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By Hugh Heclo

Christianity, no longer faith normally, has been very important for American democracy. With this daring thesis, Hugh Heclo deals a wide ranging view of ways Christianity and democracy have formed every one other.
Heclo exhibits that amid deeply felt spiritual modifications, a Protestant colonial society steadily confident itself of the really Christian purposes for, in addition to the enlightened political merits of, spiritual liberty. through the mid-twentieth century, American democracy and Christianity seemed locked in a mutual include. however it used to be a frustrating union at risk of primary problem within the Sixties. regardless of the next upward push of the spiritual correct and glib speak of a conservative Republican theocracy, Heclo sees a longer-term, reciprocal estrangement among Christianity and American democracy.
Responding to his tough argument, Mary Jo Bane, Michael Kazin, and Alan Wolfe criticize, qualify, and amend it. Heclo’s rejoinder indicates why either secularists and Christians may still fear a few coming rupture among the Christian and democratic faiths. the result's a full of life debate a few momentous rigidity in American public lifestyles.

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Extra info for Christianity and American Democracy (Alexis de Tocqueville Lectures on American Politics)

Example text

There was energetic persecution of Baptists and Quakers in Puritan New England, toleration in Catholic Maryland, greater freedom for all sects in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, mild Church of England establishment in Virginia, and flirtations with Enlightenment deism in various intellectual circles. From this confusing hodgepodge eventually emerged an answer to the conundrum of Christianity and civil authority. The “doctrine” making for this Great Denouement was produced not by events nor by ideas, but by ideas about events.

16 In short, Christianity has some chutzpah: it makes profound moral claims on the powers-that-be while refusing any ultimate allegiance to, or even personal kinship or special friendliness toward, those powers. After its first 300 years, the outsider Christian religion was brought inside civil power to become the state religion of the Roman Empire (the only way Imperial Rome knew how to think of legitimate religion). However, rather than eliminating the essential problem of Christianity and civil government, this move ulti21 christianity and american democracy mately intensified it.

The thrust of these religious-political developments in America was to supplant, if not obliterate, any orthodox Christian view concerning the meaning of history. After debate in its earliest years, the young Christian church decisively rejected “millennialism,” that is to say, the doctrine affirming Christ’s 1000-year reign in a coming earthly kingdom. It rejected millennialism as a “Jewish error”—not because early Christians were anti-Semitic (for over a hundred years Christian believers were mostly Jews), but because the idea of an earthly millennium was repeating the Jewish authorities’ mistake of expecting the Messiah to re-establish the earthly kingdom of national Israel.

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