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American and British Civil Religion - Essay Example

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American and British Civil Religion

In order to understand American and British civil religion and its link to Christianity, one must focus on the history and what brought about the changes in these regions historically and their impact on the Christian world in these two most influential regions. In my research efforts, I would like to discuss Gerald Parsons book “Perspectives on Civil Religion and Sydney Ahlstrom's book on the religious history of these two countries.
There are different levels of the definition civil religion and the two most influential authorities on civil religion's definition from Robert Bellah the American sociologist and later Pierard and Linder have in turn served to actually link the concept of civil religion with Christianity (Parsons,2002, p.6).
According to Bellah, American civil religion has two aspects :priestly and conservative, liberal and prohetic (Parsons, 2002, p.3). He goes on to explain the Americans on the one hand see themselves as divinely appointed by God to lead the world in a particular direction. “..For some among the new Christian Right within recent and contemporary American politics, the concept of an American civil religion has been deployed as part of a campaign to create and sustain a distinctively 'Christian America' (Parsons, 2002, p.4).” According to the author, the move in this direction advertises America's ideologies in a Christian context- the ideologies of peace and justice and mingle them in the context of Christian religion. Richard Pierard and Robert Linder have actually defined certain characteristics of civil religion where a nation and its vision are somehow intertwined with each other (Parsons, 2002). His book actually serves to show us how a nation's civil religion is predominantly linked to some form of religion-in this case Christianity. One must understand through their analyzing of this concept that this concept still is ambiguous to the present day. But in order to under their links, it is only fair to look at the history of these two major powers in the world and their religion in order to understand more clearly their dealings with the world. Both these countries are dominantly Protestant and Anglo-Saxon and their forms of "modernity" go back to the eighteenth century (Parsons, 2002, p.7).
In doing so, in my discussion of civil religion, it is important to look at the rituals of remembrance of these two countries. Americans celebrating the 4th of July independence and Memorial day (remembrance of those who have died in civil war), and the British having celebration of Remembrance Sunday (the anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War in 1918) are most notably viable examples of civil religion in these two countries (Parosn, 2002). In America, the most influential leader Abraham Lincoln who led the civil war in the 18th century, delivered certain key speeches that contributed to the concept of civil religion in America that were intrinsically tied to the Old testament Scriptures :for example at the Gettysburg Address in 1863, "Lincoln used Christian symbolism and language and he saw America as the promised land to which God had led their predecessors (Parsons,2002, p.15)."1
In the meantime in Britain, there is a growing trend in the twentieth century to mark the graves of those who had died in the war (Parsons, 2002). "From 1915 onwards, street shrines were designed to list the names of those who were currently serving with the armed forces and of those who had been killed ...For the clergy they were part of the process of evangelism and the attempt to reassert the relevance of the message of Christianity in the midst of war...it also endorsed the understanding of the war as a holy crusade (Parsons, 2002, p.29)."2
Also , it is notable to include that the British were fueled in their ceremony of marking the graves of those deceased in war-commonly known as the commonwealth war graves were met with huge public support (Parsons, 2002). The British people although ...Show more

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In order to understand American and British civil religion and its link to Christianity, one must focus on the history and what brought about the changes in these regions historically and their impact on the Christian world in these two most influential regions…
Author : mkoch
American and British Civil Religion essay example
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