Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bellah on ACR and "American Shinto"

I've been fascinated with the idea of "American Civil Religion" (ACR) for some time-- clearly the dominant religion in America in the 1950s and perhaps still (at least a big player today).
For those interested, I'd certainly recommend Will Herberg's Protestant, Catholic Jew. But for something shorter and also contemporary, Robert Bellah's essay from 1967 is good stuff. (If you want something more recent, here's a link to my Touchstone article.)
Here, Bellah is helpful in connecting ACR to his times, Rousseau's ideas, the Founding Fathers, and the Civil War. (I got to the article for its interesting reference to "American Shinto", cited in another piece I had read.)
Most interesting to me: connecting it back to the Founding Fathers and the idea that "Christians" (however that's defined) have generally not seen ACR as any threat or significant compromise, implying understanding/acceptance or ignorance of its tenets and implications.
At the end, it's interesting to see him humbly try to assess/predict what he sees as a third period of crisis/definition for ACR. He sees the UN as a possibility, but thinks it's low probability. Then, he settles on the extension of the ACR to the world. I think he gets quite close here-- particularly in its manifestations as a strong penchant for (and desire to export) democracy and a move toward neo-liberalism.


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