Benjamin P. Marcus is the religious literacy specialist with the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute.

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How Trump Is Reshaping American Civil Religion and What We Can Do About It

by Benjamin P. Marcus, by Murali Balaji 07-11-2017

Image via RNS/Carlo Allegri/Reuters

In the midst of a raging discussion about what it means to be American, it is worthwhile to reflect on the profound ambivalence of American civil religion — perhaps the most powerful force for creating a shared national identity.

In 1967, Robert N. Bellah’s seminal essay, “Civil Religion in America,” created a template for how both the right and the left defined civil religion to cultivate a sense of belonging, particularly in an era of turbulence. During this period of increasing polarization, Bellah’s words are more relevant than ever.