Recently, former Gov. Sarah Palin made headlines when she asserted that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation and that its creators expected its laws to be based on the Christian Bible and the Ten Commandments. As proof of those claims, she cited the motto, "In God We Trust," appearing on U.S. currency. Those assertions caused a commotion, to be sure, but the discussion promptly veered into the messy business of trying to figure out what a bunch of dead guys thought while they were still alive.
Enter an essayist from Religion Dispatches, "an online magazine devoted to exploring the intersections of religion, values, and public life, nationally and globally." In a complex and edifying recent post, the essayist uses noted American philosophers to explore the larger debate called up by the other motto that appears on U.S. coins, "E Pluribus Unum" (Latin for 'Out of the Many, One'). The essay gives a nutshell version of prominent Pragmatist philosopher William James's notion that there are two sorts of relationships to 'capital-T Truth', one is static, the other is dynamic. At issue then in this debate over America's religious and secular lives is whether or not The One (whether it be God or the nation itself) is changed as it participates in The Many's reality, in the experience of individual lives. After laying out a thorough set of premises, the author concludes:
"In the case of Palin and the God of the social conservatives, this means that their attempts to promote a static One and expect that the Many will or should accede to it are not only contrary to reality but also in some ways un-American, given that most Americans embrace what actually works in the changing world of experience."
The major conclusion is there, of course, but the journey the essay takes the reader on is well worth taking. Put on a thinking cap and read it, here.