The objective of this paper is to synthesize course (classroom and reading) material from February 6-25 with the book The End of White Christian America by Robert P. Jones. Note: This is not a summary or critical analysis of the book, but rather a synthesis of Jones’ arguments in discourse with the lectures and courses discussion.
Using materials in this section of the course (Feb. 6-25), place the materials in conversation with Jones’ book. What kind of argument can be made about religion in America? Some possible guiding questions: How does Jones’ data integrate into class materials related to the topic of apocalyptic tendencies?  How does race continue to play a significant role in the development of religion in America? What arguments can be made religion in America from the material thus far? Where are the overlaps of the materials? Where does the material diverge? What does Raboteau’s narrative tell us about religion in America that has not been covered in lectures? 
Students should make arguments about the material – not merely summarize. I suggest using this format for each paragraph: Argument sentence (Example: Religion in America is _______ or Religion is complicated by…). Explain what is meant by the argument. Use the lectures and primary readings to support your argument or contradict your argument. Use the book to support or contradict your argument. 
Students should also include a strong thesis statement. As an example, in the first paragraph, a clear sentence might state, This paper will argue X, Y, and Z regarding religion in America.Civil Religion in America by Robert N. Bellah
return to Articles and Chapters
Civil Religion in America
Robert N. Bellah
Reprinted by permission of Dædalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, from the
issue entitled, “Religion in America,” Winter 1967, Vol. 96, No. 1, pp. 1-21.
At the beginning of a reprint of this essay (Robert N. Bellah, Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a PostTraditionalist World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, p. 168), the author wrote:
This chapter was written for a Dædalus conference on American Religion in May 1966. It was reprinted
with comments and a rejoinder in The Religious Situation: 1968, where I defend myself against the
accusation of supporting an idolatrous worship of the American nation. I think it should be clear from the
text that I conceive of the central tradition of the American civil religion not as a form of national selfworship but as the subordination of the nation to ethical principles that transcend it in terms of which it
should be judged. I am convinced that every nation and every people come to some form or religious
self-understanding whether the critics like it or not. Rather than simply denounce what seems in any case
inevitable, it seems more responsible to seek within the civil religious tradition for those critical principles
which undercut the everpresent danger of national self-idolization.
While some have argued that Christianity is the national faith, and others that church and synagogue
celebrate only the generalized religion of “the American Way of Life,” few have realized that there
actually exists alongside of and rather clearly differentiated from the churches an elaborate and wellinstitutionalized civil religion in America. This article argues not only that there is such a thing, but also
that this religion-or perhaps better, this religious dimension-has its own seriousness and integrity and
requires the same care in understanding that any other religion does.[i]
The Kennedy Inaugural
John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address of January 20, 1961, serves as an example and a clue with which to
introduce this complex subject. That address began:
We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom-symbolizing an end
as well as a beginning-signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you
and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and
three quarters ago.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all
forms of human poverty and to abolish all forms of human life. And yet the same
revolutionary beliefs for which our forbears fought are still at issue around the globe-the
belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand
of God.
And it concluded:
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Finally, whether you are citizens of America or of the world, ask of us the same high
standards of strength and sacrifice that we shall ask of you. With a good conscience our only
sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we
love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly
be our own.
These are the three places in this brief address in which Kennedy mentioned the name of God. If we
could understand why he mentioned God, the way in which he did, and what he meant to say in those
three references, we would understand much about American civil religion. But this is not a simple or
obvious task, and American students of religion would probably differ widely in their interpretation of
these passages.
Let us consider first the placing of the three references. They occur in the two opening paragraphs and in
the closing paragraph, thus providing a sort of frame for more concrete remarks that form the middle
part of the speech. Looking beyond this particular speech, we would find that similar references to God
are almost invariably to be found in the pronouncements of American presidents on solemn occasions,
though usually not in the working messages that the President sends to Congress on various concrete
issues. How, then, are we to interpret this placing of references to God?
It might be argued that the passages quoted reveal the essentially irrelevant role of religion in the very
secular society that is America. The placing of the references in this speech as well as in public life
generally indicates that religion “has only a ceremonial significance”; it gets only a sentimental nod that
serves largely to placate the more unenlightened members of the community before a discussion of the
really serious business with which religion has nothing whatever to do. A cynical observer might even say
that an American President has to mention God or risk losing votes. A semblance of piety is merely one of
the unwritten qualifications for the office, a bit more traditional than but not essentially different from the
present-day requirement of a pleasing television personality.
But we know enough about the function of ceremonial and ritual in various societies to make us
suspicious of dismissing something as unimportant because it is “only a ritual.” What people say on
solemn occasions need not be taken at face value, but it is often indicative of deep-seated values and
commitments that are not made explicit in the course of everyday life. Following this line of argument, it
is worth considering whether the very special placing of the references to God in Kennedy’s address may
not reveal something rather important and serious about religion in American life.
It might be countered that the very way in which Kennedy made his references reveals the essentially
vestigial place of religion today. He did not refer to any religion in particular. He did not refer to Jesus
Christ, or to Moses, or to the Christian church; certainly he did not refer to the Catholic church. In fact,
his only reference was to the concept of God, a word that almost all Americans can accept but that
means so many different things to so many different people that it is almost an empty sign. Is this not
just another indication that in America religion is considered vaguely to be a good thing, but that people
care so little about it that it has lost any content whatever? Isn’t Dwight Eisenhower reported to have
said “Our government makes no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith-and I don’t care
what it is,”[ii] and isn’t that a complete negation of any real religion?
