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Thread: Is 'Americanism' a Religion?

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    Senior Member FadeTheButcher's Avatar
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    Your "significance" in global affairs rests on your military hegemony which you achieved because the Anglo element in Europe betrayed our continent and because over the last century you have done everything in your power to undermine and destroy Europe.
    The United States is not a European nation. It is part of North America, which is an entirely different continent. And Americans have hardly "betrayed" Europe either, as we have no allegiance whatsoever to it in the first place. The majority of our ancestors came here to make a better life for themselves and leave Europe behind. And to be perfectly honest, that is precisely what we have done, as the U.S. left Europe in the dust over a century ago when it began to degenerate and go into decline for largely internal reasons.

    But you seem to have a problem accepting that. This stems from your own exaggerated sense of self-importance and your inability to understand that you lost both world wars. Maybe this is why you worship a dead guy and his deceased cult. You hate Americans in precisely the same manner that children hate their parents. You are a lot of whine . . . but that's about it. In reality, you know very well who's the boss. Want to know the difference between the Romans and the Americans? The Americans conquered Germany. Funny how the master race can't seem to win wars . . . or urinate while standing! :icon_evil

    Rome, AC... Rome, DC?

    http://www.globalpolicy.org/empire/...02/0918rome.htm

    By Jonathan Freedland

    Guardian
    September 18, 2002

    They came, they saw, they conquered, and now the Americans dominate the world like no nation before. But is the US really the Roman empire of the 21st century? And if so, is it on the rise - or heading for a fall? Jonathan Freedland sifts the evidence.

    The word of the hour is empire. As the United States marches to war, no other label quite seems to capture the scope of American power or the scale of its ambition. "Sole superpower" is accurate enough, but seems oddly modest. "Hyperpower" may appeal to the French; "hegemon" is favoured by academics. But empire is the big one, the gorilla of geopolitical designations - and suddenly America is bearing its name.

    Of course, enemies of the US have shaken their fist at its "imperialism" for decades: they are doing it again now, as Washington wages a global "war against terror" and braces itself for a campaign aimed at "regime change" in a foreign, sovereign state. What is more surprising, and much newer, is that the notion of an American empire has suddenly become a live debate inside the US. And not just among Europhile liberals either, but across the range - from left to right.

    Today a liberal dissenter such as Gore Vidal, who called his most recent collection of essays on the US The Last Empire, finds an ally in the likes of conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. Earlier this year Krauthammer told the New York Times, "People are coming out of the closet on the word 'empire'." He argued that Americans should admit the truth and face up to their responsibilities as the undisputed masters of the world. And it wasn't any old empire he had in mind. "The fact is, no country has been as dominant culturally, economically, technologically and militarily in the history of the world since the Roman empire."

    Accelerated by the post-9/11 debate on America's role in the world, the idea of the United States as a 21st-century Rome is gaining a foothold in the country's consciousness. The New York Review of Books illustrated a recent piece on US might with a drawing of George Bush togged up as a Roman centurion, complete with shield and spears. Earlier this month Boston's WBUR radio station titled a special on US imperial power with the Latin tag Pax Americana. Tom Wolfe has written that the America of today is "now the mightiest power on earth, as omnipotent as... Rome under Julius Caesar".

    But is the comparison apt? Are the Americans the new Romans? In making a documentary film on the subject over the past few months, I put that question to a group of people uniquely qualified to know. Not experts on US defence strategy or American foreign policy, but Britain's leading historians of the ancient world. They know Rome intimately - and, without exception, they are struck by the similarities between the empire of now and the imperium of then.

    The most obvious is overwhelming military strength. Rome was the superpower of its day, boasting an army with the best training, biggest budgets and finest equipment the world had ever seen. No one else came close. The United States is just as dominant - its defence budget will soon be bigger than the military spending of the next nine countries put together, allowing the US to deploy its forces almost anywhere on the planet at lightning speed. Throw in the country's global technological lead, and the US emerges as a power without rival.

