Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Sunday, July 10, 2011

America and the West

In the year 476 AD, the Roman world collapsed under the weight of internal decay and external barbarian invasion and replaced with the world called Christendom, a world in which the secular and sacred were overlapped in more ways than one. Declared the “Dark Ages” by modern day anti-Catholic scholars, the years 800-1500 were anything but. Nevertheless, ever since the Protestant Revolt and Enlightenment, the term Christendom has been dropped and replaced by “the West” – and this is why we study “Western Civ” in college instead of Christendom. We do owe Protestant and Enlightenment thinkers, however, some thanks for underscoring the need for the division of church and state and for the development of nations.

We should also thank them for the United States.

But though the American nation was founded on Protestant and Enlightenment thinking, it was not built upon the thoroughly secular notions that began to dominate the European nations. In the 17th century, even as the nations of Europe still respected Christianity with the status of the state’s religion, the absolutist ideas of Hobbes and Machiavelli had already replaced God with the king as the sovereign of the nation. Unlike post-Enlightenment Europe, the United States remained fixed in the notion that we are a nation whose sovereign is God. While Europe eventually replaced their king-God with “vox populi, vox dei” (“The voice of the people is voice of God”), the American nation will always be “under God… and… of the people, by the people, for the people” (Gettysburg Address). This is what makes us different from the secular "West" and it should motivate us to help raise up the nations under God.

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