1918. A white supremacist who opposed civil rights for black Americans, Tillman led a paramilitary group of Red Shirts during South Carolina's violent 1876 election. On the floor of the U.S. Senate, he defended lynching, and frequently ridiculed black Americans in his speeches, boasting of having helped kill them during that campaign.[1] 

For more information on Tillman, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Tillman.


Max Boot has described how too many people still underestimate the Trump threat.  See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/07/too-many-people-are-still-underestimating-trump/?utm.

  

On crony capitalism, see Exposing the Corruption of Crony Capitalism (May 9, 2020), posted at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2020/05/exposing-corruption-of-crony-capitalism.html.


Saturday, June 5, 2021

Musings on Why Socialism is no Substitute for Altruism in Politics

     By Rudy Barnes, Jr.


President Biden has argued that more government spending and socialism will cure what ails America, but our nation’s illness is more moral than economic.  Altruism is lacking in America’s materialistic and hedonistic culture, and socialism is no substitute for altruism in politics.  In religion altruism is expressed in the greatest commandment to love our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves.

  

Biden’s proposed $Trillions in increased spending will not promote altruism but only exacerbate an unsustainable national debt that will be a burden on future generations.  On Memorial Day President Biden reminded us that we have a moral obligation to provide future Americans with the same benefits of freedom and democracy left to us by our forebears.


David Albertson and Jason Blakely have correctly diagnosed America’s problems as more moral than economic.  America needs a moral reformation based on altruism rather than a political and economic transformation from neo-capitalism to socialism.  Albertson and Blakely suggest that the church can lead such a moral reformation, but that’s probably wishful thinking.


 America’s churches are clannish social institutions that promote exclusivist religious beliefs and measure success by their popularity.  The stewardship of our democracy requires a politics of reconciliation in a nation of increasing religious diversity.  Unless Christian exclusivism is replaced by universalism, the church cannot reconcile America’s increasingly divisive culture.

  

Most churches are racially segregated, with most White Christians voting Republican and most Black Christians voting Democratic.  The altruistic and universal teachings of Jesus summarized in the greatest commandment emphasize reconciliation, but America’s churches have subordinated the moral teachings of Jesus to exclusivist doctrines of Christian belief.


Jesus never addressed the stewardship of democracy since it was irrelevant in his ancient time and place; but unlike the people of Jesus’ day, American voters are the masters of their political destiny.  Their stewardship of democracy requires balancing individual wants and rights with providing for the common good; and so far voters have failed to strike that balance.


In a democracy, socialism and capitalism can be morally good or bad.  Voters determine the moral quality of justice in a democracy.  Socialism doesn’t justify excessive spending that imposes burdensome debts on future generations, nor does capitalism justify the greed on Wall Street that creates vast disparities of wealth.  Voters define the moral standards of their politics.

James Carville once described the moral priority in politics--it’s the economy, stupid.  If President Biden and Democrats create another $6 Trillion in government debt for socialist programs on top of a $28.3 Trillion national debt, it will create an oppressive economic burden on future Americans.   As stewards of democracy, American voters have a civic duty and moral obligation to protect our nation’s economy from such partisan largesse.


Notes:

On Memorial Day “President Joe Biden...urged Americans to honor the fallen by strengthening and protecting the nation's democracy.  He said, "Democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world. What we do now -- what we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen will determine whether or not democracy will long endure. ...Our willingness to see each other not as enemies, neighbors, even when we disagree, to understand what the other is going through.  ...This nation was built on an idea, the only nation in the world built on an idea...the idea of liberty, an opportunity for all," Biden said.  See https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/31/politics/biden-memorial-day/index.html.