    There is a big difference, of course. Apart from the odd Puerto Rico or Guam, the US does not have formal colonies, the way the Romans (or British, for that matter) always did. There are no American consuls or viceroys directly ruling faraway lands.

    But that difference between ancient Rome and modern Washington may be less significant than it looks. After all, America has done plenty of conquering and colonising: it's just that we don't see it that way. For some historians, the founding of America and its 19th-century push westward were no less an exercise in empire-building than Rome's drive to take charge of the Mediterranean. While Julius Caesar took on the Gauls - bragging that he had slaughtered a million of them - the American pioneers battled the Cherokee, the Iroquois and the Sioux. "From the time the first settlers arrived in Virginia from England and started moving westward, this was an imperial nation, a conquering nation," according to Paul Kennedy, author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.

    More to the point, the US has military bases, or base rights, in some 40 countries across the world - giving it the same global muscle it would enjoy if it ruled those countries directly. (When the US took on the Taliban last autumn, it was able to move warships from naval bases in Britain, Japan, Germany, southern Spain and Italy: the fleets were already there.) According to Chalmers Johnson, author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, these US military bases, numbering into the hundreds around the world, are today's version of the imperial colonies of old. Washington may refer to them as "forward deployment", says Johnson, but colonies are what they are. On this definition, there is almost no place outside America's reach. Pentagon figures show that there is a US military presence, large or small, in 132 of the 190 member states of the United Nations.

    So America may be more Roman than we realise, with garrisons in every corner of the globe. But there the similarities only begin. For the United States' entire approach to empire looks quintessentially Roman. It's as if the Romans bequeathed a blueprint for how imperial business should be done - and today's Americans are following it religiously.

    Lesson one in the Roman handbook for imperial success would be a realisation that it is not enough to have great military strength: the rest of the world must know that strength - and fear it too. The Romans used the propaganda technique of their time - gladiatorial games in the Colosseum - to show the world how hard they were. Today 24-hour news coverage of US military operations - including video footage of smart bombs scoring direct hits - or Hollywood shoot-'em-ups at the multiplex serve the same function. Both tell the world: this empire is too tough to beat.

    The US has learned a second lesson from Rome, realising the centrality of technology. For the Romans, it was those famously straight roads, enabling the empire to move troops or supplies at awesome speeds - rates that would not be surpassed for well over a thousand years. It was a perfect example of how one imperial strength tends to feed another: an innovation in engineering, originally designed for military use, went on to boost Rome commercially. Today those highways find their counterpart in the information superhighway: the internet also began as a military tool, devised by the US defence department, and now stands at the heart of American commerce. In the process, it is making English the Latin of its day - a language spoken across the globe. The US is proving what the Romans already knew: that once an empire is a world leader in one sphere, it soon dominates in every other.

    But it is not just specific tips that the US seems to have picked up from its ancient forebears. Rather, it is the fundamental approach to empire that echoes so loudly. Rome understood that, if it is to last, a world power needs to practise both hard imperialism, the business of winning wars and invading lands, and soft imperialism, the cultural and political tricks that work not to win power but to keep it. So Rome's greatest conquests came not at the end of a spear, but through its power to seduce conquered peoples. As Tacitus observed in Britain, the natives seemed to like togas, baths and central heating - never realising that these were the symbols of their "enslavement". Today the US offers the people of the world a similarly coherent cultural package, a cluster of goodies that remain reassuringly uniform wherever you are. It's not togas or gladiatorial games today, but Starbucks, Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Disney, all paid for in the contemporary equivalent of Roman coinage, the global hard currency of the 21st century: the dollar.

