The Great American Religion and How Trump Became President.

The Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, an Episcopalian Church was commissioned in 1893 by the U.S. Congress, its cornerstone was laid in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt, and was completed in 1990. 

Construction was halted from 1977-80, not because of a lack of belief in the project, but by economic hardship.  It is commonly known as the Washington National Cathedral; so much for separation of Church and State.


For several years, retired Unitarian/Universalist pastor, Edward Frost, made a regular jaunt from his home in Atlanta, Georgia to a small congregation of “U/U”s in Franklin, North Carolina to bring a message; deliver a sermon.  Dr. Frost, a native of England, brought an international perspective as well as an intellectual construction to his talks.

One sermon which struck me as particularly insightful and appropriate to the understanding of every progressive American was about what Dr. Frost termed, The Great American Religion.  This religion has been called, also, The American Civic Religion and The Religion of the Republic. 

What follows is a synopsis of Dr. Frost’s sermon which gives much more detail than is found below and if this interests you I suggest that you read it.

The colonies were not settled by men and women seeking freedom of religion.  The colonies were settled by fervent believers in their religion who wanted to be allowed to practice it.  In some colonies these settlers were extremely intolerant of any other religion, and punished anyone who practiced differently from them with death or banishment.  This was particularly true for Puritans and German and Swiss Lutherans.  These religious communities were opposed to anything “papish”.  Other colonies were settled by Catholics and Anglicans who often had to move to other areas to practice.

Another power forced a change in these practices; the power of the Trading Companies and Investors in the colonies.  These businessmen realized that free commerce and developed markets could not flourish in the face of religious intolerance and a general movement occurred toward a sort of Civic Religion.  This religion, believing that certain religious beliefs were important to the furtherance of business as well as a foundation for caring for the colonies' citizens in need, was preferable.  The tenets of this religion were, a belief in God, a belief in immortality, and a belief in personal responsibility.  Whatever else a religion practiced was “good enough” as long as it did not hold beliefs contrary to the central tenets of the Civic Religion.

At the founding of the Republic the framers of the Constitution included phrases that referenced God without any reference to a specific religion.  Throughout the course of America’s history the agents of the state religion have expressed the belief that God favors America.  That wars fought in the interest of America are sanctioned by God.  While the high priests of this Civic Religion have been Presidents and politicians, these leaders have had Religious Coaches such as Billy Graham who make sure that the Civic Religion's beliefs are upheld.

Believers in this Civic Religion are fervent and as unyielding as our Puritan founders were. 

A key determinant and force behind this belief is a belief in the “Second Exodus”.  The belief is held that America was founded by men and women who fled Europe in the way the Hebrews fled Egypt; that just as the Hebrews were God's chosen, Americans are God’s chosen people.  This belief is at the core of the concept of Manifest Destiny, and has bolstered and sanctioned racism and the oppression of those of non-European descent.

Throughout America’s history there have been those liberal religious leaders who continued to preach pacifism while the leaders of the Civic Religion and their allies preached war.  There have been those who spoke out against injustices perpetrated against others in the pursuit of America’s interests.  These leaders have been, in general, dismissed and castigated.

As the numbers of members of mainstream Christian churches have fallen, the numbers of followers of what have been termed Evangelical Churches has grown.  These churches generally preach for The Great American Religion.  They are today’s Religious Coaches.  They preach a blend of nationalism, hiding behind patriotism, and the three key beliefs sacred to the Civic Religion: a belief in God, a belief in immortality, and a belief in individual responsibility.

Adherence to these beliefs excuses any other beliefs or practices.  These religious coaches have held that the election of Donald Trump was the will of God because Trump preached American Exceptionalism and at least implicitly supported White Supremacy, inherent in America's Manifest Destiny.

Since the Civic Religion is essentially amoral, abuse of women, nepotism, and cheating in business are immaterial so long as the leader upholds the Civic Religion.  Leading worship on Americas High Holy holidays such as Memorial Day and Independence Day is seen as the job of the President (along with his religious coaches) and the more impressive the President’s display of nationalism, the more he is adored by the American Religion's followers.

The Great American Religion does not care whether you are Catholic, or Protestant, Christian or Jew so long as the unspoken religion of the state is upheld, and so long as that religion is the tool of the state.


Views: 126

Comment by koshersalaami on September 30, 2018 at 9:48am

The problem I have is with the disconnect between amorality and individual responsibility. 

Comment by Maui Surfer on September 30, 2018 at 10:16am

Just prior to the invention of the what is now current form of "whiteness" the divide and conquer method used by the English Charter companies sanctioned by the King (early 1600's, long before "Independence") was to separate African and Indigenous Slaves from Caucasian Indentured Servants not by color, but by religion. Not long afterward it became obvious to the power brokers of the time that an instant recognition of the differences by your first visual of those who were, as a three pronged group, lobbying and protesting for better treatment as a labor force that to simply use race was easier and more effective and so the Modern White Race, with the wealthy disgusted by the poor but recognizing the need for iron clad control, was put in effect and remains so today. Over time, the racial component was merged with the religious and the filthy residue of that birthed the Trump Voter.

Comment by moki ikom on September 30, 2018 at 1:17pm

When the nature of one's ethics is determined by the degree to which one's actions reflects one's morality, an amoral person -or economy for that matter- is necessarily without ethics because he has no moral fabric by which his ethics can be determined.  It's commonly been stated that Trump has no principles, that he is not ideological, that he is a transactionalist, one who lives by 

set of philosophical tools, or a methodemployed to address the complexities of human social exchange or transactions

that have no more to do with morality, nor therefore with ethics, than does Darwin's theory of evolution.

Comment by Ben Sen on September 30, 2018 at 1:26pm

I know Jefferson was an agnostic and so was Franklin, and most of the signatories influenced by the Enlightenment.  Here's a postscript:  the religious leaders that petitioned Jefferson the hardest in the name of "freedom of religion," was the Baptists, who at the time were the most discriminated against from the mainline religions.  There's no force like religion on earth, depending on what values those religions serve.  Nice post.  Come tell me what you think of mine.

Comment by Rodney Roe on September 30, 2018 at 2:11pm

Ben, I will.

Comment by Ron Powell on September 30, 2018 at 4:22pm

The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law..."

The framers instinctively and reflexively knew that Congress wouldn't have to ....

Comment by Rodney Roe on October 1, 2018 at 2:48am

Ron, it was some time before I realized that the purpose of that law was not to protect the individual from the church, but to protect the state from the church.


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