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Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Texas Faith: Is President Obama part of reinventing American civil religion – God and the public square?
TEXAS FAITH: Is President Obama part of reinventing American civil religion – God and the public square?
By Wayne Slater | 11:47 am on February 4, 2014
Author and speaker Diana Butler Bass suggests that we are in the process of reinventing American civil religion, the way we think about God and national purpose. And she says President Obama is part of that process. Obama, like his predecessors in the White House, has generally drawn the older form of civil religion complete with biblical language, social justice evangelicalism, and the themes of orthodox theology. But, she suggests, something has changed in the last couple of years. His speeches have included a view of God with an appeal to a wider faith audience, she says.
“Gone is the God of biblical revelation, the generalized God-as-Father-in-Heaven, and the distant God of Providence. Rather, Obama’s public God is a personal spirit, the relational presence of inclusion, community, empathy, irony, justice, and service. The God of this new and emerging American civil religion is a God who is with humankind, a far more embracing rather than judgmental figure, who loves and acts in the world through the works of human beings. Most theists can recognize this God (or gods) in their own religious traditions; most non-theists can interpret this sort of God as a spirit of beauty or justice in humankind.
This comes as America is becoming more pluralistic, as fewer people are claiming membership in orthodox religious groups. American civil religion has long emphasized a language and set of public practices based on the “biblical archetypes” of “Exodus, Chosen People, Promised Land, New Jerusalem, and Sacrificial Death and Rebirth” But the newer civil spirituality, which Bass says Obama expressed in his 2013 inaugural address, does something else: It reaches away from traditional civil religion and toward civil spirituality—a less dogmatic, more open-ended form of inspirational public speech.
Is she right? Is what is being called a new civil spirituality just the old civil religion in new clothes? Or is it a somewhat different, more inclusive, a new way of talking about God in the public square? And if so, isn’t that a good thing?
Our Texas Faith panel weighs in:
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism and speaker on interfaith matters, Dallas
The time has come again in human history to strip all the bells and whistles we have adorned on God, and restore him to a common denominator God, acceptable to all of humanity. If not, we have multiple sovereign versions of Gods.
Ignorance can reach to a point where we put our God on the ground to fight with other’s God – like cock fights. General Boykin in Bush administration had declared, “I knew my God was bigger than his.” The radicals in Malaysia are fighting to own and enslave God; they are battling with Sikhs and Christians from using the word Allah to refer to God.
I have a theory for these men; let’s assume there is a customized God for everyone, and like men, God’s also have the need to prove who is superior and start slaughtering each other, and at the end, the powerful one would have killed them all and become the All-mighty God with unparalleled power. This is ridiculous and hope makes the point.
As the saying goes, God has created us in his own image, I would say, we have created God in our own image and because it is a human definition, it is a fallible God creating irresponsible attitudes among us to fight with each other.
I loved the piece by author Diana Butler Bass, and add that God has not signed a deal with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or others behind the back of Atheists, Pagans, Wicca, Native Americans, Jains, Shinto or Zoroastrians. He does not treat anyone above others, and if he were, who wants a God like that?
In the near future, religion would be defined as an instrument that would help an individual find his own peace and peace with others, and any religion would serve the same purpose then.
We are gradually heading towards a common God, a hands-off creator that is acceptable to most people including our Atheist friends, an inclusive God that is just and loves us all. We are endowed with complete freedom to mess our life or make it a heaven for us and others around us.
What does God want? Like a mother who wants her kids to do well, a teacher who wants his students to make A’s, a chef who wants all his patrons to enjoy the food he cooks, God wants all of us to live in harmony and cohesively. Our freedom and need to feel secure makes us violate the common good and resort to my good, and every now and then someone among us rises and gives us guidance towards living cohesively, and that guidance is called religion. Indeed, we are creating a more inclusive God for us, and it is a good thing.
To read other the view of other panelists, please visit Dallas Morning News at - http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2014/02/texas-faith-is-president-obama-part-of-reinventing-american-civil-religion-god-and-the-public-square.html/#more-34030
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and a book with the same title is coming up. Mike has a strong presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes all his work through many links.