These questions are worth pursuing because they raise the issue of how civil religion relates to the
political society on the one hand and to private religious organization on the other. President Kennedy
was a Christian, more specifically a Catholic Christian. Thus his general references to God do not mean
that he lacked a specific religious commitment. But why, then, did he not include some remark to the
effect that Christ is the Lord of the world or some indication of respect for the Catholic church? He did not
because these are matters of his own private religious belief and of his own particular church; they are
not matters relevant in any direct way to the conduct of his public office. Others with different religious
views and commitments to different churches or denominations are equally qualified participants in the
political process. The principle of separation of church and state guarantees the freedom of religious
belief and association, but at the same time clearly segregates the religious sphere, which is considered
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to be essentially private, from the political one.
Considering the separation of church and state, how is a president justified in using the word “God” at
all? The answer is that the separation of church and state has not denied the political realm a religious
dimension. Although matters of personal religious belief, worship, and association are considered to be
strictly private affairs, there are, at the same time, certain common elements of religious orientation that
the great majority of Americans share. These have played a crucial role in the development of American
institutions and still provide a religious dimension for the whole fabric of American life, including the
political sphere. This public religious dimension is expressed in a set of beliefs, symbols, and rituals that I
am calling American civil religion. The inauguration of a president is an important ceremonial event in this
religion. It reaffirms, among other things, the religious legitimation of the highest political authority.
Let us look more closely at what Kennedy actually said. First, he said, “I have sworn before you and
Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.”
The oath is the oath of office, including the acceptance of the obligation to uphold the Constitution. He
swears it before the people (you) and God. Beyond the Constitution, then, the president’s obligation
extends not only to the people but to God. In American political theory, sovereignty rests, of course, with
the people, but implicitly, and often explicitly, the ultimate sovereignty has been attributed to God. This
is the meaning of the motto, “In God we trust,” as well as the inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the
pledge to the flag. What difference does it make that sovereignty belongs to God? Though the will of the
people as expressed in the majority vote is carefully institutionalized as the operative source of political
authority, it is deprived of an ultimate significance. The will of the people is not itself the criterion of right
and wrong. There is a higher criterion in terms of which this will can be judged; it is possible that the
people may be wrong. The president’s obligation extends to the higher criterion.
When Kennedy says that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand
of God,” he is stressing this point again. It does not matter whether the state is the expression of the will
of an autocratic monarch or of the “people”; the rights of man are more basic than any political structure
and provide a point of revolutionary leverage from which any state structure may be radically altered.
That is the basis for his reassertion of the revolutionary significance of America.
But the religious dimension of political life as recognized by Kennedy not only provides a grounding for
the rights of man that makes any form of political absolutism illegitimate, it also provides a transcendent
goal for the political process. This is implied in his final words that “here on earth God’s work must truly
be our own.” What he means here is, I think, more clearly spelled out in a previous paragraph, the
wording of which, incidentally, has a distinctly biblical ring:
Now the trumpet summons us again-not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need-not as
a call to battle, though embattled we are-but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight
struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”-a struggle against
the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.
The whole address can be understood as only the most recent statement of a theme that lies very deep
in the American tradition, namely the obligation, both collective and individual, to carry out God’s will on
earth. This was the motivating spirit of those who founded America, and it has been present in every
generation since. Just below the surface throughout Kennedy’s inaugural address, it becomes explicit in
the closing statement that God’s work must be our own. That this very activist and noncontemplative
conception of the fundamental religious obligation, which has been historically associated with the
Protestant position, should be enunciated so clearly in the first major statement of the first Catholic
president seems to underline how deeply established it is in the American outlook. Let us now consider
the form and history of the civil religious tradition in which Kennedy was speaking.
The Idea of a Civil Religion
The phrase “civil religion” is, of course, Rousseau’s. In chapter 8, book 4 of The Social Contract, he
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outlines the simple dogmas of the civil religion: the existence of God, the life to come, the reward of
virtue and the punishment of vice, and the exclusion of religious intolerance. All other religious opinions
are outside the cognizance of the state and may be freely held by citizens. While the phrase “civil
religion” was not used, to the best of my knowledge, by the founding fathers, and I am certainly not
arguing for the particular influence of Rousseau, it is clear that similar ideas, as part of the cultural
climate of the late eighteenth century, were to be found among the Americans. For example, Benjamin
Franklin writes in his autobiography,
I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of
the Deity; that he made the world and govern’d it by his Providence; that the most
acceptable service of God was the doing of good to men; that our souls are immortal; and
that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded either here or hereafter. These I
esteemed the essentials of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had
in our country, I respected them all, tho’ with different degrees of respect, as I found them
more or less mix’d with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, promote or
confirm morality, serv’d principally do divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another.
It is easy to dispose of this sort of position as essentially utilitarian in relation to religion. In Washington’s
Farewell Address (though the words may be Hamilton’s) the utilitarian aspect is quite explicit:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are
indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should
labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of
men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man ought to cherish and
respect them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.
Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense
of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts
of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained
without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of
peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can
prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
But there is every reason to believe that religion, particularly the idea of God, played a constitutive role
in the thought of the early American statesmen.
Kennedy’s inaugural pointed to the religious aspect of the Declaration of Independence, and it might be
well to look a that document a bit more closely. There are four references to God. The first speaks of the
“Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” that entitle any people to be independent. The second is the
famous statement that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights.” Here
Jefferson is locating the fundamental legitimacy of the new nation in a conception of “higher law” that is
itself based on both classical natural law and biblical religion. The third is an appeal to “the Supreme
Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” and the last indicates “a firm reliance on the
protection of divine Providence.” In these last two references, a biblical God of history who stands in
judgment over the world is indicated.
The intimate relation of these religious notions with the self-conception of the new republic is indicated by
the frequency of their appearance in early official documents. For example, we find in Washington’s first
inaugural address of April 30, 1789:
It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to
that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations,
and whose providential aids can supply every defect, that His benediction may consecrate
to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted
by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in
its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.
