(David Gelernter, Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion. New York: Doubleday, 2007.). This could well be the next book our book club takes up, if I have anythng to say about it (and, well, I always do).
From the tone of the reviews, written by the likes of Peter Leithardt and Douglas Wilson, I'm not probably going to like what Gelertner has to say. But we've been aware--haven't we?--of a Great American Civil Religion for some years, and here is both a book to celebrate and define it, and critics to cluck their tongues. I'll quote from Wilson's BLOG AND MABLOG, to give those of you who care a taste of his interesting apologetics:
I have said this a number of times, and I hope that my family and friends figure out a way to get some form of this point enscribed on my tombstone. Secular states that know their business want to keep their citizenry happy and busy with their religious hobbies. The ultimate decisions are made without regard to God and His law, and without taking into account the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. This is an arrangement that all empires have always wanted to make, and no consistent Christian can have anything to do with it.Ok, the gauntlet is thrown down.
Gelernter assumes this kind of religious pragmatism throughout. Whether Jesus was the Messiah of God is a matter upon which we can have different opinions. We can be faithful to the ultimate religious issues before us, and we can do this knowing that belief in God is optional. What is not optional is that necessary belief in man.
But Christians don't get to think this way. We don't believe in man -- we believe in the one Man, the mediator between God and men. Man in his own name is all screwed up. He worships things like ideas, and air power, and propositions. I am spending time on this book because in my view it is a very dangerous book. Gelernter is not trying to sell us something that nobody ever heard of before. He is rather explaining to us a good deal of our history, and if we are humble enough to learn from him we will see that the roots of our compromise go back centuries. He is not trying to sell us something that we haven't already halfway bought.
I think this book could be the basis for a serious discussion about : religion in America; OUR religion in American; The Fourth Great Western Religion in America; and how the three interact.