Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Is Americanism the Successor of Puritanism?

Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost has started a symposium asking the question in the title of this post. He specifically refers to this article that appears in Commentary magazine that was written by David Gelernter. The response from bloggers has been amazing and their posts can be found here.

Gelernter's thesis is that while Puritanism was a driving force in the birth of our country and the values that it was founded upon it has over time given way to Americanism which he defines this way:

"By Americanism I do not mean American tastes or style, or American culture—that convenient target of America-haters everywhere. Nor do I mean mere patriotic devotion; many nations command patriotic devotion from their citizens (or used to). By Americanism I mean the set of beliefs that are thought to constitute America’s essence and to set it apart; the beliefs that make Americans positive that their nation is superior to all others—morally superior, closer to God."

He bases this observation on the recent rise in Anti-Americanism which is characterized by the hatred for President George W. Bush, the policies of the American government, and the other "evils" that America embodies.

Certainly an Anti-American sentiment has existed for some time but it is not as widespread as Gelernter would have us believe. In fact, I believe the scope of Anti-Americanism has been blown out of proportion by our mainstream media which has used Anti-Americanism (particularly in Western Europe) as a way to undermine the just cause of the War on Terror.

Gelernter's attempt to show that Anti-Americanism is somehow a backlash against the influence of Puritanism seems to fall short. If anything, liberalism has risen as a response to Puritanism. Indeed, many of the tenets of modern liberalism are in direct opposition to the tenets of Puritanism.

The current tide of Anti-Americanism is more political in nature than it is religious. In some quarters, it is motivated by an offense at the arrogance of America and the way she conducts her affairs in the world. There are some who see us as a big bully that needs to be restrained. Others hate us because they are jealous of the blessings that we enjoy as Americans.

Go read the article as well as the symposium submissions and then judge for yourself.

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