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No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the
affairs of man more than those of the United States. Every step by which we have
advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by
some token providential agency..
The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the
eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.. The preservation of the
sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly
considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands
of the American people.
Nor did these religious sentiments remain merely the personal expression of the President. At the request
of both Houses of Congress, Washington proclaimed on October 3 of that same first year as President
that November 26 should be “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer,” the first Thanksgiving Day under
the Constitution.
The words and acts of the founding fathers, especially the first few presidents, shaped the form and tone
of the civil religion as it has been maintained ever since. Though much is selectively derived from
Christianity, this religion is clearly not itself Christianity. For one thing, neither Washington nor Adams
nor Jefferson mentions Christ in his inaugural address; nor do any of the subsequent presidents, although
not one of them fails to mention God.[iii] The God of the civil religion is not only rather “unitarian,” he is
also on the austere side, much more related to order, law, and right than to salvation and love. Even
though he is somewhat deist in cast, he is by no means simply a watchmaker God. He is actively
interested and involved in history, with a special concern for America. Here the analogy has much less to
do with natural law than with ancient Israel; the equation of America with Israel in the idea of the
“American Israel” is not infrequent.[iv] What was implicit in the words of Washington already quoted
becomes explicit in Jefferson’s second inaugural when he said: “I shall need, too, the favor of that Being
in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a
country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life.” Europe is Egypt; America, the promised
land. God has led his people to establish a new sort of social order that shall be a light unto all the
nations.[v] This theme, too, has been a continuous one in the civil religion. We have already alluded to it
in the case of the Kennedy inaugural. We find it again in President Johnson’s inaugural address:
They came already here-the exile and the stranger, brave but frightened-to find a place
where a man could be his own man. They made a covenant with this land. Conceived in
justice, written in liberty, bound in union, it was meant one day to inspire the hopes of all
mankind; and it binds us still. If we keep its terms, we shall flourish.
What we have, then, from the earliest years of the republic is a collection of beliefs, symbols, and rituals
with respect to sacred things and institutionalized in a collectivity. This religion-there seems no other
word for it-while not antithetical to and indeed sharing much in common with Christianity, was neither
sectarian nor in any specific sense Christian. At a time when the society was overwhelmingly Christian, it
seems unlikely that this lack of Christian reference was meant to spare the feelings of the tiny nonChristian minority. Rather, the civil religion expressed what those who set the precedents felt was
appropriate under the circumstances. It reflected their private as well as public views. Nor was the civil
religion simply “religion in general.” While generality was undoubtedly seen as a virtue by some, as in the
quotation from Franklin above, the civil religion was specific enough when it came to the topic of
America. Precisely because of this specificity, the civil religion was saved from empty formalism and
served as a genuine vehicle of national religious self-understanding.
But the civil religion was not, in the minds of Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, or other leaders, with the
exception of a few radicals like Tom Paine, ever felt to be a substitute for Christianity. There was an
implicit but quite clear division of function between the civil religion and Christianity. Under the doctrine
of religious liberty, an exceptionally wide sphere of personal piety and voluntary social action was left to
the churches. But the churches were neither to control the state nor to be controlled by it. The national
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magistrate, whatever his private religious views, operates under the rubrics of the civil religion as long as
he is in his official capacity, as we have already seen in the case of Kennedy. This accommodation was
undoubtedly the product of a particular historical moment and of a cultural background dominated by
Protestantism of several varieties and by the Enlightenment, but it has survived despite subsequent
changes in the cultural and religious climate.
Civil War and Civil Religion
Until the Civil War, the American civil religion focused above all on the event of the Revolution, which was
seen as the final act of the Exodus from the old lands across the waters. The Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution were the sacred scriptures and Washington the divinely appointed Moses who led his
people out of the hands of tyranny. The Civil War, which Sidney Mead calls “the center of American
history,” [vi] was the second great event that involved the national self-understanding so deeply as to
require expression in civil religion. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that the American republic has
never really been tried and that victory in the Revolutionary War was more the result of British
preoccupation elsewhere and the presence of a powerful ally than of any great military success of the
Americans. But in 1861 the time of testing had indeed come. Not only did the Civil War have the tragic
intensity of fratricidal strife, but it was one of the bloodiest wars of the nineteenth century; the loss of life
was far greater than any previously suffered by Americans.
The Civil War raised the deepest questions of national meaning. The man who not only formulated but in
his own person embodied its meaning for Americans was Abraham Lincoln. For him the issue was not in
the first instance slavery but “whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can
long endure.” He had said in Independence Hall in Philadelphia on February 22, 1861:
All the political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw
them, from the sentiments which originated in and were given to the world from this Hall.
I have never had a feeling, politically, that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in
the Declaration of Independence. [vii]
The phrases of Jefferson constantly echo in Lincoln’s speeches. His task was, first of all, to save the
Union-not for America alone but for the meaning of America to the whole world so unforgettably etched
in the last phrase of the Gettysburg Address.
But inevitably the issue of slavery as the deeper cause of the conflict had to be faced. In his second
inaugural, Lincoln related slavery and the war in an ultimate perspective:
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of
God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now
wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due
to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine
attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope,
fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God
wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years
of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be
paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must
be said “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
But he closes on a note if not of redemption then of reconciliation-“With malice toward none, with charity
for all.”
