Biblically justifying war: 7-24-13
July 24, 2013
As something of a follow-up to Monday's posting here about a book that describes how religion and terrorism are connected, today I want you to know about a new Vanderbilt University study of the ways in which the Bible has influenced America's decisions to go to war over the years.
James P. Byrd, who teaches religious history at Vandy, says Scripture has been a crucial resource in helping leaders make the war decision from the nation's earliest days.
Byrd has a new book out on the subject (which I haven't yet read) called Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution, published by Oxford University Press.
Byrd learned something about our founders that by now is pretty much lost among our political leaders: "I was intrigued by how important the Bible was to our founding generation and how biblically literate they were — even those who did not regularly attend church.”
Today biblical illiteracy runs amok among many public officials, to say nothing of lots of people in the pews of churches and synagogues.
One of Byrd's interesting conclusions is that “the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt was huge for the American colonists." In fact, the book to read on that matter is America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story, by Bruce Feiler. Bruce finds Moses and the Exodus story repeated throughout American history. Quite fascinating.
Today, of course, civic religion rules in the public square among our elected officials, so they make bland references to God without saying which of the many possible gods they mean. But to get specific is to make enemies, and that's the last thing politicians want more of.
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A NICE READ
Just because I like it, here is a Muslim's Ramadan reflection on the connection between religion and sadness.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.