Americanists All

Folks in other faiths or branches of THE faith are either worried or desirous of America working its wonders on belief and practice.

Richard Mouw, for instance, recognizes the problem of his former advocacy of a post-American Christianity in comparison to his hopes for Muslims to find a form of Islam that fits with American realities:

Sojourners magazine was originally given the name Post-American, and in my own activist association with that magazine in those early days I responded positively to Jim Wallis’s message that some of us in the evangelical world wanted to proclaim a “post-American Christianity” to a “post-Christian America.” There are times when it is important to boldly counter the excesses of patriotism with reminders that our supreme allegiance should be to a Kingdom that transcends the kingdoms of this world. . . .

But now after 9/11 Americanized religion doesn’t look so bad:

I read recently that some young Muslims in the United States are complaining that what goes on in their mosques is not “American” enough. They say that the patterns of worship and religious education seem designed to preserve the connections to the countries from which their Muslim communities emigrated, while these young folks want their faith to guide them in their lives in America. Shouldn’t their leaders be doing more, they ask, to help them understand how their faith applies to the country of which they are now citizens?

I say: Good for them. I hope they succeed in getting a positive response from their elders.

On the other side of coin are some Roman Catholics, like Michael Sean Winters, who argue that politically conservative Roman Catholics have capitulated to American norms:

[These conservatives show], instead, the deep level of secularization that has long afflicted the American Catholic right when it comes to issues of social and political obligations. They refuse to let very explicit Catholic teaching challenge, still less refute, their political and economic theories. They are quick to object to secularization in other areas, but the Gospel is not permitted to instruct those areas of life where most people spend most of their time and energy, in the marketplace of business and politics. In this sense, they are as lukewarm in the Catholicism as a casual critic of Humanae Vitae. This may never provoke a formal schism, but I fear that non-formal schisms are often just as potent.

I wonder yet again why Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum gets to set the standard for Roman Catholic social teaching but not Urban II’s call for the Crusades. Weren’t the Crusades all about extending Christian society to Muslim-occupied territories? How does Winters get around that social teaching and could it be the same way that GOP Roman Catholics get around Leo XIII?

But I digress.

Meanwhile, in Reformed Protestant circles, all-of-life Calvinists, whether theonomic or neo-Calvinist, regularly worry that 2k is an Americanized and secularized and relativized form of Protestantism. It may be. But Presbyterians in the U. S. of A. have been living with this Americanized Presbyterianism for over two centuries and objections are only about three decades old.

Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

If Roman Catholics and Muslims want help with adapting to America, just look to those upholding the spirituality of the church.


14 thoughts on “Americanists All

  1. Perhaps the argument should be broader than just America. We should look at this in terms of democracy and I would like to see your quoting of the WCF and raise you the following quote by American-Israeli activist, Jeff Halper:

    An ethnocracy is the opposite of democracy, although it might incorporate some elements of democracy such as universal citizenship and elections. It arises when one particular group–the Jews in Israel, Russians in Russia (and, more evidently, in the former Soviet Union), the Protestants in pre-1972 Northern Ireland, the whites in apartheid South Africa, the Shi’ite Muslims of Iran, the Malay in Malaysia, and, if they had their way, the white Christian Fundamentalists in the US–seizes control of the government and armed forces in order to enforce a regime of exclusive privilege over other groups is in what is in fact a multi-ethnic or multi-religious society. Ethnocracy, or ethno-nationalism, privileges ethnos over demos, whereby one’s ethnic affiliation, be it defined by race, descent, religion, language or national origin, takes precedence over citizenship in determining to whom the country actually “belongs.” Israel is referred to explicitly as a “Jewish Democracy.”

    Now perhaps this doesn’t add to the WCF statement in terms of religion. That depends. It depends on whether those of non-Christian faiths or even atheists were being referred to here when the confession referred to ‘religion’ and ‘religious.’ Those who are well aware of England’s history could weigh in on this. We should only note the trouble Quakers initially had with the Puritans in New England. Unfortunately, the WCF statement does not also include those of different races in their statement though that could be just as understandable considering the location and context in which the WCF was written.

    I would also add that privileged position here should be considered to be measured on a continuum, not as a discrete value.


  2. If you don’t want to Americanized, Roman Catholicize America:

    The Second Vatican Council said that your task is to “animate the temporal order” with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This means that our civil laws should reflect truth: the truth about the dignity of every human person; the truth about the sovereignty of families; the truth about the rights of children, and the disabled, and the elderly. You’re called to bring our communities, our state, and our nation to the truest and deepest kind of justice.

    Public life has to be more than a hobby or an interest. Public service—through days like this, through voting, through military service, or even through election to public office—is a part of the everyday vocation of Christian. John Paul said that, “the lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in public life.”


  3. Curt, but some of us have taken vows with respect to the former language.

    The stuff you like is to quote and go on and on and on about is, yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.