With the Civil War, a new theme of death, sacrifice, and rebirth enters the new civil religion. It is
symbolized in the life and death of Lincoln. Nowhere is it stated more vividly than in the Gettysburg
Address, itself part of the Lincolnian “New Testament” among the civil scriptures. Robert Lowell has
recently pointed out the “insistent use of birth images” in this speech explicitly devoted to “these honored
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dead”: “brought forth,” “conceived,” “created,” “a new birth of freedom.” He goes on to say:
The Gettysburg Address is a symbolic and sacramental act. Its verbal quality is resonance
combined with a logical, matter of fact, prosaic brevity.. In his words, Lincoln symbolically
died, just as the Union soldiers really died-and as he himself was soon really to die. By his
words, he gave the field of battle a symbolic significance that it has lacked. For us and our
country, he left Jefferson’s ideals of freedom and equality joined to the Christian sacrificial
act of death and rebirth. I believe this is the meaning that goes beyond sect or religion and
beyond peace and war, and is now part of our lives as a challenge, obstacle and hope.[viii]
Lowell is certainly right in pointing out the Christian quality of the symbolism here, but he is also right in
quickly disavowing any sectarian implication. The earlier symbolism of the civil religion had been Hebraic
without any specific sense of being Jewish. The Gettysburg symbolism (” . those who here gave their
lives, that that nation might live”) is Christian without having anything to do with the Christian church.
The symbolic equation of Lincoln with Jesus was made relatively early. W. H. Herndon, who had been
Lincoln’s law partner, wrote:
For fifty years God rolled Abraham Lincoln through his fiery furnace. He did it to try
Abraham and to purify him for his purposes. This made Mr. Lincoln humble, tender,
forbearing, sympathetic to suffering, kind, sensitive, tolerant; broadening, deepening and
widening his whole nature; making him the noblest and loveliest character since Jesus
Christ.. I believe that Lincoln was God’s chosen one. [ix]
With the Christian archetype in the background, Lincoln, “our martyred president,” was linked to the war
dead, those who “gave the last full measure of devotion.” The theme of sacrifice was indelibly written into
the civil religion.
The new symbolism soon found both physical and ritualistic expression. The great number of the war
dead required the establishment of a number of national cemeteries. Of these, Gettysburg National
Cemetery, which Lincoln’s famous address served to dedicate, has been overshadowed only by the
Arlington National Cemetery. Begun somewhat vindictively on the Lee estate across the river from
Washington, partly with the end that the Lee family could never reclaim it,[x] it has subsequently become
the most hallowed monument of the civil religion. Not only was a section set aside for the confederate
dead, but it has received the dead of each succeeding American war. It is the site of the one important
new symbol to come out of World War I, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; more recently it has become
the site of the tomb of another martyred President and its symbolic eternal flame.
Memorial Day, which grew out of the Civil War, gave ritual expression to the themes we have been
discussing. As Lloyd Warner has so brilliantly analyzed it, the Memorial Day observance, especially in the
towns and smaller cities of America, is a major event for the whole community involving a rededication to
the martyred dead, to the spirit of sacrifice, and to the American vision.[xi] Just as Thanksgiving Day,
which incidentally was securely institutionalized as an annual national holiday only under the presidency
of Lincoln, serves to integrate the family into the civil religion, so Memorial Day has acted to integrate the
local community into the national cult. Together with the less overtly religious Fourth of July and the
more minor celebrations of Veterans Day and the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln, these two
holidays provide an annual ritual calendar for the civil religion. The public school system serves as a
particularly important context for the cultic celebration of the civil rituals.
The Civil Religion Today
In reifying and giving a name to something that, though pervasive enough when you look at it, has gone
on only semiconsciously, there is risk of severely distorting the data. But the reification and the naming
have already begun. The religious critics of “religion in general,” or of the “religion of the ‘American Way
of Life,'” or of “American Shinto” have really been talking about the civil religion. As usual in religious
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polemic, they take as criteria the best in their own religious tradition and as typical the worst in the
tradition of the civil religion. Against these critics, I would argue that the civil religion at its best is a
genuine apprehension of universal and transcendent religious reality as seen in or, one could almost say,
as revealed through the experience of the American people. Like all religions, it has suffered various
deformations and demonic distortions. At its best, it has neither been so general that it has lacked
incisive relevance to the American scene nor so particular that it has placed American society above
universal human values. I am not at all convinced that the leaders of the churches have consistently
represented a higher level of religious insight than the spokesmen of the civil religion. Reinhold Niebuhr
has this to say of Lincoln, who never joined a church and who certainly represents civil religion at its
An analysis of the religion of Abraham Lincoln in the context of the traditional religion of
his time and place and of its polemical use on the slavery issue, which corrupted religious
life in the days before and during the Civil War, must lead to the conclusion that Lincoln’s
religious convictions were superior in depth and purity to those, not only of the political
leaders of his day, but of the religious leaders of the era.[xii]
Perhaps the real animus of the religious critics has been not so much against the civil religion in itself but
against its pervasive and dominating influence within the sphere of church religion. As S. M. Lipset has
recently shown, American religion at least since the early nineteenth century has been predominantly
activist, moralistic, and social rather than contemplative, theological, or innerly spiritual.[xiii] De
Tocqueville spoke of American church religion as “a political institution which powerfully contributes to
the maintenance of a democratic republic among the Americans”[xiv] by supplying a strong moral
consensus amidst continuous political change. Henry Bargy in 1902 spoke of American church religion as
“la poésie du civisme.”[xv]
It is certainly true that the relation between religion and politics in America has been singularly smooth.
This is in large part due to the dominant tradition. As de Tocqueville wrote:
The greatest part of British America was peopled by men who, after having shaken off the
authority of the Pope, acknowledged no other religious supremacy: they brought with
them into the New World a form of Christianity which I cannot better describe than by
styling it a democratic and republican religion.[xvi]
The churches opposed neither the Revolution nor the establishment of democratic institutions. Even when
some of them opposed the full institutionalization of religious liberty, they accepted the final outcome
with good grace and without nostalgia for the ancien régime.