In From Here to Utopia: What religion can teach the Left in Commonweal Magazine, David Albertson and Jason Bradley criticized the Left’s preference for big-spending socialist politics.  “An emphasis on civic belonging and cultural transformation tends to be neglected on the American Left. [It mostly confines itself] to fighting large-scale social inequities with redistributive programs, ceding family, community, and existential meaning to the Right. For example, shortly after Trump’s election, two editors of the socialist magazine Jacobin made this error [2] with accidental precision. It is single-payer health care and similar programs that will restore communal belonging in American life, they promised: “Programs that benefit all Americans will foster the sense of solidarity and political engagement necessary to building a lasting progressive coalition.” Their analysis is exactly backward. Material goods do not magically generate a sense of social belonging in people. Rather, renewed cultures of solidarity must accompany policy success. Without a commons, there is no common good.  Many democratic socialists erroneously believe that structural change will guarantee revolutionary change. ...Without substantive ethical transformation the Left risks succumbing to [an] openly dictatorial view of power. Ironically, …[it] maintains the dangerous illusion that technocrats can enact a massive change in culture by manipulating the levers of the state. But this purchases socialism at the cost of democracy, paying little heed to the dignity and freedom of the human person. ...Trying to change impersonal structural forces without an equally powerful humanism threatens to repeat the mistake of Stalinism. Dostoevsky foresaw this perennial trap over a century ago: the love of humanity in the abstract that in practice generates an intense hatred of actual humans with their frailties and limitations. In the words of the fanatical atheist Shigalyov in Dostoevsky’s Demons, “Starting from unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism.” ...One of the most discussed democratic-socialist manifestos in recent years—Martin Hägglund’s This Life—is programmatically anti-religious, yet concludes by imagining future solidarities on the analogy of religious faith. Hägglund ultimately attempts to convert Martin Luther King Jr.’s Christian socialism into an atheistic form. But what does it mean if the most enduring models for social renewal on the Left remain those led by people of faith? If capitalism occupies the “horizons of the thinkable,” the new solidarities offered by religious faith provide an alternative horizon. They are incubators of a new society, transforming the old from within. As American social democracy matures, it has much to learn from religious movements, as it supplements cries for change with the fine-grained work of ethical transformation. In the early 1990s, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, founded what would become the most successful gang-intervention program in the country with the help of women from his parish, located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles.  Boyle and his parish defied the logic of capitalism by adopting the logic of the Church, a logic of radical inclusion. They founded Homeboy Industries by collectivizing capital (charitable donations) from churches and non-profit foundations. Today Homeboy consists of multiple businesses exclusively staffed and run by ex-gang members, including a bakery, café, and silkscreen company. Homeboy rejects the economic model of a supposedly meritocratic labor pool coordinating supply and demand. Instead, as Boyle prankishly says, at Homeboy “we only hire hoodlums,” pursuing a full-employment policy for former gang members seeking work in good faith. Workers are also offered free job training, counseling, tattoo-removal services, and a chance at camaraderie with former enemies from rival gangs. See https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/print/41703.


 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Religious and Racial Dialogue: A Means of Reconciliation or a Bromide?

     By Rudy Barnes, Jr.


Dialogue groups are often created to discuss and reconcile those racial and religious issues that fester into political conflict.  Meetings are held and reports are issued, but often they are superficial bromides--that is, trite or unoriginal ideas intended to soothe or placate.  Unless racial and religious dialogue results in new personal relationships it produces little reconciliation.

Black Lives Matter gained prominence advocating the need for police reform after the killing of George Floyd last year.  It has since expanded its activities to ending institutional racism and promoting reparations for slavery; and it has gone global, recently asserting that the latest Israeli-Palestinian violence is based on racism analogous to police brutality in America.


The interminable violence in the Middle East is based more on regional religious and political differences than on race.  Dialogue is a critical component to reconcile conflicts in both religion and race; but BLM has compromised its original purpose of police reform by promoting other controversial racial  issues that focus on economic entitlements for Blacks.


Civil rights laws are a first priority to prohibit religious and racial discrimination; then dialogue groups can focus on improving religious and racial relationships to foster better  understanding and reconciliation.  Political remedies that give preferences to a particular religion or race only worsen relations and preclude any meaningful reconciliation.


For dialogue on religious and racial differences to be effective, it must change personal relationships among participants; otherwise it’s mere window dressing and doesn’t result in meaningful reconciliation.  Talk is cheap in dialogue groups unless the dialogue promotes reconciliation; otherwise it does little more than allow the posturing of its participants.


Reconciliation requires changing our negative attitudes about those of other religions and races.  It should be based on the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, including those neighbors of other races and religions; and that’s a common word of faith of Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.


It’s past time for police reform legislation, but BLM advocacy of other contentious racial issues, such as reparations for slavery and advocacy of Palestinian rights in the Middle East conflict distract from police reform in the U.S.  The interminable Middle East conflict between Jews and Palestinians requires an international political solution.  Dialogue over their conflicting claims in the Holy Land is important, but is no substitute for international diplomacy.      


Dialogue will not by itself reconcile religious and racial differences, but it can help resolve contentious differences with strangers if it leads to new relationships with them.  God's will is that we are reconciled with those not like us by loving them as we love ourselves.  That’s God’s truth and not a mere political bromide.



Notes:


Sean Sullivan and Cleve Wooten have reported that “Black Lives Matter activists recently took to the streets of Indianapolis to protest for Palestinians.  In Congress, a lawmaker who cut her teeth as a Black Lives Matter organizer and who has compared her clashes with police to those faced by Palestinians tweeted Friday, “A cease-fire ends the bombardment — not the violence.”

