by Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Beast, 6/6/11
The relationship between religion and politics is, to my mind, the central question of our time. As the false totalisms of the twentieth century – communism, fascism, Nazism – have been revealed as oppressive, murderous lies, insecure and inadequate human beings in need of totalist solutions to the human dilemma have returned to religion. But more accurately, they have returned to fundamentalism, because only fundamentalism, with its absolute certainty and literal precision and binding, unquestionable authority, can assuage the anxieties of a world dislocated from tradition, up-ended by capitalism, globalized to the point of cultural panic.
What we are seeing on the Republican right at the moment, it seems to me, is an extension of this response to anxiety. The new orthodoxy is fundamentalist Americanism. This is not regular American exceptionalism of the kind that the president adheres to: a belief that this miraculous new world has opened up vistas of democratic opportunity to the rest of the planet, that its inspired constitution has enabled stability and freedom in equal measure, that it played an indispensable role in keeping freedom alive during some dark, dark times, and that its core idea – government by, for and of the people – is universalist in nature. No, the Americanism now heard on the right is that America was uniquely founded on Christianity, that America is therefore a chosen instrument of divine Providence, and that this moral superiority is so profound that indicting America on any prudential, moral or political grounds is un-American or, if it comes from abroad, evil.
This is how a country with one of the least efficient healthcare systems in the world must retain it for fear of mass serfdom. This is how a country that has tortured prisoners, using the classic brainwashing techniques of totalitarian dictatorships, has actually done nothing but apply enhanced interrogation to terror suspects. This is how a country allowed the critical regulation of a free market to lapse, and then suffered the consequences not of capitalism but of risk-seeking cronyism and self-serving irresponsibility. This version of American exceptionalism is the one that sees a stimulus regarded by most economists as a no-brainer in the face of a potential depression as an assault on freedom. It is the one that sees a successful bail-out of the banks and auto-companies as a form of communism, that regards the integration of gay citizens into the civil order as demonic, that views any engagement with our foes as appeasement, even when it has been accompanied by a massive surge in the Afghan war and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
This ideology comes perilously close to arguing that something must be right because America does it, or has done it….
continue reading at The Daily Beast