Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's a Culture War, Jon Henke

Of all the political blogs I read on a regular basis, The QandO Blog is my favorite. Disappointingly, I think Jon Henke completely misses the point in his recent post, Dennis Prager, [Judeo]-Christianist.

He takes issue with Prager's editorial, America, Not Keith Ellison, Decides What Book a Congressman Takes His Oath On.

Although, (uncharacteristically, I might add), he doesn't really address Prager's argument directly. Instead, he seems to move to dismiss Prager's argument outright, and (additionally uncharacteristically), takes a step to delegitimize it by throwing around the "Christianist" label. (I've disliked the Christianist label since the first time I heard it, but that's a discussion for another time.)

What I think Henke is myopic to is that America, the nation, does have an established culture and, potentially, a vested interest to maintain that culture. Usually the argument about this comes out when talking about immigration, like in this piece by Pat Buchanan:

If assimilation is working, why are Californians voting with their feet and fleeing to Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and Idaho?

"Who cares where people come from?" comes the retort. "The Melting Pot will make them all Americans, as it did the 18 million who came from Eastern and Southern Europe from 1890 to 1920."

But those were European peoples coming to a country run by descendants of Europeans. They came to a land that enforced assimilation in its schools. They learned and were taught in the same language, read the same books and magazines, went to the same movies, listened to the same radio, went through the Great Depression together and served in the same Army in World War II.


Instead of assimilation, we live in an age of racial and ethnic resentments and entitlements, where "multiculturalism" is in vogue and it is "racist" to demand immigrants learn the English language.

But if we no longer worship the same God, honor the same heroes, speak the same language, study the same history, love the same literature or even agree about what is right and wrong, how do we remain one nation and one people?

What do we have in common anymore? If Bush's ally-ally-in-free immigration policy is embraced, the old America we knew will be nothing more than a global hiring hall and what Teddy Roosevelt called a "polyglot boarding house for the world."

The existence of a common heritage, which creates an American culture, can not be denied. Whether that heritage is worth preserving, and in what way, is clearly worth debate though. That is the exact premise behind the classic, and on-going, "social liberal" versus "social conservative" debate.

And I do not wish to imply that American culture lines up precisely with orthodox Christian values – many American values have more in common with Horatio Alger novels than The Gospel. And, indeed the New Testament actually forbids taking oaths! However, present American culture does draw much from Judeo-Christian influence, and from the time George Washington was sworn into office, the Bible has been the book to use for oaths.

Having texts other than the Bible be used should give pause to American Christians who don't want to see America go the way of Europe. At the same time, Americans of all faiths should think carefully about mandating an official government act that gives appeared preference to one religion over another.

And, commenter "D.T.Devareaux" makes an excellent point for consideration in the comments on Q&O:

Perhaps Prager is skeptical because Ellison is swearing upon a book, the dictates of which are INCOMPATIBLE with an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Consult your Koran for details.

So, should Ellison be allowed to use the Koran for his oath? It's worth debating. And Dennis Prager's argument that allowing Ellison to use the Koran shifts the American culture in a harmful way may not be worth agreeing with, but it is worth consideration and shouldn't be simply dismissed as the rant of a so called "Christianist".

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