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I learned my first psalms in public school. As I recall, they were Psalm 23 and Psalm 100. No one looked funny at the teacher when she introduced the topic and no one objected. First, we didn’t know we were allowed to object, and, second, none of us would have known any reason for not doing such a thing. We were a diverse class of children: with both Baptists and Methodists. We were too poor to have Presbyterians and Episcopalians. A number of children in the class could have been “military Protestant,” since there was an Air Force Base nearby. This was a commonplace thing in my 1950’s and 60’s childhood. I was probably 9 or 10 before I met someone who identified as Catholic.
This obviously contrasts with our present culture. American mobility, in every possible direction, has created a far more diverse culture. The religious assumptions that once bound the nation together (Eisenhower proclaimed, “Attend the Church or Synagogue of your choice!”) have disappeared. But this diversity is only seen if the present is compared to the past. Religion is as strong as ever.
Word - Religion - Word - Root - Religion
The word “religion” is related to the word “ligament.” It comes from a Latin root meaning “to bind together.” It is unclear whether religion originally referred to binding a sacrifice to an altar, or binding oneself with an oath (the ancients debated these meanings). But it is clear that there is a “religion” that binds the people of a culture together. If there were nothing in common, no shared obligation, a culture would disintegrate. The question would be: what is the religion of America (or anywhere else)?
I could anticipate a long list of comments with suggestions for America’s religion candidates. “Progress” is obviously part of its theological package. The same could be said about the notions...
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