And during the height of the recent Gaza hostilities, the official Black Lives Matter organization called for “Palestinian liberation,” six years after the group’s early leaders took a trip to the Middle East that planted the seeds for the current alliance.

Black Lives Matter, which has grown into a potent political force amid a national reckoning on race, has responded forcefully to the violence in the Mideast to extend its reach into foreign policy, pressing the Democratic Party to adopt a dramatically different approach to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Whatever the aftermath of the violence in the region, it has starkly changed the Israeli-Palestinian debate in the United States, shifting it for many liberals from a tangled dispute over ancient, often-confusing claims to the far more familiar turf of police brutality and racial conflict.

“We understand that the liberation of Black people in the United States is tied to the liberation of Black people all over the world, and tied to the liberation of oppressed people all over the world,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter. “Being in solidarity with the Palestinian people is something that’s been part of our work as Black Lives Matter for almost as long as we’ve been an organization.”

 The tensions reflect the striking success of Black activists in shifting the Democratic Party’s frame of reference over the past year on a range of issues, so that racial justice undergirds the debate on everything from climate change to health care to tax cuts. The eruption in Gaza marks the extension of that shift into the international arena. 

Black Lives Matter activists say an alliance with Palestinians is natural, since, as they see it, Israeli police are brutalizing Palestinians much like American officers mistreat unarmed Black people and protesters.

Now that a cease-fire has been declared, however, it’s less clear that Black Lives Matter activists and their allies can coalesce around a set of demands that will drive the Mideast debate in the coming months.

Some critics of Israel support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, for example, while others are sharply opposed. And while some favor imposing conditions on Israel in exchange for U.S. aid, agreement is elusive on what those conditions should be.

And questions remain about whether prominent Democrats will distance themselves from Black Lives Matter activists if those activists continue to make outspoken statements on the Mideast.

After BLM tweeted support for Palestinians, the BDS National Committee responded: “Thank you for your solidarity. From Ferguson to Palestine, our struggles against racism, white supremacy and for a just world are united!”  See

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/gaza-violence-blm-democrats/2021/05/22/38a6186e-b980-11eb-a6b1-81296da0339b_story.html?utm_.


In Enough Bromides, Thomas Albert Howard has observed that “even as violence tied to religious identity still assails us in the daily news, we live in a booming heyday for interreligious dialogue. From a historical perspective, this phenomenon is remarkable, a noteworthy departure from the more isolationist and skeptical postures that faith traditions have exhibited toward one another in the past. For those involved, “dialogue” has become an umbrella term, signifying a wide range of peaceful exchanges, gatherings, and collaborations involving two or more religious traditions. At such events the consensus is that different faith traditions ought to get along and make the world a better place.

It is hard to disagree with such a goal, and, indeed, one finds much that is commendable in the current interfaith scene. But it is also a movement facing fundamental challenges and criticisms. The criticisms are best understood after surveying several recent developments. Together, these suggest that the jury is still out on the shape and future of interreligious dialogue. There is reason for both hope and concern.

Peter Ochs, who teaches at the University of Virginia, was tired of the parliament-style approach to interreligious dialogue that was in vogue for much of the twentieth century. This approach saw the mission of interreligious dialogue as issuing high-minded statements about peace while privileging a distinctively Western taxonomy of the “great world religions.” Deciding that something different was needed, Ochs launched the Scriptural Reasoning Project, which brings together Jews, Christians, and Muslims in deliberately small groups to read and discuss one another’s sacred texts. This format aims to work against the widespread canard that all religions teach basically the same thing. The mutual reading exercises invite participants not to downplay differences but to aim for “better quality disagreement” in an atmosphere of mutual respect. This method has its own society and its own journal (Journal of Scriptural Reasoning).

Chicago’s Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), founded in 2002, is a pioneer in inspiring young people with the ability of interfaith dialogue to nurture civil society and healthy pluralism. “Interfaith cooperation does not depend upon shared political, theological, and spiritual perspectives,” IFYC’s founder, Eboo Patel, insists. “People who engage in interfaith cooperation may disagree on such matters. The goal of interfaith leadership is to find ways to bring people together to build relationships, learn about each other, and participate in common action despite such differences.” Patel is also a critic of parliament-style dialogue, but he wants members of various faith communities to work together to increase “social capital” and sustain the virtues and practices necessary for self-government.

“What distinguishes the monastic approach to interreligious dialogue,” the organization’s secretary general, William Skudlarek, OSB, told me, “is an emphasis on hospitality and spiritual experience. Almost all events take place in monasteries, and the schedule is built around the liturgical horarium of the monastic community. In meetings with Buddhists, ample time is provided for common meditation. In meetings with Muslims, their times of prayer are also included in the schedule.”