The American civil religion was never anticlerical or militantly secular. On the contrary, it borrowed
selectively from the religious tradition in such a way that the average American saw no conflict between
the two. In this way, the civil religion was able to build up without any bitter struggle with the church
powerful symbols of national solidarity and to mobilize deep levels of personal motivation for the
attainment of national goals.
Such an achievement is by no means to be taken for granted. It would seem that the problem of a civil
religion is quite general in modern societies and that the way it is solved or not solved will have
repercussions in many spheres. One need only to think of France to see how differently things can go.
The French Revolution was anticlerical to the core and attempted to set up an anti-Christian civil religion.
Throughout modern French history, the chasm between traditional Catholic symbols and the symbolism
of 1789 has been immense.
American civil religion is still very much alive. Just three years ago we participated in a vivid reenactment
of the sacrifice theme in connection with the funeral of our assassinated President. The American Israel
theme is clearly behind both Kennedy’s New Frontier and Johnson’s Great Society. Let me give just one
recent illustration of how the civil religion serves to mobilize support for the attainment of national goals.
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Civil Religion in America by Robert N. Bellah
On March 15, 1965, President Johnson went before Congress to ask for a strong voting-rights bill. Early
in the speech he said:
Rarely are we met with the challenge, not to our growth or abundance, or our welfare or our
society-but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved nation.
The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we double our
wealth and conquer the stars and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a
people and as a nation.
For with a country as with a person, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul.”
And in conclusion he said:
Above the pyramid on the great seal of the United States it says in Latin, “God has favored
our undertaking.”
God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine his will. I cannot help
but believe that He truly understands and that He really favors the undertaking that we begin
here tonight.[xvii]
The civil religion has not always been invoked in favor of worthy causes. On the domestic scene, an
American-Legion type of ideology that fuses God, country, and flag has been used to attack
nonconformist and liberal ideas and groups of all kinds. Still, it has been difficult to use the words of
Jefferson and Lincoln to support special interests and undermine personal freedom. The defenders of
slavery before the Civil War came to reject the thinking of the Declaration of Independence. Some of the
most consistent of them turned against not only Jeffersonian democracy but Reformation religion; they
dreamed of a South dominated by medieval chivalry and divine-right monarchy.[xviii] For all the overt
religiosity of the radical right today, their relation to the civil religious consensus is tenuous, as when the
John Birch Society attacks the central American symbol of Democracy itself.
With respect to America’s role in the world, the dangers of distortion are greater and the built-in
safeguards of the tradition weaker. The theme of the American Israel was used, almost from the
beginning, as a justification for the shameful treatment of the Indians so characteristic of our history. It
can be overtly or implicitly linked to the ideal of manifest destiny that has been used to legitimate several
adventures in imperialism since the early nineteenth century. Never has the danger been greater than
today. The issue is not so much one of imperial expansion, of which we are accused, as of the tendency
to assimilate all governments or parties in the world that support our immediate policies or call upon our
help by invoking the notion of free institutions and democratic values. Those nations that are for the
moment “on our side” become “the free world.” A repressive and unstable military dictatorship in South
Vietnam becomes “the free people of South Vietnam and their government.” It is then part of the role of
America as the New Jerusalem and “the last best hope of earth” to defend such governments with
treasure and eventually with blood. When our soldiers are actually dying, it becomes possible to
consecrate the struggle further by invoking the great theme of sacrifice. For the majority of the American
people who are unable to judge whether the people in South Vietnam (or wherever) are “free like us,”
such arguments are convincing. Fortunately President Johnson has been less ready to assert that “God
has favored our undertaking” in the case of Vietnam than with respect to civil rights. But others are not
so hesitant. The civil religion has exercised long-term pressure for the humane solution of our greatest
domestic problem, the treatment of the Negro American. It remains to be seen how relevant it can
become for our role in the world at large, and whether we can effectually stand for “the revolutionary
beliefs for which our forbears fought,” in John F. Kennedy’s words.
The civil religion is obviously involved in the most pressing moral and political issues of the day. But it is
also caught in another kind of crisis, theoretical and theological, of which it is at the moment largely
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unaware. “God” has clearly been a central symbol in the civil religion from the beginning and remains so
today. This symbol is just as central to the civil religion as it is to Judaism or Christianity. In the late
eighteenth century this posed no problem; even Tom Paine, contrary to his detractors, was not an
atheist. From left to right and regardless of church or sect, all could accept the idea of God. But today, as
even Time has recognized, the meaning of “God” is by no means so clear or so obvious. There is no
formal creed in the civil religion. We have had a Catholic President; it is conceivable that we could have a
Jewish one. But could we have an agnostic president? Could a man with conscientious scruples about
using the word “God” the way Kennedy and Johnson have used it be elected chief magistrate of our
country? If the whole God symbolism requires reformulation, there will be obvious consequences for the
civil religion, consequences perhaps of liberal alienation and of fundamentalist ossification that have not
so far been prominent in this realm. The civil religion has been a point of articulation between the
profoundest commitments of Western religious and philosophical tradition and the common beliefs of
ordinary Americans. It is not too soon to consider how the deepening theological crisis may affect the
future of this articulation.
The Third Time of Trial
In conclusion it may be worthwhile to relate the civil religion to the most serious situation that we as
Americans now face, what I call the third time of trial. The first time of trial had to do with the question of
independence, whether we should or could run our own affairs in our own way. The second time of trial
was over the issue of slavery, which in turn was only the most salient aspect of the more general
problem of the full institutionalization of democracy within our country. This second problem we are still
far from solving though we have some notable successes to our credit. But we have been overtaken by a
third great problem that has led to a third great crisis, in the midst of which we stand. This is the problem
of responsible action in a revolutionary world, a world seeking to attain many of the things, material and
spiritual, that we have already attained. Americans have, from the beginning, been aware of the
responsibility and the significance our republican experiment has for the whole world. The first internal
political polarization in the new nation had to do with our attitude toward the French Revolution. But we
were small and weak then, and “foreign entanglements” seemed to threaten our very survival. During the
last century, our relevance for the world was not forgotten, but our role was seen as purely exemplary.
