The Nation-State with the Ethic of a Church

What does it mean to be American?

“For the Catholic community, the Gospel mandate to ‘welcome the stranger’ is a searing responsibility, not only in our personal lives, but also in guiding our efforts to create a just society in a world filled with suffering and turmoil,” San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy wrote in a statement about the executive orders.

“For this reason, the historic identity of the United States as a safe haven for refugees fleeing war and persecution is for American Catholics both a source of justifiable pride and an unswerving religious commitment, even as we recognize that at shameful moments in our national history prejudice, fear and ignorance have led our country to abandon that identity.”

We heard Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich state: “It is time to put aside fear and join together to recover who we are and what we represent to a world badly in need of hope and solidarity. ‘If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.’ Pope Francis issued these challenging words to Congress in 2015, and followed with a warning that should haunt us as we come to terms with the events of the weekend: ‘The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.’ ” The cardinal’s statement got so many hits, the archdiocesan website crashed.

What does it mean to be Roman Catholic?

When it comes to religious affiliation, a distinctive pattern has emerged in President Donald Trump’s new administration: Most of the high-ranking appointees to military-related positions hail from a Catholic background.

That includes not only Gen. James Mattis, who was sworn in as secretary of defense in late January, but also the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Gen. John Kelly. The pattern holds with the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who is also a general and grew up in an Irish-Catholic family in Rhode Island.

Other high-ranking Catholics include the Army secretary appointee, Vincent Viola, an Army veteran and major donor to Fordham University; and Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was tapped to serve as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff under President Barack Obama and is viewed as likely to continue in that role.

That so many Catholics ended up in top military positions is not necessarily by design, but it is nonetheless significant, according to several military historians.

Lisa Mundey, a military historian at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, said the appointments reflect broader social trends. “I think what is interesting is how well Catholics are integrated into society [now] than they were historically,” Mundey said. A key turning point was the election of John F. Kennedy as president in 1960, which especially paved the way for other Catholics to serve in key government posts, according to Mundey.

Another watershed moment was the end of the draft and the birth of the all-volunteer army, in 1973. Since then, more of those who serve in the military have been making their careers there, according to Mundey.

The armed forces provide an environment that is friendly to the expression of faith, according to William Leeman, a military historian at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, who formerly taught at West Point. “They seem very comfortable with their religion, in the sense that it seems to be a more conservative environment,” Leeman said.

For those in the military, their faith can help them get through the hardships they face, becoming an important part of their service, Leeman said.

The cafeteria is opening a franchise near you soon.

7 thoughts on “The Nation-State with the Ethic of a Church

  1. The ethic of the American empire is to kill to protect “religious freedom”, just so long as this freedom is understand as the private practice of something which agrees to also be loyal to the American empire and to killing for the sake of the corporate adventures of the enterprises owned by George Washington and the rest of the one percent.

    DGH–“Denominationalism is precisely the sort of ecclesiology to emerge in modern liberal societies where ecclesiastical establishments no longer exist and liberal democratic governments protect freedom of religion. ..Believers are divided in the ordinary parts of their lives. They do not live together. They do not dine together. Sometimes they do not even see another church member for an entire week. Is this situation fundamentally a betrayal of Christ’s plea for his followers to be united? Is it simply the way life is? Or should we think about church unity in a way that adjusts to these circumstances even if members of a local congregation sometimes appear to have less in common than the local chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars?


  2. Take away the Southern Baptists, and there is no Christendom left in the south Woodrow Wilson was a Protestant. You are a Protestant. Therefore America is your fault.

    Sames Kurth (The Protestant Deformation) —” American foreign policy has been, and continues to be, shaped by the Protestant origins of the United States. But the Protestantism that has shaped American foreign policy over two centuries has not been the original religion but a series of successive departures from it down the scale of what might be called the Protestant declension. ..In the new ideology, the individual’s rights are independent of any hierarchy or community, traditions or customs, in which that individual might be situated. This means that human rights are applicable to any individual, anywhere in the world, i.e., they are universal, and not merely communal or national… The result appears to be totally opposite from the totalitarianism of the state, but it is a sort of totalitarianism of the self…. relentless in breaking down mediating institutions that stand between the individual and the highest powers. Expressive individualism — with its contempt for and protest against all hierarchies, communities, traditions, and customs — represents the logical conclusion and the ultimate extreme of the secularization of the Protestant religion.”

    Rod Dreher–Next week, I’m going to Louisville to give four lectures on the Benedict Option at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College Since I began this Ben Op project, I have been amazed and delighted by the enthusiasm that younger Evangelical Protestants have shown for it. .. I sense a real creative ferment there for grounding in tradition, and a pushback against Americanist individualism…


  3. Catholic churches in the U.S. are wind tunnels. And Catholics who take the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics seriously are close to non-existent outside of SSPX chapels. And a self-righteous bishop wants to talk about what is “searing”? I’ll tell you what is searing: the epic double talk of contemporary Catholic theology and practice, and the shameless abandonment of Catholic tradition by an Argentine pope so heritage-minded he dismisses the minority swath of Catholic faithful that have actually kept the modern Church afloat for the last fifty years while modernist priests meanwhile shipwrecked a noble historic edifice wi their immorality, dysfunction, and bad theology. Bishop McElroymight try teaching a catechesis class, but, oh, that’s right, outside of bridal couples and latinos, those are now completely empty. He should go resuscitate his church, and quit trying to sanctimoniously direct a nation’s social policies when his own people won’t even follow his teachings much less subsidize his diocesan budgets. #SAD!

    Hey, if I sound irate, *you* try trying to convert to Catholicism. That fool’s errand engenders bitterness as well as self-loathing.


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