I’m pretty sure God threw up last night, anthropomorphically speaking.
As I listened in growing dismay to Cardinal Dolan’s benediction at the Republican convention this morning I thought to myself that this was American civil religion 101. The unspoken creed was the Americanist one, not the Apostolic one. There was very little to challenge American- or Republican- hubris. Here is the text to the prayer, with the Americanisms highlighted:
With firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, let us pray:
Almighty God, father of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, we beg your continued blessings on this sanctuary of freedom, and on all of those who proudly call America home. We ask your benediction upon those yet to be born, and on those who are about to see you at the end of this life. Bless those families whose ancestors arrived on these shores generations ago, as well as those families that have come recently, to build a better future while weaving their lives into the rich tapestry of America.
We lift up to your loving care those afflicted by the recent storms and drought and fire. We ask for the grace to stand in solidarity with all those who suffer. May we strive to include your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, in the production and prosperity of a people so richly blessed.
Oh God of wisdom, justice, and might, we ask your guidance for those who govern us, and on those who would govern us: the president and vice-president, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and on all those who seek to serve the common good by seeking public office, especially Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan. Make them all worthy to serve you by serving our country. Help them remember that the only just government is the government that serves its citizens rather than itself.
Almighty God, who gives us the sacred and inalienable gift of life, we thank you as well for the singular gift of liberty. Renew in all of our people a respect for religious freedom in full, that first most cherished freedom. Make us truly free, by tethering freedom to truth and ordering freedom to goodness. Help us live our freedom in faith, hope, and love; prudently, and with justice; courageously, and in a spirit of moderation. Enkindle in our hearts a new sense of responsibility for freedom’s cause. And make us ever-grateful for all those who, for more than two centuries, have given their lives in freedom’s defense; we commend their noble souls to your eternal care, as even now we beg your mighty hand upon our beloved men and women in uniform.
May we know the truth of your creation, respecting the laws of nature and nature’s God, and not seek to replace it with idols of our own making. Give us the good sense not to cast aside the boundaries of righteous living you first inscribed in our hearts even before inscribing them on tablets of stone. May you mend our every flaw, confirming our soul in self-control, our liberty in law.
We pray for all those who seek honest labor, as we thank you for the spirit of generosity to those in need with which you so richly blessed this nation.
We beseech your blessing on all who depart from here this evening, and on all those, in every land, who seek to conduct their lives in freedom.
Most of all, Almighty God, we thank you for the great gift of our beloved country.For we are indeed “one nation under God.”And “in God we trust.”
Dear God bless America. You who live and reign, forever and ever, Amen.
Apart from these Americanist sentiments, note what is missing from this prayer: Any challenge to the American tendency toward messianic nationalism. Any mention of our long wars or our belligerent foreign policy. Any suggestion that the poor are to be given priority when making policy, or that there are institutional structures that oppress the poor and workers. Any suggestion that the federal budget should not be balanced on the backs of the poor, or that military spending is excessive.
Or, basically, anything that would challenge anyone present to consider anything but America’s greatness and goodness.
It is clear that the Catholic Church’s tax exempt status as a nonprofit entity was not threatened last night.
Nor was the Cardinal’s non-prophet status.
While I fixed the worst part of this, there are still superfluous quotation marks. Lest there be any confusion, let me make it clear that the non-italicized comments after the prayer are my commentary…