Our democratic republic rebuked tyranny by merely existing. Just after World War I we were on the brink
of taking a different role in the world, but once again we turned our backs.
Since World War II the old pattern has become impossible. Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has
been groping toward a new pattern of action in the world, one that would be consonant with our power
and our responsibilities. For Truman and for the period dominated by John Foster Dulles that pattern was
seen to be the great Manichean confrontation of East and West, the confrontation of democracy and “the
false philosophy of Communism” that provided the structure of Truman’s inaugural address. But with the
last years of Eisenhower and with the successive two presidents, the pattern began to shift. The great
problems came to be seen as caused not solely by the evil intent of any one group of men. For Kennedy
it was not so much a struggle against particular men as against “the common enemies of man: tyranny,
poverty, disease and war itself.”
But in the midst of this trend toward a less primitive conception of ourselves and our world, we have
somehow, without anyone really intending it, stumbled into a military confrontation where we have come
to feel that our honor is at stake. We have in a moment of uncertainty been tempted to rely on our
overwhelming physical power rather than on our intelligence, and we have, in part, succumbed to this
temptation. Bewildered and unnerved when our terrible power fails to bring immediate success, we are at
the edge of a chasm the depth of which no man knows.
I cannot help but think of Robinson Jeffers, whose poetry seems more apt now than when it was written,
when he said:
Unhappy country, what wings you have! .
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Weep (it is frequent in human affairs), weep for
the terrible magnificence of the means,
The ridiculous incompetence of the reasons, the
bloody and shabby
Pathos of the result.
But as so often before in similar times, we have a man of prophetic stature, without the bitterness or
misanthropy of Jeffers, who, as Lincoln before him, calls this nation to its judgment:
When a nation is very powerful but lacking in self-confidence, it is likely to behave in a
manner that is dangerous both to itself and to others.
Gradually but unmistakably, America is succumbing to that arrogance of power which has afflicted,
weakened and in some cases destroyed great nations in the past.
If the war goes on and expands, if that fatal process continues to accelerate until America
becomes what it is not now and never has been, a seeker after unlimited power and
empire, then Vietnam will have had a mighty and tragic fallout indeed.
I do not believe that will happen. I am very apprehensive but I still remain hopeful, and
even confident, that America, with its humane and democratic traditions, will find the
wisdom to match its power.[xix]
Without an awareness that our nation stands under higher judgment, the tradition of the civil religion
would be dangerous indeed. Fortunately, the prophetic voices have never been lacking. Our present
situation brings to mind the Mexican-American war that Lincoln, among so many others, opposed. The
spirit of civil disobedience that is alive today in the civil rights movement and the opposition to the
Vietnam War was already clearly outlined by Henry David Thoreau when he wrote, “If the law is of such a
nature that it requires you to be an agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Thoreau’s
words, “I would remind my countrymen that they are men first, and Americans at a late and convenient
hour,”[xx] provide an essential standard for any adequate thought and action in our third time of trial. As
Americans, we have been well favored in the world, but it is as men that we will be judged.
Out of the first and second times of trial have come, as we have seen, the major symbols of the
American civil religion. There seems little doubt that a successful negotiation of this third time of trial-the
attainment of some kind of viable and coherent world order-would precipitate a major new set of
symbolic forms. So far the flickering flame of the United Nations burns too low to be the focus of a cult,
but the emergence of a genuine transnational sovereignty would certainly change this. It would
necessitate the incorporation of vital international symbolism into our civil religion, or, perhaps a better
way of putting it, it would result in American civil religion becoming simply one part of a new civil religion
of the world. It is useless to speculate on the form such a civil religion might take, though it obviously
would draw on religious traditions beyond the sphere of biblical religion alone. Fortunately, since the
American civil religion is not the worship of the American nation but an understanding of the American
experience in the light of ultimate and universal reality, the reorganization entailed by such a new
situation need not disrupt the American civil religion’s continuity. A world civil religion could be accepted
as a fulfillment and not as a denial of American civil religion. Indeed, such an outcome has been the
eschatological hope of American civil religion from the beginning. To deny such an outcome would be to
deny the meaning of America itself.
Behind the civil religion at every point lie biblical archetypes: Exodus, Chosen People, Promised Land,
New Jerusalem, and Sacrificial Death and Rebirth. But it is also genuinely American and genuinely new. It
has its own prophets and its own martyrs, its own sacred events and sacred places, its own solemn
rituals and symbols. It is concerned that America be a society as perfectly in accord with the will of God
as men can make it, and a light to all nations.
It has often been used and is being used today as a cloak for petty interests and ugly passions. It is in
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need-as any living faith-of continual reformation, of being measured by universal standards. But it is not
evident that it is incapable of growth and new insight.
It does not make any decisions for us. It does not remove us from moral ambiguity, from being, in
Lincoln’s fine phrase, an “almost chosen people.” But it is a heritage of moral and religious experience
from which we still have much to learn as we formulate the decisions that lie ahead.
