The Ingrained Messianism of American Politics

Posted: December 27, 2008 by limabean03 in Christian Theology, Christianity, Contemporary Theology, Current Issues, The Christian Life

James K.A. Smith in Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology writes (quoting Cavanaugh in Radical Orthodoxy)  “Both the church and the modern state have a story to tell:  The modern state is ‘founded on certain stories of nature and human nature, the origins of human conflict, and the remedies for such conflict in the enactment of the state itself’; the Christian story is a narrative of creation, fall, redemption.  But…’both ultimately have the same goal: salvation of humankind from the modern divisions which plague us’.  Thus, “the modern state is best understood…as a source of an alternative soteriology (or theology of salvation) to that of the Church.”  Nothing I could find illustrates this point more clearly than this little article from CNN postulating on what Bible verse Obama will pick for the swearing ceremony.  Note that many of our previous presidents have chosen verses for themselves that the church has historically understood as pointing towards the Messsiah, Jesus of Nazareth.  This means that presidents have borrowed both the language of the Christian church and the theology of the Christian church, particularly the language and theology associated with the savior and transferred it to the government and the nation state.  This points to the ingrained and heretical assumed messianism of American politics.  A heresy that I think much of the church in America has bought into. What then is the proper way for a disciple of Christ to live as a witness to the true Messiah? 

From CNN:
If Obama wants to stress that theme again on January 20, he may prefer to follow Bill Clinton’s lead from the 1997 inaugural and open the Bible to Isaiah 58:12: “Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations, and thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach.”

Questions of war and peace are always in the back of any president’s mind. Obama campaigned in part on a promise to end America’s war in Iraq.

Shortly after winning the White House on a similar pledge to end another divisive conflict — this one in Vietnam — Richard Nixon took the oath with a family Bible opened to Isaiah 2:4: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

With the polls showing an overwhelming majority of Americans convinced the country is on the wrong track,Obama might hint at a back-to-basics message by doing what Woodrow Wilson did in 1913. During his first inaugural, Wilson opened the Bible to Psalm 119, which concludes “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.”

Speaking of a return to basics, what about America’s first president? What did George Washington do?

Almost 220 years ago, in 1789, Washington opened the King James version of a Masonic Bible to Genesis 49:13 — “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for a haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.”

read it all here

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