Civil-Religious Ideation and American Exceptionalism: Negotiating National Identity in a Contentious Time
Operant Subjectivity , Volume 27 - Issue 4 p. 166- 193
In this research with college students and faculty in three private religiously-affiliated schools, we undertake an examination of the contemporary relevance of civil-religious ideation to the subjective understanding Americans have about the meaning of being American. In one sense this project constitutes an extension of earlier studies designed to discern the range of meanings within America civil religion (McKeown & Thomas, 1985; 2003). At the same time, we are seeking to appraise the argument recently advanced by Huntington (20041; 2004b) that the only hope of preserving national unity in times of trial is by renewing commitments to the American Creed. He deems this project infeasible without an energized revivification of Anglo-Protestant civil-religious culture and discourse. Crucial empirical questions lie at the heart of the larger debate over the appeals and perils of framing national identity in religious terms. Mostly these questions pertain to matters of measurement and, heretofore, have been addressed inadequately in large-sample surveys. Foremost among these is the simple yet elusive notion of national identity. Is there, in our politically and culturally polarized setting of "red states" vs. "blue states," a distinctive, non-divisive answer to the national identity question? If so, which is its relationship to civil-religious symbolism and sentiment? The present project addresses these larger questions.