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America’s civil religion “is the notion that God's primary concern is our nation and our national interests. It is the temptation to see what God is doing in the world and what America is doing in the world has the same thing.

In America this view gained particular importance during the Cold War and the fight against Communist expansion. Communism was an atheistic world system and thus was rightly perceived to be a threat to Christianity. After all, it was Karl Marx, one of Communism’s most prominent thinkers, who offered the following thoughts: ‘Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, just as it is the spirit of an unspiritual situation. It is the opium of the people…’

The Second World War brought about a massive shift in American understanding of the world and our place in it. After the decades of expansion driven by the narrative of evolutionary human progress, American soldiers in Hitler's Europe had witnessed firsthand the atrocity and wholesale slaughter of an ethnic group made possible by technological advances. As one writer who died in the gas chambers put it, many dreams died in the fires of Auschwitz.

The Cold War further necessitated shifts in our view of the world. While there had certainly been times during world history when two major superpowers fought for the dominance of the known world, the stakes had never been so high. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forever transformed each possible skirmish, each air- raid drill, each move of Communist expansion into a possible precursor for a war that could not only end all wars, but could potentially end all civilization.

We, the American church, also held an understanding that America as a Christian nation was deeply threatened. What would become of what one preacher recently called ‘the greatest Christian nation in the history of this planet.’ if it was no longer a nation?

Thus. it was during these Cold War years we also came to believe many things about Christianity that may need to be rethought as we consider the question of what is enough. During that time, in 1954, the words ‘under God’ were added to the Pledge of Allegiance. This was added to cement a notion of America as a Christian or at the least a theistic, nation that stood in contrast to the godless Communists. This may have been a needed corrective at the time-… but I wonder if in the intervening years as we repeat the Pledge over and over again, and teach it to our children, we have come to believe that the actions we as a nation take, or for that matter that anything we as a nation, are how God would have us act; that ‘under God’ is some kind of implicit statement of blessing, especially when compared with those who are under Allah, or some other understanding than the dominant American conception of God.” (Will Samson, Enough, 2009, p. 44-46)

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