    When the process works, you don't even have to resort to direct force; it is possible to rule by remote control, using friendly client states. This is a favourite technique for the contemporary US - no need for colonies when you have the Shah in Iran or Pinochet in Chile to do the job for you - but the Romans got there first. They ruled by proxy whenever they could. We, of all people, should know: one of the most loyal of client kings ruled right here, in the southern England of the first century AD. His name was Togidubnus and you can still visit the grand palace that was his at Fishbourne in Sussex. The mosaic floors, in remarkable condition, are reminders of the cool palatial quarters where guests would have gathered for preprandial drinks or a perhaps an audience with the king. Historians now believe that Togidubnus was a high-born Briton educated in Rome, brought back to Fishbourne and installed as a pro-Roman puppet. Just as Washington's elite private schools are full of the "pro-western" Arab kings, South American presidents or African leaders of the future, so Rome took in the heirs of the conquered nations' top families, preparing them for lives as rulers in Rome's interest.

    And Togidubnus did not let his masters down. When Boudicca led her uprising against the Roman occupation in AD60, she made great advances in Colchester, St Albans and London - but not Sussex. Historians now believe that was because Togidubnus kept the native Britons under him in line. Just as Hosni Mubarak and Pervez Musharraf have kept the lid on anti-American feeling in Egypt and Pakistan, Togidubnus did the same job for Rome nearly two millennia ago.

    Not that it always worked. Rebellions against the empire were a permanent fixture, with barbarians constantly pressing at the borders. Some accounts suggest that the rebels were not always fundamentally anti-Roman; they merely wanted to share in the privileges and affluence of Roman life. If that has a familiar ring, consider this: several of the enemies who rose up against Rome are thought to have been men previously nurtured by the empire to serve as pliant allies. Need one mention former US protege Saddam Hussein or one-time CIA trainee Osama bin Laden?

    Rome even had its own 9/11 moment. In the 80s BC, Hellenistic king Mithridates called on his followers to kill all Roman citizens in their midst, naming a specific day for the slaughter. They heeded the call - and killed 80,000 Romans in local communities across Greece. "The Romans were incredibly shocked by this," says ancient historian Jeremy Paterson of Newcastle University. "It's a little bit like the statements in so many of the American newspapers since September 11: 'Why are we hated so much?' " Internally, too, today's United States would strike many Romans as familiar terrain. America's mythologising of its past - its casting of founding fathers Washington and Jefferson as heroic titans, its folk-tale rendering of the Boston Tea Party and the war of independence - is very Roman. That empire, too, felt the need to create a mythic past, starred with heroes. For them it was Aeneas and the founding of Rome, but the urge was the same: to show that the great nation was no accident, but the fruit of manifest destiny.

    And America shares Rome's conviction that it is on a mission sanctioned from on high. Augustus declared himself the son of a god, raising a statue to his adoptive father Julius Caesar on a podium alongside Mars and Venus. The US dollar bill bears the words "In God we trust" and US politicians always like to end their speeches with "God bless America."

    Even that most modern American trait, its ethnic diversity, would make the Romans feel comfortable. Their society was remarkably diverse, taking in people from all over the world - and even promising new immigrants the chance to rise to the very top (so long as they were from the right families). While America is yet to have a non-white president, Rome boasted an emperor from north Africa, Septimius Severus. According to classicist Emma Dench, Rome had its own version of America's "hyphenated" identities. Like the Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans of today, Rome's citizens were allowed a "cognomen" - an extra name to convey their Greek-Roman or British-Roman heritage: Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus.

    There are some large differences between the two empires, of course - starting with self-image. Romans revelled in their status as masters of the known world, but few Americans would be as ready to brag of their own imperialism. Indeed, most would deny it. But that may come down to the US's founding myth. For America was established as a rebellion against empire, in the name of freedom and self-government. Raised to see themselves as a rebel nation and plucky underdog, they can't quite accept their current role as master.

    One last factor scares Americans from making a parallel between themselves and Rome: that empire declined and fell. The historians say this happens to all empires; they are dynamic entities that follow a common path, from beginning to middle to end.

