Theology in American Politics


Theology, a way of seeing the world with God as an agent, has always been fundamental to American politics. This is exhibited by in “God we trust” minted on our bills, “under God” in our pledge, and “God bless America,” the benediction ending every presidential speech, the priestly president blessing citizen-congregants.

Yes, the jingles are of recent origin (“under God” was added in 1954), but they are surfacing of an undercurrent going back to the words that birthed this republic, “Endowed by their Creator.” Thomas Jefferson was no Christian — a fundamental deist who made sure his scions didn’t hold foolish notion of Jesus’ divinity by cutting out miracles from the gospels — but this was a thoroughly theological statement. The Revolutionary War, you can say, was a warring of two theologies, the English monarch’s divine right to rule against God-given rights of individuals to choose their government. Manifest Destiny was an appropriation of the theology of calling, rooted in Jewish self-understanding as God’s people, for America’s exceptionalism supposedly justifying the right of expansion.

Because theology is such a strong currency, it has been used often, and often abused.

(as this is a piece I did for North State Journal, a North Carolina state wide paper, please follow link to continue reading – 1 week free trial available.)