The September 24 issue of the New York Review has an excellent, beautiful essay on fear by Marilynne Robinson. It manages to tie in Calvinism, current war-mongering tendencies among so-called American Christians, and patriotism, exploring these themes with far more subtlety and depth than what the mainstream media tosses up. I highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to understand themselves and the uses of religion in American public life. And Buddhists will appreciate Christians with such intelligence and sensitivity.

America is a Christian country. This is true in a number of senses. Most people, if asked, will identify themselves as Christian, which may mean only that they aren’t something else. Non-Christians will say America is Christian, meaning that they feel somewhat apart from the majority culture. There are a large number of demographic Christians in North America because of our history of immigration from countries that are or were also Christian. We are identified in the world at large with this religion because some of us espouse it not only publicly but also vociferously. As a consequence, we carry a considerable responsibility for its good name in the world, though we seem not much inclined to consider the implications of this fact. If we did, some of us might think a little longer about associating the precious Lord with ignorance, intolerance, and belligerent nationalism. These few simple precautions would also make it more attractive to the growing numbers among our people who have begun to reject it as ignorant, intolerant, and belligerently nationalistic, as they might reasonably conclude that it is, if they hear only the loudest voices.


(I hope you can access it without a subscription.)

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