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Sacraments of the American Civil Religion

One myth that Americans live by is the separation of church and state. Some like the idea; others hate it; but the irony is that church and state were not separated at the founding of the United States and are not separate now. In fact, they were united in the sense that the state is a church — the Church of America — and you can’t separate a thing from itself. The religion this church administers is not Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, or anything else that comes to mind when most people think the word religion. It’s Americanism, a species of nationalism. Nationalism and religion are cut from the same cloth. ~ Sheldon Richman

The American civil religion has been defined as “the shared reverence for sacred symbols drawn from a nation’s history” or “certain common elements of religious orientation that the great majority of Americans share that are expressed in a set of beliefs, symbols, and rituals.”

Here are some of the sacraments of the American civil religion:

  • Voting
  • Enlisting in the military
  • Singing hymns of worship to the state in church on the Sunday before national holidays.
  • Singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic in church anytime
  • Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance
  • Honoring veterans on Veterans Day
  • Flying the American flag outside of your house the week before and after national holidays
  • Thanking veterans for their service
  • Decorating the graves of veterans with flags for Memorial Day
  • Offering discounts to veterans and active duty military personnel
  • Having a special military-appreciation Sunday at church
  • Having a special law enforcement-appreciation Sunday at church
  • Having a military chaplain deliver the Sunday church sermon
  • Calling a soldier a hero
  • Decorating the church grounds and church building with flags on the Sunday before national holidays
  • Listing the names of veterans in the church in the church bulletin on the Sunday before Veterans Day
  • Placing a “Support the Troops” sign outside of your business
  • Singing the national anthem before sporting events
  • Having a military color guard walk down the main aisle at the beginning of the church service on the Sunday before a national holiday
  • Wearing an American flag lapel pin
  • Wearing a combination American flag and Christian cross lapel pin
  • Letting county governments use church facilities as polling places
  • Praying in church for U.S. troops to be kept out of harm’s way

Like any religion, the American civil religion considers certain things to be acts of blasphemy:

  • Not supporting the government space program
  • Objecting to military flyovers at sporting events
  • Denouncing Abraham Lincoln
  • Not being patriotic
  • Calling Social Security an intergenerational, income-transfer, wealth-redistribution welfare program
  • Calling Medicare and Medicaid socialized medicine
  • Not celebrating MLK Day
  • Flying a Confederate Flag
  • Not being in awe at the sight of a U.S. soldier in his uniform
  • Calling the Civil War the War for Southern Independence or the War of Northern Aggression
  • Saying that the Civil War was not just about slavery
  • Not trusting the police
  • Encouraging young people to not join the military
  • “Cheating” on your taxes
  • Not reverencing the Constitution
  • Not supporting the troops
  • Opposing a flag burning amendment to the Constitution
  • Not wanting to hear Lee Greenwood sing “God Bless the U.S.A.”
  • Saying that the U.S. military is a global force for evil

The American civil religion is a false religion. There is nothing Christian about any of its sacraments. And there is nothing anti-Christian about any of its supposed blasphemies.

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