Beyond interreligious studies, interreligious dialogue has given rise to another academic field: comparative theology. In contradistinction to dialogue proper and comparative religion (which strives for a more neutral approach), comparative theology insists that the theologian work from the standpoint of a particular tradition, but develop his or her thoughts in close conversation with another tradition. According to Harvard Divinity School’s Francis Clooney, SJ, comparative theology “marks acts of faith seeking understanding which are rooted in a particular faith tradition but which, from that foundation, venture into learning from one or more other faith traditions.” While novel in some respects, such an approach has venerable precedents in figures such as Thomas Aquinas and Maimonides, both of whom drew insights from all three Abrahamic traditions.

Intent on finding common ground, many dialogues have eschewed candidly discussing religious differences and settled for what the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has called “conversations of colorless compromise” [or bromides], which eventuate in “superficial joint declarations.” In many respects, this is an understandable goal, motivated by a desire to avoid the vitriolic polemics of the past. But perhaps an over-correction has now occurred. In a desire to arrive at tranquility, peace, not truth, has too often become the only goal of dialogue, and the (often unspoken) rules of dialogue work to reinforce this. But perhaps the time is ripe to retrieve an older Platonic sense of dialogue, in which mutual truth-seeking is the primary concern.

At the very least, boosters of dialogue should admit the downsides of producing, in the words of Cardinal Avery Dulles, “statements so diluted and broad that they become functionally meaningless [bromides].” Such an approach often rests on the debatable assumption that conflicts among “world religions” constitute the biggest impediment to global peace. To quote lines made famous by the late German Catholic theologian Hans Küng: “No peace among the nations without peace among the religions. No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions. No dialogue between the religions without investigation of the foundation of the religions.” Of course, conflicts between large religious traditions—say, between Christianity and Islam—have been a source of violence in the past. But it is harder than one might think to isolate religion as the principal cause of conflict, because differences of religion are almost always connected to ethnic, political, linguistic, economic, and geographical differences.

The fact that Muslims and Christians might get along in Seattle or Toronto but not in Sarajevo or Cairo suggests that far more than religious difference alone is at work in putatively religious conflicts. A comparable point is developed by William T. Cavanaugh in his book The Myth of Religious Violence (2009), where he argues that the category of “religious violence,” viewed in historical perspective, has insidiously drawn attention away from the more pervasive and enduring violence caused by the modern secular nation-state.

The key fault-lines have less to do with religious divisions per se than with social and political divisions expressed in a religious idiom. In recent decades, one also observes conflicts within particular traditions between anti-modern traditionalists and pro-modern reformers. In many respects, we might today be witnessing the globalization of the kind of “culture war” that the sociologist James Davison Hunter has explored in contemporary America. In Hunter’s analysis, the deepest disagreements in American society were no longer between Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, as had historically been the case, but between conservatives within these traditions (whom Hunter calls “the Orthodox”) and their more latitudinarian co-religionists (whom he calls “the Progressives”). In other words, the key fault-lines have less to do with religious divisions per se than with social and political divisions expressed in a religious idiom.

Ironically, interfaith dialogue itself has often produced internecine divisions within particular faith communities, divisions that fall roughly along “orthodox” and “progressive” lines. This is easy to see in the cases of Christianity and Judaism: progressive voices within these communities have strongly championed interreligious dialogue, whereas more conservative voices have worried that it will lead down a slippery slope toward relativism or feel-good syncretism. Interfaith ventures often fail, as Robert Wuthnow has noted, “because of opposition from other religious groups in the [same] religious community.” Today, the regnant ethos governing interreligious dialogue, especially in the academy, is that of pluralism—an ethos heartily embraced by progressives.

Interfaith engagement that self-selects—that attracts only those who are most open to it in the first place—profoundly misconstrues the reason for interfaith dialogue.

Whatever the future may bring, one can safely predict that it will not be wholly secular, as various prophets of modernity once predicted. Indeed, as Britain’s recently deceased Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has written: “great responsibility now lies with the world’s religious communities. Against expectations, they have emerged in the twenty-first century as key forces in a global age.” Insofar as interfaith dialogue can rise to address challenges and learn from criticisms as it continues to bring different religious communities together, it too can be a force for good, helping to shoulder this weighty responsibility.”  See https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/enough-bromides?utm_source=Main+Reader+List&utm_campaign=d1b1af8582-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_03_16_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_407bf353a2-d1b1af8582-92511949.  

