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Article: Americanism, Then and Now: Our Pet Heresy

June 13, 2007

Christopher Check / Chronicles Magazine:

On January 22, 1899, Pope Leo XIII addressed an encyclical (Testem benevolentiae nostrae) to James Cardinal Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore, intended “to suppress certain contentions” that had arisen in America “to the detriment of the peace of many souls.” In essence, Leo feared that some American Catholic intellectuals, including a number of bishops, were finding canonical and theological lessons for the Church where they should not be looking for them: in the American cultural and political experience of democracy and individualism.


Americanism, doubtless more virulent in our day than it was in Leo’s, combines a collective sense of Christian exceptionalism (America as the “Shining City on a Hill”) with the hubristic conviction that America can draw up her own moral code—or, rather, a limitless number of moral codes, arising from each individual’s conscience. Acknowledging the heresy and its internal contradictions helps us understand why Americans today can insist that we are a Christian nation while indulging in all manner of public and private behavior that is decidedly not Christian, from delighting in degenerate diversions, to sanctioning the murder of children, to supporting and prosecuting an unjust war…

Full article here.


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One Comment
  1. Joe Gayda permalink

    My children play with many varieties of Jews and Christians ( who all have different ideas of what being a Christian requires). On a given day I might have Jews and Muslims playing basketball out front and Hindus and Irish Catholics playing football with Buddhists and Methodists out back. This is the world of the 21st Century.

    They know and respect each other and demand for each of their friends the same right to make religous choices which they desire for themselves. The right to make their own choice, even if it is a mistake, is how they respect their neighbor just as they would be respected.

    To these kids, anyone who seeks to enforce a religion through the laws is the enemy. Anyone who thinks they can create a more “holy” state by neglecting this respect for others, this love for ones neighbors, is inherently misguided, and doomed to end up with a place like Iran, where the enforcement of the faith requiers tyranny, and tyranny in the name of God doesn’t always bring one closer to Him.

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