CIVIL RELIGION AND NATIONAL IDENTITY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Selected contents from this journal
Languages of publication
This paper discusses the role of religious references in the public speeches of US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in the construction of American national identity. The question is tackled in view of the civil religion concept, which is introduced briefly. Speeches of both presidents between 1993 and 2005 were searched for expressions wrapping political discourse in religious language. Such expressions as 'one nation, under God' or 'God bless America', as well as the context in which Biblical quotes are evoked, were analyzed in detail. It is argued that all of these religious references serve the purpose of 'sacralizing' - and thus framing - the political discourse in a way that undercuts criticism. Civil religious rhetoric appears to play several different functions: it legitimizes political power, seeks to integrate the nation, creates and maintains national mythology and traditions, provides solace in times of national grief and is used to mobilize the citizens to serve the nation (eg., in the military). However, apart from gloryfing the state and the nation, it may also occasionally provide a high ethical standard of conduct for both politicians and citizens.
Publication order reference
CEJSH db identifier