    "What America will need to consider in the next 10 or 15 years," says Cambridge classicist Christopher Kelly, "is what is the optimum size for a nonterritorial empire, how interventionist will it be outside its borders, what degree of control will it wish to exercise, how directly, how much through local elites? These were all questions which pressed upon the Roman empire." Anti-Americans like to believe that an operation in Iraq might be proof that the US is succumbing to the temptation that ate away at Rome: overstretch. But it's just as possible that the US is merely moving into what was the second phase of Rome's imperial history, when it grew frustrated with indirect rule through allies and decided to do the job itself. Which is it? Is the US at the end of its imperial journey, or on the brink of its most ambitious voyage? Only the historians of the future can tell us that.
    The Phora

    "There are no principles; there are only events. There is no good and bad, there are only circumstances. The superior man espouses events and circumstances in order to guide them. If there were principles and fixed laws, nations would not change them as we change our shirts and a man can not be expected to be wiser than an entire nation."
    —Honoré de Balzac

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    Quote Originally Posted by FadeTheButcher
    Oh. So you want to talk about the truth now? Okay. Snort,
    chortle — seriously — guffaw… Let's step out of your make believe fantasy world where the Third Reich still exists and take a look at reality.
    Jesus Christ is deader than a door nail, and it doesn't stop millions of CONservatives like yourself from worshipping him.


    Quote Originally Posted by FadeTheButcher
    The so-called Aryan race doesn't exist. Perhaps you are referring to all the Nazis we wiped off the face of the earth in between 1941 and 1945. We terminated all those losers decades ago.
    You are nothing but an Enemy that should be fitted with a Braided "Neck-Tie."

    National Socialism lives in the hearts of many around the world. Deal with it, prick.
    ?In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.?

    -- George Orwell

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    Senior Member k0nsl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kristallnacht
    They say "Nazis" but mean Germans....
    Yep, NEVER forget that 'Hitler', Gestapo', 'The Nazis', etc., are ALL code words for 'German'. That is the reason for the incessant vilification of all these names and concepts. There is NEVER any philosophical reason given, always intellectual trash such as - They were abominable, Their philosophy was unacceptable, etc.

    -k0nsl
    "Arbeit edelt". Work ennobles.

    Jewish-style wisecrack: The apple a day that changed history - the one Hitler never ate.

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    Senior Member FadeTheButcher's Avatar
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    The Roman analogy is fascinating but it actually does not suffice. The Roman Empire was at its height a regional hegemon. There has never been anything in history remotely like the American empire today.

    "All told, there have been no more than seventy empires in history. If the Times Atlas of World History is to be believed, the American is, by any account, the sixty-eighth. (Communist China is the sixty-ninth; some would claim than the European Union is the seventieth.) How different is the American empire from previous empires? Like the ancient Egyptian, it erects towering edifices in its heartland, though these house the living rather than the dead. Like the Athenian Empire, it has proved itself adept at leading alliances against a rival power. Like the empire of Alexander, it has a staggering geographical range. Like the Chinese Empire that arose in the Ch'in era and reached its zenith under the Ming dynasty, it has united the lands and peoples of a vast territory and forged them into a true nation-state. Like the Roman Empire, it has a system of citizenship that is remarkably open. Purple Hearts and U.S. citizenship were conferred simultaneously on a number of the soldiers serving in Iraq last year, just as service in the legions was once a route to becoming a civis romanus. Indeed, with the classical architecture of its capital and the republican structure of its constitution, the United States is perhaps more like a "new Rome" than any previous empire -- albeit a Rome in which the Senate has thus far retained its grip on would-be emperors. In its relationship with Western Europe too, the United States sometimes seem like a second Rome, though it seems premature to hail Brussels as the new Byzantium. . .

