Thomas Jefferson, Johann Gottfried Herder, and the Revived American Cult of Muscular Christian Nationalism

A bit of (good) advice for politicized Christian fundamentalists from Rob Boston:

Jefferson and Madison worked together to end the government-established church in Virginia and guarantee religious liberty for all. Jefferson coined the metaphor of a “wall of separation between church and state.” Madison spoke of the “total separation of the church from the state.” Neither favored an officially Christian government. They are not on your side; stop invoking them.

But contemporary right-wing Christians (Andrew Sullivan calls them “Christianists”) are far more intellectually simpatico with the German theologian and philosopher, Johann Gottfried Herder. As Zeev Sternhell puts it in his excellent book, The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition  (Yale 2010, p. 274):

[T]he true founding father of [nationalist ideology] . . . was Herder. . . . It was the Herderian vision of a cultural, ethnic, and linguistic community that was to become the ideal of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, not that of a community of individuals united by reason, their interests, and the defense of their rights.

This ideology is back with a vengeance in the 21st century. We see it everywhere—from the ummah-driven politics of the Islamic world to American Christian nationalism.

But I’ll take Jefferson over Herder.

How about you?

thomas jefferson

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to Thomas Jefferson, Johann Gottfried Herder, and the Revived American Cult of Muscular Christian Nationalism

  1. Pingback: Telling The Truth About The United States Is Hard | Prometheus Unbound

  2. cwhig says:

    “No matter how different the forms in which humankind appears on earth: it is still everywhere one and the same human species.” Herder, Ideas on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind.

    I’ll take Herder.

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