[i] Why something so obvious should have escaped serious analytical attention is itself an interesting
problem. Part of the reason is probably the controversial nature of the subject. From the earliest years of
the nineteenth century, conservative religious and political groups have argued that Christianity is, in
fact, the national religion. Some of them from time to time and as recently as the 1950s proposed
constitutional amendments that would explicitly recognize the sovereignty of Christ. In defending the
doctrine of separation of church and state, opponents of such groups have denied that the national polity
has, intrinsically, anything to do with religion at all. The moderates on this issue have insisted that the
American state has taken a permissive and indeed supportive attitude toward religious groups (tax
exemptions, et cetera), thus favoring religion but still missing the positive institutionalization with which I
am concerned. But part of the reason this issue has been left in obscurity is certainly due to the
peculiarly Western concept of “religion” as denoting a single type of collectivity of which an individual can
be a member of one and only one at a time. The Durkheimian notion that every group has a religious
dimension, which would be seen as obvious in southern or eastern Asia, is foreign to us. This obscures
the recognition of such dimensions in our society.
[ii] Dwight D. Eisenhower, in Will Herberg, Protestant-Catholic-Jew (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co.,
1955), p. 97.
[iii] God is mentioned or referred to in all inaugural addresses but Washington’s second, which is a very
brief (two paragraphs) and perfunctory acknowledgement. It is not without interest that the actual word
“God” does not appear until Monroe’s second inaugural, March 5, 1821. In his first inaugural, Washington
refers to God as “that Almighty Being who rules the universe,” “Great Author of every public and private
good,” “Invisible Hand,” and “benign Parent of the Human Race.” John Adams refers to God as
“Providence,” “Being who is supreme over all,” “Patron of Order,” “Fountain of Justice,” and “Protector in
all ages of the world of virtuous liberty.” Jefferson speaks of “that Infinite Power which rules the destinies
of the universe,” and “that Being in whose hands we are.” Madison speaks of “that Almighty Being whose
power regulates the destiny of nations,” and “Heaven.” Monroe uses “Providence” and “the Almighty” in
his first inaugural and finally “Almighty God” in his second. See Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of
the United States from George Washington 1789 to Harry S. Truman 1949, 82d Congress, 2d Session,
House Document No. 540, 1952.
[iv] For example, Abiel Abbot, pastor of the First Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts, delivered a
Thanksgiving sermon in 1799, Traits of Resemblance in the People of the United States of America to
Ancient Israel, in which he said, “It has been often remarked that the people of the United States come
nearer to a parallel with Ancient Israel, than any other nation upon the globe. Hence ‘Our American
Israel’ is a term frequently used; and common consent allows it apt and proper.” In Hans Kohn, The Idea
of Nationalism (New York: Macmillan Co., 1961), p. 665.
[v] That the Mosaic analogy was present in the minds of leaders at the very moment of the birth of the
republic is indicated in the designs proposed by Franklin and Jefferson for the seal of the United States of
America. Together with Adams, they formed a committee of three delegated by the Continental Congress
on July 4, 1776, to draw up the new device. “Franklin proposed as the device Moses lifting up his wand
and dividing the Red Sea while Pharaoh was overwhelmed by its waters, with the motto ‘Rebellion to
tyrants is obedience to God.’ Jefferson proposed the children of Israel in the wilderness ‘led by a cloud by
day and a pillar of fire at night.'” Anson Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States, vol. 1
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(New York: Harper & Co., 1950), pp. 467-68.
[vi] Sidney E. Mead, The Lively Experiment (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), p. 12.
[vii] Abraham Lincoln, in Allan Nevins, ed., Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address (Urbana, Ill.: Univ. of Ill.
Press, 1964), p. 39.
[viii] Robert Lowell, in ibid., “On the Gettysburg Address,” pp. 88-89.
[ix] William Henry Herndon, in Sherwood Eddy, The Kingdom of God and the American Dream (New York:
Harper & Row, 1941), p. 162.
[x] Karl Decker and Angus McSween, Historic Arlington (Washington, D.C., 1892), pp. 60-67.
[xi] How extensive the activity associated with Memorial Day can be is indicated by Warner: “The sacred
symbolic behavior of Memorial Day, in which scores of the town’s organizations are involved, is ordinarily
divided into four periods. During the year separate rituals are held by many of the associations for their
dead, and many of these activities are connected with later Memorial Day events. In the second phase,
preparations are made during the last three or four weeks for the ceremony itself, and some of the
associations perform public rituals. The third phase consists of scores of rituals held in all the cemeteries,
churches, and halls of the associations. These rituals consist of speeches and highly ritualized behavior.
They last for two days and are climaxed by the fourth and last phase, in which all the separate celebrants
gather in the center of the business district on the afternoon of Memorial Day. The separate
organizations, with their members in uniform or with fitting insignia, march through the town, visit the
shrines and monuments of the hero dead, and, finally, enter the cemetery. Here dozens of ceremonies
are held, most of them highly symbolic and formalized.” During these various ceremonies Lincoln is
continually referred to and the Gettysburg Address recited many times. W. Lloyd Warner, American Life
(Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1962), pp. 8-9.
[xii] Reinhold Niebuhr, “The Religion of Abraham Lincoln,” in Nevins, ed., op. cit., p. 72. William J. Wolfe
of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has written: “Lincoln is one of the
greatest theologians of America-not in the technical meaning of producing a system of doctrine, certainly
not as a defender of some one denomination, but in the sense of seeing the hand of God intimately in the
affairs of nations. Just so the prophets of Israel criticized the events of their day from the perspective of
the God who is concerned for history, and who reveals His will within it. Lincoln now stands among God’s
latter day prophets.” The Religion of Abraham Lincoln (New York, 1963), p. 24.
[xiii] Seymour Martin Lipset, “Religion and American Values in The First New Nation (New York: Basic
Books, 1964), chap. 4.
[xiv] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. 1 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., Anchor
Books, 1954), p. 310.
[xv] Henry Bargy, La Religion dans la Société aux États-Unis (Paris, 1902), p. 31.
[xvi] De Tocqueville, op. cit., p. 311. Later he says, “In the United States even the religion of most of the
citizens is republican, since it submits the truths of the other world to private judgment, as in politics the
care of their temporal interests is abandoned to the good sense of the people. Thus every man is allowed
freely to take that road which he thinks will lead him to heaven, just as the law permits every citizen to
have the right of choosing his own government” (p. 436).