    Nor should it be forgotten what formidable military technology can be unleashed from these bases. Commentators like to point out that "the Pentagon's budget is equal to the combined military budgets of the next 12 or 15 nations" and that "the U.S. accounts for 40-45 percent of all defense spending of the world's 189 states." Such fiscal measures, impressive though they sound, nevertheless understate the lead currently enjoyed by American armed forces. On land the United States has 9,000 M1 Abrams tanks. The rest of the world has nothing that can compete. At sea the United States possesses nine "supercarrier" battle groups. The rest of the world has none. And in the air the United States has three different kind of undetectable stealth aircraft. The rest of the world has none. The United States is also far ahead in the production of "smart" missles and pilotless high-altitude "drones." The British Empire never enjoyed this kind of military lead over the competition. Granted, there was a time when its network of naval and military bases bore a superficial resemblance to America's today. The number of troops stationed abroad was also roughly the same. The British too relished their technological superiority, whether it took the form of the Maxim gun or the Dreadnought. But their empire never dominated the full spectrum of military capabilities the way the United States does today. Though the Royal Navy ruled the waves, the French and later the Germans -- to say nothing of the Americans -- were able to build fleets that posed credible threats to that maritime dominance, while the British army was generally much smaller and more widely dispersed than the armies of the continental empires.

    If military power is the sine qua non of an empire, then it is hard to imagine how anyone could deny the imperial character of the United States today. Conventional maps of U.S. military deployments understate the extent of America's military reach. A Defense Department map of the world, which shows the areas of responsibility of the five major regional commands, suggests that America's sphere of military influence is now literally global. The regional combatant commanders -- the "proconsuls" of this imperium -- have responsibility for swaths of territory beyond the wildest imaginations of their Roman predecessors. USEUCOM extends from the westernmost shore of Greenland to the Bering Strait, from the Artic Ocean to the Cape of Good hope, from Iceland to Israel."

    Ferguson, pp.14-17
    The Phora

    "There are no principles; there are only events. There is no good and bad, there are only circumstances. The superior man espouses events and circumstances in order to guide them. If there were principles and fixed laws, nations would not change them as we change our shirts and a man can not be expected to be wiser than an entire nation."
    —Honoré de Balzac

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    Senior Member FadeTheButcher's Avatar
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    Jesus Christ is deader than a door nail, and it doesn't stop millions of CONservatives like yourself from worshipping him.
    You seem to be a little confused. Jesus Christ has some relevance in the modern world. He has over a billion followers today. Adolf Hitler is just some sadistic dictator that lost WW2 . . . a man held in contempt in his own country.
    You are nothing but an Enemy that should be fitted with a Braided "Neck-Tie."
    BANG! That was the last thought that went through your hero's mind. :
    National Socialism lives in the hearts of many around the world. Deal with it, prick.
    (chews bubble gum)

    LOL okay.
    The Phora

    "There are no principles; there are only events. There is no good and bad, there are only circumstances. The superior man espouses events and circumstances in order to guide them. If there were principles and fixed laws, nations would not change them as we change our shirts and a man can not be expected to be wiser than an entire nation."
    —Honoré de Balzac

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    Account Inactive Draugr's Avatar
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    I believe the term 'Americanism' was applied to Irish and Italian Catholics in America, to denote the fact that they put being 'American' ahead of being Catholic. This fact was brought to the attention of the Pope by the German Catholics in America.

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    Is 'Americanism' a Religion?

    Is 'Americanism' a religion?

    By Spengler

    Islamists and neo-conservatives concur in calling "Americanism" a religion, the "worst-ever theology" in the view of the former, but according to the latter, "the beliefs that make Americans positive that their nation is superior to all others - morally superior, closer to God". The quotations come respectively from Abid Ullah Jan at the Tanzeem-e-Islami website, and from Professor David Gelernter in the January 2005 Commentary magazine.

    America stems from a religious movement and displays a marked religious character, but its actual religious life is splintered among scores of major denominations. Gelernter wants to lump it all into a generic American religion. He is just as wrong as the Islamists. Both confound American religion with the Bush administration's strategic agenda. American Christianity at once is more personal and strategically more powerful than either the Islamists or the neo-conservatives imagine.

    The neo-conservatives are ideologues, not God-fearers, and they habitually confuse their political agenda with the kind of religious conviction that transforms the world. In an August 10, 2004, essay I attacked the idea that Islam was a political ideology rather than a religion. More than a billion people embrace Islam with a passion because it is indeed a religion, promising continuity to fragile societies beset by global pressures. Islam's genius, I contended, is to promise to remake the world in the image of traditional society through jihad (Islam: Religion or political ideology?). What America offers Muslims by way of social progress - shopping malls, broadband Internet, and voter registration drives - represents a deadly threat to traditional society.

