Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Secularism on the Edge" Wrap-Up

Fea and Berlinerblau
The title of this post is a bit misleading.  The "Secularism on the Edge" conference at Georgetown is actually continuing through Friday, but due to other commitments I needed to leave shortly after my session yesterday afternoon.

And what a session it was!  Jacques Berlinerblau kept saying that he was "taking a chance" by having me do a public interview with him as the opening plenary session of the conference.  Perhaps he thought that I was a theocrat or something similar.

I think Jacques invited me to this conference for two reasons.  First, to provide some historical context for the relationship (or lack thereof) between secularism and the American experience.  Second, to destigmatize the idea of "secularism" for the journalists and public policy experts in the audience by having a Christian speak who is somewhat sympathetic to secularism as defined in Berlinerblau's How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom.

Apparently a video of the interview (and the entire conference) will be online soon, but to whet your appetite I have posted some of the questions Jacques asked me:

Q:  What types of folks these days will proclaim full-throatedly that the United States is a Christian Nation?

Q:  Can you exegete the God-language in the Declaration of Independence?  What about the religious language in the U.S. Constitution?

Q:  What role does the Treaty of Tripoli (1797) play in the entire Christian nation debate?

Q:  In your work you draw attention to the preamble of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.  What's relevant about this?

Q: Before moving to the contemporary frame, let's look at one of your conclusions from the book.  "Between 1789 and 1865 Americans--North and South, Union and Confederate--understood themselves to be citizens of a Christian nation."

Q:  What do Christians think secularism is?  When they hear "secular America" what do they think that entails?

Q: What are some positives for Christians of a secular America, with secular defined as that nagging fear of entanglement between civil and ecclesiastical authority?

Q: If I were to come to Messiah College for a lecture twenty-five years from now, what would have changed?

You can get the answers to some of these questions by reading my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.  For the rest of the answers you will have to wait for the video.  I will post it when it comes available.

Here are a few tweets from the session:

Before our 2PM interview w/ , why not read his piece in 's abt Xtians & secularism?

"What will we be talking about in 25 yrs. concerning secular America? I’m skeptical about the term secularism catching on."

"What will we be talking about in 25 yrs. concerning secular America? I’m skeptical about the term secularism catching on."

On religion & politics: "When you mix horse sh*t and ice cream the horse sh*t stays the same, but the ice cream is ruined"

"John F. Kennedy in this 1960 speech represents the kind of secularism this conference is about"

“The claim that a 'wall of separation between Church and State is high and impregnable' does not reflect practice on the ground"

“This question of American religious identity became a contested idea only recently”