Michael Flynn, American theologian

(RNS) – Quick quiz.

What is the First Amendment to the Constitution?

You have it, but there you go.

“Congress will not make any law respecting the establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of it …”

Ask this question of Michael Flynn, who served as a national security adviser during the Trump administration.

I’m pretty sure he would be wrong. An F in American Civic Education.

This past weekend, Michael Flynn attended the ReAwaken America tour in Texas. Speaking to a conservative Christian audience, he said the United States of America should only have one religion.

“If we want to have a nation under God, what we need to do, we have to have one religion,” he said.

He didn’t say what religion it would be. But I guess it’s probably not wiccan.

Flynn was playing in front of the crowd; in exit polls, 35% of Republicans said they favor Trump because they believe Christianity is being taken away from them.

The New York Times recently reported that there has been an increase in the number of Americans who identify as evangelical precisely because they identify this religious style with Trump’s backing.

An American politician agreed with Michael Flynn.

You would expect the politician to be a conservative Christian.

Nope.

In fact, he’s Jewish and from an active Jewish family – Josh Mandel, former Ohio State Treasurer and Senate Hope.

On his Twitter feed, he noted: We are with General Flynn.

But that’s not all. Mandel’s campaign website proclaims he is “pro-God” (with a graphic depicting a church steeple). There’s a graphic of a gun: “Come on and take it. He believes Trump won the 2020 election. He said the United States must turn down Afghan refugees: “To protect our children, our communities and our Judeo-Christian way of life, we must FIGHT this with all our heart. strengths. “

Let’s talk about Mandel’s fantasy: “Judeo-Christian way of life. “

“Judeo-Christian” is the “Happy Days” of American religious ideologies. It’s uniquely American, and it’s strictly American – I assure you that no one in England or France uses that term.

The 1950s may have been a cool time for music.

But, as for religion: meh. It was boring and lifeless, too attached to a bland, conformist suburban lifestyle. Abraham Joshua Heschel’s sharpest criticisms of what passed for Jewish piety emerged from his 1950s-style observation of conservative Judaism.

In 1952, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed: “Our government only makes sense if it is based on deeply felt religious faith – and I don’t care what it is.

This is when “In God We Trust” appeared on our national currency. It was then that “under God” made its appearance in the oath of allegiance.

And why? It was very simple. Soviet communism was the enemy. He was an atheist, and therefore we had to be godly – and in Ike’s words, it didn’t matter what that godliness was. It was faith for faith.

After all, what was the typical picture of the suburbs? Main Street – with its well-appointed Catholic Church, Protestant Church and Synagogue. Hence the classic sociological work by Will Herberg from 1955 “Protestant, Catholic, Jewish”.

This Judeo-Christian thing? Did anyone really take it seriously? Did the Jews take it seriously?

Judeo-Christian was the bone America threw to the Jews. This made us think that our religious faith was an equal partner in American life. When you consider that American Jews never made up more than three percent of the American population, that seemed like a pretty generous decision, even if it was only a consolation prize.

American Jews were (rightly) sick to death for being Other. We made a Judeo-Christian parrot with everyone. This meant that the Jews were no longer strangers, we were not peripheral, we were ready for prime time.

But, alas, no. America’s religious default switch was – and continues to be – Christian. This, despite the enormous demographic challenges that non-Christian religions have posed to the American body politic.

Read my RNS colleague Khyati Joshi’s spectacular White Christian Privilege: The Illusion of Religious Equality in America, and you’ll understand.

Christian normativity makes Christian values ​​intrinsic to our national identity, conveys the status of truth and righteousness over Christian culture, and makes Christian language and metaphors and their underlying theology the national standard… Indeed, these three terms – “White,” “Christian,” and “American” – have been used interchangeably so often that in many contexts, including in the lexicon of non-white and non-Christian immigrant communities, they remain the most common synonyms. from each other.

Let’s be honest, the Judeo-Christian doesn’t really exist.

So why does Mandel use this language?

It’s pretty straightforward. Mandel lives in a binary world – a world in which someone has to be the Other.

The original use of Judeo-Christian was “not Communist”.

Today Judeo-Christian means: not Muslim, not Hindu, not Sikh, nothing else.

Poor Mandel! He actually thinks that bragging about Judeo-Christian values ​​makes him a member of the real American club.

But, he should ask Flynn if there is a place for the Talmud, Maimonides and mysticism in his version of America.

It reminds me of a decades-old reflection of the late Forrester Church, who was a Unitarian minister and the son of the late Senator Frank Church. It was a profound statement about religion in America.

Let me paraphrase.

We all live in the Cathedral of the World. The light enters through the stained glass windows. Each religious “tribe” stands at its own window and experiences light in its own way.

Religious relativists say: It doesn’t matter which window I stand at; the light is the same.

Religious researchers say: I don’t like the light on my window; I’ll go to another window.

Fundamentalists say: The light only shines through my window.

To which I would add: “And, religious fanatics are walking around with hammers, smashing everybody’s window.”

This is, I fear, the religious view of far too many Americans. They have no place for pluralism in their souls.

I firmly believe: hit Mike Flynn with a hammer and he’ll smash everyone else’s windows.

I wonder if Josh Mandel realizes that when the glass starts to fly, a lot of people are going to cut themselves.



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