Pierard & Linder - Civil Religion and the Presidency

January 17, 2006

Civil Religion and the Presidency
Richard V. Pierard & Robert D. Linder
Grand Rapids, Michigan, Academie Books, 1988

Foreward, Martin Marty
"In 1940 Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote that 'the ultimate foundation of a society is the binding tie of cohesive sentiment.'
"In 1955 Will Herberg spoke of 'civic faith,' during the 1950s and 1960s Sidney Mead kept talking about 'the religion of the republic,' and in 1967 Robert N. Bellah took a word from Rousseau and began to point to America's 'civil religion.'
"In 1974 I distinguished between 'prophetic' and 'priestly' civil religino.
"In 1974 Michael Novak talk about 'choosing our king' and showed how the president of the United States fulfilled royal and sacerdotal roles." vii

"Why bother? Why disturb the peace of those who think of presidents as presidents, priests as priests, patriotism ans something done in the public sphere and religion as something done I church? . . . the outcomes of presidential priestly civil religion are fateful. They have to do wtih the deepest definitions of a people, the highest points they reach, and the most idolatrous depths in which they wallow."
"Civil religion is not always religious nationalism or self-idolatry. There is usually some abiguity in the employment of religious symbols, and they know it and show it in respect to the civil religion of the presidents and the people who elect them. . . . a theme that can rescue American civic faith from idolotry" is"'transcendent justice' which Americans inherited from the Hebrew prophets and the more profound of the enlightened founders. Transcendent justice calls forth a God beyond the gods of the nation to judge it. Utterance in support of it usually come from the prophetic elements in a religion, but at its best, the presidency has seeon some of its priests turn prophetic." ix

Chapter one
"the president occupies a special place in American life -- a place that is at once political and religious. . . . The way he lives affects the self-image of the people, and his lifestyle and tastes greatly influence those of Americans at large." 19

"In any event, scholars generally agree that whether he is religiously active or passive the foremost representative of civil religion in Amrica is the president. He not only serves as head of state and chief executive, but he also functions as the symbolic representative of the whole of the American people. He affirms that God exists and that America's destiny and the nation's policies must be interpreted in the light of the Almighty's will. The rituals that the president celebrates and the speeches he makes reflect the basic themes of American civil religion.[note: Michael Novak, Choosing our King: Powerful Symbols in Presidential Politics (New York, Macmillan, 1974),3-5; Charles page Henderson, Jr. "Civil Religion and the American Presidency," Religious Education 70 (Septemb-October 1975): 473-85; Robert N. Bellah, "Civil Religion in America" . . . and Lewis Lipsitz, "If, as Verba Says, the State Functions as a Religion, What Are We To Do To Save Our Souls?", American Political Science Reivew 62 (1968) 530.] 20

Chapter 3 is a review of the history of civil religion. I can phoco the whole thing, or ILL it when I revise the introduction. Leaning toward the latter.

Check my discussion of George Washington. Read him as a Unitarian-Deist who attended the rituals of the C of E and then the PEC, used the Episcopal grace at meals, had a strong and growing belief in Providence, and never spoke of Jesus or Christ. Washington regularly attended Episcopal services, but always left the building before Communion.
Washington believed in the "Supreme Ruler of Nations"


Never Baptised
Parents were Baptist
Attended several churches (PEC and PCA mostly)
Friends with Methodist clergymen
Read a lot of Bible, knew it well since he was a boy, read it more and more during ACW
Check Sandburg, The Prairie Years 336-7 for Cartwright story, Lincoln Works, Lincoln Works, I, 132 for the Cartwright handbill.

Posted by Red Ted at January 17, 2006 12:57 PM | TrackBack
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