    Religion proposes not to create a more perfect union, nor to safeguard individual rights, but to vanquish death. America never has had a dominant religion. On the contrary: America has had to rediscover Christianity every few generations, in the form of new "Great Awakenings" (see What makes the US a Christian nation, Nov 30, 2004). The first Great Awakening made the Revolution, and the second made the Civil War. Today's evangelical Great Awakening well may spill out of its American confines and change the course of the world.

    Gelernter is a distinguished computer scientist, sadly a victim of the Unabomber, who now has become an amateur theologian. Religion absorbs the aging neo-conservatives, and Gelernter shows an authentic interest in matters spiritual. One cannot dismiss him as another acolyte of Leo Strauss promoting religion as a useful public myth. But a tin ear for matters of the soul afflicts Gelernter along with other neo-conservatives. In 2003 I drew attention to a volume on the Hebrew prophets by Norman Podhoretz, Commentary's editor-at-large (Neo-cons in a religious bind, Jun 5, 2003). Podhoretz, a literary pundit and promoter of single-issue causes, imagines that the prophets were pundits like him promoting a single-issue cause ("the war against idolatry"). Now Gelernter avers, "Americanism is in fact a Judeo-Christian religion; a millenarian religion; a biblical religion." This is utter and complete rubbish.

    Gelernter retreads the often-told story of the Puritan Fathers' desire to become (as he puts it) "God's new chosen people, living in God's new promised land ... God's new Israel". He concludes:
    To sum up Americanism's creed as freedom, equality, and democracy for all is to state only half the case. The other half deals with a promised land, a chosen people, and a universal, divinely ordained mission. This part of Americanism is the American version of biblical Zionism; in short, American Zionism.
    America has deep roots in the Hebrew Bible (Mahathir is right: Jews do rule the world, Oct 28, 2003), but Gelernter has misread them. Islamists misread matters the same way, for what that is worth. Abid Ullah Jan complains:
    Radicalism, fanaticism and fundamentalism are the terms exclusively used for religions such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism. But the worst form of fanaticism that we witness today is of the American domination theology, which is even worse than a cult ... Americans who note that America is a bastion of democracy and country of peace and tolerance are right, but only in a narrow bookish sense which hides the facts that America's foundations lie in the genocide of natives and 100 years of lynchings. Other than that, the history of US invading and terrorizing other states, carving state territories from other's land and imposing its hegemony dates as back to the day when America came into existence.
    That the Puritan founders of America spoke of a New Israel founding a new Promised Land is well known; readers who wish to learn more about biblical religion in the American Colonial period would do well to consult the work of Michael Novak, a Catholic theologian at Georgetown University, or Paul Johnson's History of the American People.

    The trouble, as Gelernter is aware, is that Puritanism melted away into Unitarianism at the turn of the 19th century, leaving hardly a residue of its old Zionist attitude. "Where did all the powerful religions' passion go?" asks Gelernter. "Puritanism did not drop out of history. It transformed itself into Americanism." Americanism, we are led to believe, came from Puritanism, but when Puritanism was no more, it turned into Americanism - a mode of reasoning that would be circular were it not so elliptical.

    Gelernter simply ignores the central fact of American religious history, namely that each Christian revival occurred among different people than the previous one. "Different people than the original Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were swept up in the First Great Awakening, and yet another group of Americans, largely Westerners, joined the Second Great Awakening during the 19th century. Yet another group of Americans joined ... [the]Third Great Awakening of 1890. If the rapid growth of born-again denominations constitutes yet another 'Great Awakening', as some historians suppose, the United States is repeating a pattern of behavior that is all the more remarkable for its discontinuity," I observed in the cited November 30 essay.

