Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America/A Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Multireligious America

By Lawrence, John Shelton | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), March 2007 | Go to article overview

Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America/A Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Multireligious America


Lawrence, John Shelton, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America Ellis Sandoz. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006. Eric Voegelin Institute Series in Political Philosophy: Studies in Religion and Politics.

A Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Multireligious America Stephen Prothero, Editor. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

For conservatives, major institutional failures signal the forgetful neglect of an esteemed past. In contrast, progressives envision future more splendid futures and often celebrate the changing present as préfigurations. Taken together, these two books evoke a dialectic between these two stances toward religion and state. The preferred past of Ellis Sandoz is constituted by biblically faithful Protestants, their thinking also shaped by English common law and education in the ancient classics. The evolutionary present of Prothero and contributors is populated by American Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and immigrant Christians from many continents. As these rapidly growing groups balance the conflicting imperatives of resistance and assimilation, they work the political and legal systems to secure a respected standing. Do they dilute American unity or give it a more perfect expression? Or both? That is the politics of change that these books help us grasp.

For many decades, Ellis Sandoz has been a disciple of the political theorist Eric Voegelin (1901-1985). After studying government with Voegelin at Louisiana State University and then in Munich, Sandoz eventually became Director of the Voegelin Institute for American Renaissance Studies at LSU. Voegelin had been a 1938 refugee from Germany. In Nazism, he saw the satanic demon of modernity and resolved in America to preach its causes (materialism, atheism, utopianism). His term for the mindset that abetted the massive slaughter of populations under Nazism and Soviet Communism was "gnosticism," understood as the hubristic conceit of believing that one can understand and transform all. His antidote for such delusion is constitutional democracy that remains in touch with Transcendent Being, one which steadily reminds the mere human of fallibility and history's contingencies. Sandoz, as the carrier for this Voegelin legacy, thus has animosity toward any "Enlightenment project" with the "nihilistic" tendency to question "the human capacity for self-government under Providential guidance" (xi-xii). But he is no end-time triumphalist, who expects the New Jerusalem if only we align our institutions with God's will or pledge to rid the world of evil. His dour pessimism prevents such fantasy: "Human beings are virtually ungovernable-an inference that we are obliged to accept as an axiom of politics, past, present, and future" (186; author's italics).

Despite this view, which will strike progressive minds as too deeply grumpy, Sandoz is a convincing expositor of important and undeniable strands in American political and religious history. Reflecting decades of working with source materials and commentary literature from the most eminent university presses, he offers inconvenient truths about "the soul of America"-to proponents of the wholly secular public square. The book's major arguments are comprised by chapter one, "Republicanism and Religion"; chapter two, "Foundations of American Liberty and Rule of Law"; chapter three, "Education and the American Founding"; and chapter four, "Americanism: The Question of Community in Politics." Chapter nine, "Truth and the Experience of Epoch in History" nicely synthesizes the arguments of earlier chapters and reaffirms, Sandoz's dedication to Voegelin, Havel, and Solzhenitsyn as prophets of the failures emanating from "forgetfulness, the lust for power, rebellion-or plain crookedness" (200). The remaining chapters are topical exegeses of Voegelin's theories or biography.

In 1998, the Library of Congress created an exhibition titled "Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America/A Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Multireligious America
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.