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The United States: A "theodemocracy"? The ambiguous relationship between religion and politics

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Emphasis on the complex relationship between Rome and religion.
  3. This political model.
    1. First evoked by Josephus Flavius.
    2. The concept of theocracy which could be linked to the Roman Empire.
  4. The complex relationship between religion and politics in the United States of America.
    1. Roots.
    2. The idea of a people invested in a mission.
    3. The ambiguity concerning the influence of the Pilgrim Fathers over the American political culture.
    4. 'Wall of separation between church and state'.
    5. The foundations of the American democratic regime.
  5. Separation between Church and State.
    1. Establishment.
    2. The complexity of the relationship between religion and politics.
    3. The relationship between religious and political discourses.
    4. The tendency of the Presidents of the United States to give a relative importance to religion.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. Bibliography.

As Julia Gronnevet said, ?comparing the United States to the Roman Empire is a popular pastime? . For instance, in his book entitled Are we Rome?: the Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America (2007), Cullen Murphy established some parallels between these two political entities both perceived, in their days, as the leading world economic power and the principle military power. He wrote that ?Americans have been casting eyes back to ancient Rome since before the Revolution? . In effect, like Rome, the United States of America are a vast multicultural state burdened with an expansive and overstretched military which dominate the world with a messianic sense of global mission. Moreover, many historians emphasized the complex relationship between Rome and religion. First of all, the prosperity of this empire was based on the pax deorum. At the time of the foundation of this city by Romulus, gods gave their agreement to the first king of Rome showing that they were in favor of this new human power and that they would provide this people with an indestructible support. Therefore, each event unfavorable to Rome was perceived as resulting from an offense to the gods which should be repaired.

[...] Bush has restarted the debate around the ambiguous relationship between religion and politics in the United States. This President who thinks that he was on a mission from God triggers many controversies since, as a political leader of a theocratic regime, he legitimates his actions using a religious discourse. In effect, this situation was revealed by Bush himself when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time said: ?President Bush said to all of us: am driven with a mission from God'. [...]


[...] Furthermore, the ambiguity concerning the influence of the Pilgrim Fathers over the American political culture could also be perceived during the foundation of the United States highlighting the complexity of the controversial relationship between religion and politics. In effect, when the American settlers expressed their desire to constitute an independent state unifying the thirteen British colonies, most of them were Protestant: this ?Protestant Ethic?[13] then played an important role during the foundation of the United States. However, when the Founder Fathers elaborated the Constitution they were cautious with the religious question. [...]


[...] In order to comprehend this topical debate around the relationship between religion and politics in the United States, we should analyse this from the foundation of the country to the civil religion of George W. Bush and his ?theology of Empire?[8]. First of all, this complex relationship between religion and politics in the United States of America takes its roots in the religious conception of the Pilgrim Fathers which has largely influenced the future American nation. In effect, from the end of the 16th Century, with the new religious doctrine of John Calvin and Martin Luther, a group of Separatist Puritans grew up in the United Kingdom around the ideas promoted by Richard Clyfton, parson at All Saints' Parish Church in Babworth between 1586 and 1605. [...]

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