[xvii] Lyndon B. Johnson, in U.S., Congressional Record, House, March 15, 1965, pp. 4924, 4926.
[xviii] See Louis Hartz, “The Feudal Dream of the South,” pt. 4, The Liberal Tradition in America (New
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York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1955).
[xix] Senator J. William Fullbright, speech of April 28, 1966, as reported in The New York Times, April 29,
[xx] Henry David Thoreau, In Yehoshua Arieli, Individualism and Nationalism in American Ideology
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1964), p. 274.
return to Articles and Chapters
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Revelation 20-22 KJV – And I saw an angel come down from – …
Revelation 20-22
King James Version (KJV)
20 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless
pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And
he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and
bound him a thousand years,
3 And
cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that
he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and
after that he must be loosed a little season.
4 And
I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them:
and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the
word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had
received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned
with Christ a thousand years.
5 But
the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This
is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed
and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second
death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign
with him a thousand years.
7 And
when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 And
shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth,
Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the
sand of the sea.
9 And
they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the
saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and
devoured them.
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10 And
the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone,
where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for
ever and ever.
11 And
I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth
and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And
I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were
opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were
judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And
the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the
dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And
death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And
whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of
21 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth
were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And
I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And
I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is
with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself
shall be with them, and be their God.
4 And
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things
are passed away.
5 And
he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said
unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And
he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7 He
that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my
8 But
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the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and
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whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the
lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
9 And
there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of
the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the
bride, the Lamb’s wife.
10 And
he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me
that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
11 Having
the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even
like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
12 And
had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve
angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the
children of Israel:
13 On
the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on
the west three gates.
14 And
the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the
twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 And
he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates
thereof, and the wall thereof.
16 And
the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he
measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the
breadth and the height of it are equal.
17 And
he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according
to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.
18 And
the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto
clear glass.
19 And
the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of
precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a
chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
20 The
fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the
ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an
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21 And
the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and
the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
22 And
I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the
temple of it.
23 And
the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory
of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
24 And
the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings
of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
25 And
the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
26 And
they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
27 And
there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever
worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book
of life.
22 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out
of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
2 In
the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of
life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the
leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
3 And
there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in
it; and his servants shall serve him:
4 And
they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
5 And
there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun;
for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
6 And
he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the
holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly
be done.
7 Behold,
I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of
this book.
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8 And
I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell
down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.
9 Then
saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy
brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship
10 And
he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the
time is at hand.
11 He
that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still:
and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy
12 And,
behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man
according as his work shall be.
13 I
am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
14 Blessed
are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree
of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15 For
without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and
idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
16 I
Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am
the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
17 And
the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let
him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
18 For
I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If
any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are
written in this book:
19 And
if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God
shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the
things which are written in this book.
20 He
which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come,
Lord Jesus.
21 The
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grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
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Revelation 20-22 KJV – And I saw an angel come down from – …
King James Version (KJV)
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Possible Implications from the Ending of White Christians in the US
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Possible Implications from the Ending of White Christians in the US
Religion has always played a vital role in shaping socio-economic and political issues in
the US. The American founding fathers drew on religious values and rhetoric in developing laws
that formed the new nation. During the 17th and 18th centuries, churches were active on both
sides despite the controversy and divergent opinions that were held by the Northerners and the
Southerners on the issue of slavery. According to (Jones, 2016), various religious groups,
majorly white Christians, were significant participants in advocating for various issues in the
American society such as prohibition of the sale of liquor, abolition of slave trade, defense of the
gold standard, passage of the civil rights legislation, enactment of women’s suffrage legislation,
and more importantly reforming the national economy.
However, over the years, the number of white Christians in the US has been dwindling
day by day, resulting in a growing concern amongst policymakers and the public that the country
may witness an end to white Christianity, an occurrence which may have significant implications
on the values and beliefs of the people and the nation at large. In the book The End of White
Christian America, Robert P. Jones spells out the profound political and cultural consequences
that are likely to be witnessed in the country due to the continued decline of white Christianity in
the nation.
Thesis statement: Considering that religion has often played a significant role in the
ideals and values held by the American people, the ending of white Christianity in America may
result in a total shift of American social and cultural values, economic philosophies, and a new
political dispensation in the country.
A. Socio-cultural implications
Increased cases of same-sex marriages, abortion, and a rise in sexual liberty.
Stark disagreements between Whites and Blacks on the issue of racial fairness in the
criminal justice system
Religious topography shifts, which will result in the rise of atheists in the country.
Decline in moral values and ideals which will foster criminal and immoral activities, such
as drug abuse, robbery, murder, and prostitution.
B. Political and economic implications
Growth in the participation and essentiality of the Africa-Americans and other
minority groups on political issues.
There will be a rise of the Tea Party movement, which will try to champion for
radical economic reforms in the country.
The descendants of White Christian America will lack the political power they once
enjoyed in setting the terms of the country’s political debates
The morals and values used in determining election outcomes will significantly shift
over the years.
The US government will reform some of its foreign policies because of the significant
shift in its values and political ideals back at home.
Conclusion: The American religion has played a crucial role in shaping the country’s moral
values and political ideals over the last three centuries. However, as Robert Jones tries to explain
in the book “The End of White Christian America,” these values and ideals are likely to change
due to the shift of American religious topography. Issues such as same-sex marriages, abortion,
the Tea Party Movement, and shift in the country’s political debates and election determinants
are likely to be witnessed in the coming years.
Jones, R. P. (2016). The end of white Christian America. Simon and Schuster.

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