“We’re a nation not just where you are free to believe or not to believe; we’re a nation founded for Him”: Rick Warren, Kathryn Jean Lopez, and the Theocratic Temptation

Kathryn Jean Lopez, of the National Catholic Register, offers a theocratic spin to the meaning of America (and Obama’s inauguration prayer):

Rick Warren reminded us why all eyes were on the Capitol steps that Tuesday afternoon: “in His name.”

We’re a nation not just where you are free to believe or not to believe; we’re a nation founded for Him — so we could praise Him, so we could do His will. Warren began his prayer as a gentle reminder to those privileged with seats and every Joe sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:

“Almighty God — our Father. Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory.”

We’re not JUST a nation founded on the “freedom to believe or not to believe”?

Instead, we’re a nation “founded for Him” and to “do His will”—and to “praise Him”?

This is a gross distortion of the secular function of our Constitution, as stated clearly in the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Whether one is religious or irreligious, the government’s civic neutrality regarding what constitutes service to “His” purposes and “will” is something that no religious sect, Christian or otherwise, should be able to infer (or enforce upon the nation, or declare) on behalf of the whole.

This is why Warren’s reference (in his inaugural prayer) to “Jesus” (which one, by the way?) and his recitation of St. Matthew’s “Lord’s Prayer,” was out of keeping with the civic, diverse, and multicultural nature of a national inauguration ceremony.

In short, Warren took advantage of the privilege of offering a prayer at the inaugural, and disrespected his fellow Americans who are not religious fundamentalists, implying that the nation belongs to one particular God in one particular way.

But America is not in covenant with God in the way that, say, Israel is depicted as being in covenant with God in the Hebrew Bible. America was not formally founded to serve any specific religious purpose, or to move in any particular (religiously sanctioned) direction.

This means, for example, that American law can treat gay people with democratic and civic equality even if this is a “direction” that fundamentalist religious groups regard as going against the will of God as revealed in the Bible.

Those who assert otherwise, as Kathryn Lopez and Rick Warren do, distort the Enlightenment principles of religious (and irreligious) freedom and tolerance on which our nation was founded.

They are advocating, in other words, that we move from a nation based on diversity to one based on a covenant with a particular Deity (theirs). It is a theocratic vision for America, not a Constitutional and democratic one.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to “We’re a nation not just where you are free to believe or not to believe; we’re a nation founded for Him”: Rick Warren, Kathryn Jean Lopez, and the Theocratic Temptation

  1. GOBAN says:

    the article with a correct information . but tims wretten . evry body is knows it . so it is not new

    It was not the time to teach this ,it is the time to protect democray from invaders by using the rule of law
    culturs that against democray should be desolved . democracy , have a power to protect itslef but we are the one ignored the correct and using a forged democracy. that is why the jin dancing with us

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