 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Musings on Morality and Politics and the Need for a Civil Religion in America

    By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Religion and politics have always been interwoven; but it’s the moral imperatives of religion, not its mystical beliefs, that provide the standards of political legitimacy in a democracy.  Altruistic moral standards promote a politics of reconciliation among people of all races and religions, while exclusivist religious beliefs promote religious and political divisions.


The greatest commandment is a universal and altruistic moral imperative to love God by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, including those of other races, religions and political persuasions.  It’s a common word of faith of Jews, Christians and Muslims that should be at the foundation of political legitimacy in America’s pluralistic democracy--but it’s not.


Instead, the altruistic morality that once defined political legitimacy in America has fizzled out, leaving a moral vacuum.  It was a gradual process until 2016, when a majority of White Christians sacrificed Jesus on the altar of Republican politics and elected Donald Trump their President.  American democracy now needs a civil “religion” to restore its political legitimacy.


The church planted the seeds of its own demise long ago when it subordinated following the moral teachings of Jesus to exclusivist belief in Jesus Christ as the alter ego of God.  That opened the door to the church supporting the Moral Majority, which led to Trump’s election in 2016.  That was likely the beginning of the end of the White church as a major political power.


It’s doubtful that the church will ever change its evangelical priority from worshipping Jesus to following him.  The church is committed to being a popular social institution, and Jesus taught that following him would never be popular (Mt 7:13-14).  To abandon the cheap grace of worshipping Christ as the only means of salvation would undermine the popularity of the church.    


Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who never claimed to be divine and never advocated any religion, not even his own.  Thomas Jefferson was a deist who considered the moral teachings of Jesus as “the most sublime moral code ever designed by man.”  It’s time to pick up where Jefferson left off and codify an American civil religion based on the moral teachings of Jesus.


Christianity set out to change the world--but the world changed Christianity.  The church sacrificed the altruistic teachings of Jesus to become popular in a materialistic and hedonistic culture.  Democracy was nonexistent in the 1st century Palestinian world of Jesus.  America now needs a civil religion that defines political legitimacy for its 21st century democracy.  


Christianity has failed to address the challenges of democracy.  The teachings of Jesus are timeless standards of legitimacy, but they are silent on the stewardship of democracy, including human rights, political freedom and a just economy.  America needs a secular civil religion to preserve its libertarian democracy.  It must promote a politics of reconciliation and balance individual rights and partisan objectives with providing for the common good.

  


Notes on related commentaries:


Thomas Jefferson 

(3/17/18): Jefferson’s Jesus and Moral Standards in Religion and Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/03/jeffersons-jesus-and-moral-standards-in.html


Christian universalism  

(2/8/15): Promoting Religion Through Evangelism: Bringing Light or Darkness?

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/02/promoting-religion-through-evangelism.html

(2/15/15): Is Religion Good or Evil?

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/02/is-religion-good-or-evil.html

(4/5/15): Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/04/seeing-resurrection-in-new-light.html

(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism  

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/08/the-universalist-teachings-of-jesus-as.html.

(10/7/17): A 21st Century Reformation to Restore Reason to American Civil Religion http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/10/a-21st-century-reformation-to-restore.html.

((11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/11/musings-on-jesus-and-christ-as.html.


Civil religion

(10/7/17): A 21st Century Reformation to Restore Reason to American Civil Religion http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/10/a-21st-century-reformation-to-restore.html.

(9/1/18): Musings on the American Civil Religion and Christianity at a Crossroads

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/09/musings-on-american-civil-religion-and.html.

(3/27/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Civil Religion in a Divided America

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/03/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-civil.html.


Notes on the future of a church that has lost its moral compass:

(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/04/the-relevance-of-jesus-and-irrelevance.html

(4/29/17): A Wesleyan Alternative for an Irrelevant Church

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/04/a-wesleyan-alternative-to-irrelevant.html

(7/22/17): Hell No! 

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/07/hell-no.html.

(12/23/17): If Democracy Survives the Trump Era, Can the Church Survive Democracy? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/12/if-democracy-survives-trump-era-can.html.

(7/14/18): Musings on Why Christians Should Put Moral Standards Over Mystical Beliefs

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/07/musings-on-why-christians-should-put.html.

(9/7/19): Musings on the Self-Destruction of Christianity and American Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/09/musings-on-self-destruction-of.html.

(9/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Chaos as a Prelude to a New Creation

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/09/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-chaos.html

(11/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Virtual Alternative to a Failing Church

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/11/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on_9.html.

(12/28/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the End as a New Beginning

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/12/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-end-as.html.

(4/17/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Future of the Church

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/04/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-future.html?

(5/15/21): Musings on the Moral Failure of American Christianity and Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/05/musings-on-moral-failure-of-american.html.