    The trouble is that Gelernter is a secular Jew with a midlife curiosity about matters of the soul, but no inner sense of what religion means. The motivation of religious Americans is too trivial to register on his ideological Richter scale. That motivation is redemption from sin. It may seem trivial to point out the obvious, but Christianity, as opposed to Gelernter's fleshless and bloodless American religion, has to do with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross to redeem mankind from original sin. The Great Awakenings of American religion do not begin with a public reading of the Declaration of Independence, but with a return in fear and trembling to the Cross. Religion first of all is personal - deeply and searingly personal - and political only as an afterthought.

    Sin, Gelernter would know if he bothered to read St Paul, means death. During the Great Extinction of the Peoples ensuing the fall of Rome, Christianity called out of the nations individuals who wished to belong to a New Israel, a people of God beyond ethnicity with the expectation of eternal life beyond the grave. The Gentiles understood original sin, I have argued in the past, to mean the sin of having been born Gentile, that is, into a people doomed to extinction.

    Christ sacrificed himself, Christians believe, because man is too depraved to redeem himself. Christianity demands that each individual turn his back on ethnicity and tribe, and accept Jesus in a discrete act of faith. For the endangered nations of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, Christianity promised a new life, as it does today to hundreds of millions in the southern hemisphere whose existence is no less precarious than that of earlier converts.

    Few Christians are quite satisfied with the promised Kingdom of God beyond the grave, and therefore demand something in the present life. Europe's Christians never quite shed their pagan (that is to say national) roots, worshipping their own ethnicity in images of Jesus, the Virgin and the saints. That flaw, in my view, ultimately destroyed European Christianity (Why Europe chooses extinction, Oct 8, 2003).

    The Puritans who settled America, as Gelernter observes, looked backward "to the pure Christianity of the New Testament - and then even farther back. Puritans spoke of themselves as God's new chosen people, living in God's new promised land." The Puritans tolerated none of the old pagan devices to pad the Kingdom of God with corporeal consolations. But they did not abjure the world this side of the grave. Rejecting the old pagan devices, the Puritans instead adopted a Hebrew one, that is, a temporal order in emulation of Israel.

    New Israel, namely those called to the Cross from among the nations, has no kingdom of this Earth. Old Israel, by contrast, is quite at home in this world. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the sage of postwar Conservative Judaism, observed that Judaism is not a concept, but rather a life, that is, the continuation of the life of Abraham. The Jewish people are redeemed by virtue of Abraham's covenant with God, in recognition of the Patriarch's righteousness as well as his absolute faith. To the Christian these are promises of things to come; to the Jews this is mere family history.

    To stretch the point, one might say that that the United States is founded on a Judaizing heresy. Christianity struggles to find a place for human initiative. If man is so depraved that he cannot save himself, what role can he play in his own salvation? To establish an earthly regime in pursuit of grace is more a Jewish than a Christian project. In Christian terms, God's grace, through Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross, is a free gift to man, who otherwise has no way to save himself. If depraved humans can do nothing for their own salvation, it is nonsense to attribute to man free will, as Martin Luther lectured the Catholics. God will decide who will be saved (the "predestined" Elect) and who will burn in hellfire.

    The Reformation rejected Free Will, but the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony undertook one of the boldest acts of will in human history, namely to seek redemption by becoming a new People in a new Land. Argues Gelernter:
    When I say that Americanism equals American Zionism, I am in one sense merely adding up statements by eminent authorities. John Winthrop [governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony] in 1630: "Wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us." Thomas Jefferson in is Second Inaugural address: "I shall need ... the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessities and comforts of life." ... Abraham Lincoln declared his wish to be a "humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty and of this, His almost chosen people".
    Lincoln's ironic characterization of Americans as God's "almost chosen people" is to the point; for America to draw inspiration from the Hebrew Bible is salutary, but for Americans to regard themselves as God's chosen is idolatrous. Megalomania of this ilk infected Europe, beginning with Richelieu's France in the 17th century, and then Nicholas II's Russia and later Adolf Hitler's Germany in the 20th (The sacred heart of darkness, Feb 11, 2003), with apocalyptic consequences. (Jefferson, of course, was a Deist who expurgated the New Testament of reference to the divinity of Jesus.)