  4. It would be interesting to attempt the “spirituality of the Mosque” but it’s unlikely. The improbability is rooted in the essential differences between Christianity and Islam. Jesus led no military missions to expand Christianity neither did he authorize them. The same cannot be said for the Prophet and Islam.


  5. Those who are not yet “post-theocratic” are not yet American?

    Scott Clark—To anticipate an objection, this is not a theocratic argument. It is not the magistrate’s duty to police every sort of violation of natural law and sin. For example, no one but theocrats want the state enforcing obedience to the first table of the law.,, Thus, this isn’t really a discussion about whether the state should regulate sexual behavior or even marriage but to what extent and on what grounds. I argue that the state should regulate marriage on the basis of natural, creational law and that those who advocate pushing back the boundaries of marriage to include homosexual marriage are advocating the recognition of the violation of natural, creational law recognized in the West by pagans and Christians for two thousand years…..The argument against homosexual marriage is not a “theocratic” argument, but an argument from the nature of things grounded in natural revelation, in the most fundamental observations about how human beings relate to one another, about what it is to be human, about what it is to be a civil society, about what a family is, and ultimately, that there really is such a thing as nature or creation itself that limits the choices of sovereign, ostensibly autonomous late modern humans….


  6. Teofilo Patini, the great Italian painter from my neck of the woods painted L’erde (The Heir).

    The kind of poverty he depicted was close to abolished by 1968 but the ruins of WW II remained here and there and hot running water was still not available. What he needed wasn’t Revolutionary Changes, he needed capital and a banker like Amadeo Giannini.

    I spent the summer of 1968 in Italy and I was 12. I recognized my uncle at Fumicino and I’d only seen his face in a photograph. I left Italy when I was two but when I saw his face in the airport crowd, I said to my Mom in Italian and while pointing, Uncle Nick is over there!

    The maturation leap I took was a pretty good awakening itself. I came back a different girl.

    This post makes me feel melancholy and makes me miss my parents deeply. Sinceramente, DGH, grazie!

    Dopo Scritta:

    Per la cronaca futuro della bella unificazione:

    Americanists All: Anathema Thursday Hall hardest hit!


  7. I have every confidence that wealth in America will transform Muslims here to more amenable theological views, as that same wealth has already altered Christian religion. And they don’t even have the Holy Spirit to keep any semblance of purity to their doctrine. Muslims here have every reason to compromise their beliefs to gain personal wealth.

    Not only the wealth, but internet should take its toll. The liberalizing of Mormonism through the abundance of online sources (even the Mormon Church is admitting Smith’s polygamy now) that’s taken place in recent years will similarly affect Islam.

    Of course, that’s not as exciting as beating the war drums to bomb every country in the Middle East to “defend” the United State.


  8. Being a libertarian, I don’t feel any innate desire to protect America. I’m more concerned about protecting my personal freedoms and my right to do horrible things to myself if I wanted to.

    Not that I ever would, of course. I just want the option.

    I also think that in these discussions, people tend to conflate government with society. I don’t think it’s possible for government to change the hearts of men. That’s God’s job innit? Christians shouldn’t be surprised that gay people want to get married and break God’s Law. Original sin and all that.

    At the very least, perhaps a reading of the City of God will make people see the futility in trying to preserve anything. Perhaps being involved with those who are our immediate neighbours is the best thing we can do. Perhaps we should just accept that America is fallen, and begin to arm ourselves for the oncoming apocalypse.

    Or maybe I should take my medications. 😀

    Though in all seriousness, I’ve met some Muslims during my time at University. They’re rather secularized, or are becoming secularized. It’s only a matter of time before the free market devours them like it has done to us.

    Oh and maybe people should study Dutch history too, I don’t see Kuyper’s Netherlands anywhere. <_<


  9. Andrew,
    It’s not about language, it’s about concepts. And the real test for mastering a concept is seen when one can recognize parts of a concept in someone else’s words. The fear of someone else’s words will drive us to literalism and imitation without full understanding.

    BTW, can you list one concept from the quote with which you disagree? And can you answer my question about whether the quoted statement from the WCF was advocating equality and liberty for nonChristian religions too?


  10. Curt,

    Your quote is fine. Thanks for sharing it.

    And what is this confession and why are we here discussing it?

    When the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was formed in 1788, it adopted the Westminster standards, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.

    Of course the WCF advocates equality and liberty for nonChristian religion (If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18 ESV)).

    Sorry you didn’t get Darryl to respond, and only me. And I have to be short – Batman won’t watch itself.


  11. Dr Clark,
    Jesus may have not led any military expedition but many of his later followers did and did so in his name. And the point of Mohammad’s expeditions was not military adventurism but providing justice as he saw it. And he had a lot of faults there. But so do those in the Church who, because of silence, are complicit in the military adventurism of others.

    It simply comes down to Romans 3:9. Or it comes down to the parable of the 2 men praying. Or it comes down to Romans 2:1ff. Yes, let’s openly talk about the faults of Islam. But let’s also talk about our own faults too lest we give unbelievers the impression that we believe we are saved by works.


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