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The final word: can Christianity contribute to a global civil religion?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Robert N. Bellah
Affiliation:
University of California
John Witte, Jr
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta
Frank S. Alexander
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta
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Summary

I will begin with two caveats. I have decided to leave the bulk of this chapter as it was written in 2007, representing the atmosphere in the United States and the world at a time we considered “normal,” and then in conclusion append a brief discussion of how later events have forced a change in everyone's thinking. Second, I have cited Christianity in my title because it is the religion with whose impact on global culture I am most concerned here, but I do not mean to privilege Christianity. A genuine global cultural consensus will need the contribution of all the religions.

In my essay “Civil Religion in America,” first published in Daedalus in 1967, I discussed toward the end the possibility of what I called a “world civil religion.” Naive though it may sound today, the idea of a world civil religion as expressing “the attainment of some kind of viable and coherent world order,” was the imagined resolution of what I then called America's third time of trial (the first time was concerned with independence; the second with slavery), an idea later developed in my book The Broken Covenant. The third time of trial, as I then put it, was concerned with America's place in the world, and indeed what kind of world it would have a place in. That “viable and coherent world order” for which I hoped, would, I believed, require “a major new set of symbolic forms.

Type
Chapter
Information
Christianity and Human Rights
An Introduction
, pp. 351 - 366
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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