    Again, Christ's kingdom is not of this world. Luther spoke of "two kingdoms", namely the political life of the corrupt world in contrast to the Kingdom of Heaven. To conflate them in the form of a "New Jerusalem" broke not only with Christian tradition, but beggared Christian doctrine, for it presumed that man might redeem himself. If that is true, why did Jesus need to sacrifice himself? That, I believe, is what led to the extinction of Puritanism. Christians do not join the New Israel through their mere presence in a polity, but by personal faith in God's Kingdom.

    Christianity, that is, belief in the redemption of mankind through Christ's sacrifice, all but disappeared from Massachusetts in the decade after the American Revolution. All but one of Boston's churches and Harvard College officially had turned Unitarian by 1800. John Winthrop's descendants found themselves redeemed from earthly tyranny, and promptly became the Brahmins of Boston, a byword for the arrogance of inherited wealth. Without the benefit of the Puritans' accumulated wisdom and with no help from the faculty of Harvard, Americans of the frontier revived Christianity, making Methodism and Baptism the dominant US denomination by the fourth decade of the 19th century. Not the American Puritan religion, but the transplanted denominations of the English working class prevailed.

    From this milieu (the "second Great Awakening") came Abraham Lincoln, the self-educated frontiersman who would join no Church, yet spoke in near-prophetic tones of the mingling of divine will in the affairs of men. The religious crusade that was the civil war achieved its goal, redeeming the United States from slavery, at which point Christianity dissipated, just as it had after the Revolution.

    America provides uniquely fertile ground for Christianity, because immigrants to America leave behind the pagan elements that corrupted European Christianity. But that is mere potential, not religion. Man does not live by the American Dream alone. American evangelicals, whose appearance on the political scene has caused so much consternation on the left, spent decades cultivating personal piety, defending hearth and home against the septic tide of popular culture, long before circumstances pressed them into the world arena.

    The trouble is that Christianity cannot resolve the conundrum of free will and original sin. A handful of Christians, eg the Mennonites, will form small communities apart from the world and wait for divine grace to find them. That leads to irrelevance. Most Christians will go out into the world and reform it so that it is more amenable to grace, reverting, as it were, to the Hebrew roots of Christianity. Puritan emulation of the Hebrews, once it achieved its earthly goals, led to Brahmin arrogance. America's tragedy, one hears, is to win the war and lose the peace. In the 18th, 19th, and again in the 20th century, the United States achieved its dream, but lost its soul.

    Today's evangelicals have risen up against soulless secular culture, not against worldly evil. President George W Bush and his neo-conservative counselors believe that the US will engineer democratic regimes throughout the world; in this, I believe, they will fail. Despite their failure, American religion yet may play the decisive role on the world stage. As I observed last year (Ask Spengler, Jun 2, 2004), Professor Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University reports that US Christian denominations are at the forefront of an "historical turning point" in Christianity, "one that is as epochal for the Christian world as the original Reformation". In the October 2002 edition of The Atlantic Monthly, he wrote, "In the global South (the areas that we often think of primarily as the Third World) huge and growing Christian populations - currently 480 million in Latin America, 360 million in Africa, and 313 million in Asia, compared with 260 million in North America ... It is Pentecostals who stand in the vanguard of the Southern Counter-Reformation. Though Pentecostalism emerged as a movement only at the start of the twentieth century, chiefly in North America, Pentecostals today are at least 400 million strong, and heavily concentrated in the global South. By 2040 or so there could be as many as a billion, at which point Pentecostal Christians alone will far outnumber the world's Buddhists and will enjoy rough numerical parity with the world's Hindus."

    As Asia Times Online reader Douglas Bilodeau of Indiana observed, "If Mecca is ever razed by an invading army, it will not be Israeli or American or European, but will march up from Africa south of the Sahara."
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/GA04Aa01.html

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