Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Hello everyone!

Thank you Matthew for the invitation and the idea. I apologize to everyone that I've been unable to post or comment up until now. I had high hopes. I also have a lot of much less interesting work than this to do. I've enjoyed reading everything up until this point, and I am resisting the urge to comment on every little thing, as is my desire. I know who some of you are, I'm left to guessing at the others.

This is a sweet map. I can't yet get it to get bigger when you click.
When I think of "Christendom," my first thought is "an historical organization of kingdoms back in times mediaeval." I imagine churches and crusades and Robin Hood and Chaucer and King Arthur and things like that. I include, in my imagination, all of the "cultural" things that go with having a "kingdom." Things like art and music and literature and architecture and stuff like that. Birnoff, this means I'm including your question. It's all on earth, it's all human-ish christendom. And when I think of Heaven and "Christ's kingdom" and the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ, I... don't use that term. The "Church Triumphant" or "Church Militant" or any of the previously mentioned terms seem to work better to explain what I mean. PieGraph, this means you.

Matthew's original question seemed suggest a restoration of christian regimes as the highest of the politician's ends, for the "large scale enjoyment of Christian life." I'll be running with this understanding of his question, barring further contribution on his part.

Since I happen to know that Matthew loves Aristotle, I think it likely that uses the word "political" in Aristotle's architectonic-political sense, as that art which manages and orders all other arts and human affairs. The politician seeks good for his particular polis, and the most excellent politician seeks the good for the entire human polis. It seems we excellent few are here saddled with the task of hashing out the architectonics behind the best regime, in light of Christianity, for the large scale enjoyment of the christian life." We few, we happy few, we band of bloggers.

Architectonics. That art which orders all other human arts and affairs. Aristotle called it "politics" to the best of my knowledge. Cardinal John Henry Newman called it "Theology" in Idea of a University. Some call it "history," others "philosophy," and others "screw it, let's go get a drink." You don't have to agree with them or anyone else on the matter, but for the sake of argument accept that there is an architectonic art to order all human affairs. And if such an art exists, it seems relevant to gain a good understanding of human nature, so we have some idea what sort of a thing that we're trying to order.

The BLT is also a key component to human happiness.
Individual human beings have physical bodies, a need for physical things like food and shelter. We seem to have a need to interact favorably with other humans, as we are quite social. We have emotions, and possibly no amount of architectonic science can really order them. Also, it has been argued that we are at our best when we are exercising our reason to its fullest extent. We have the unique ability to speak, and it is good for us to be able to do so. It seems evidently good for each individual human that we each have some kind of liberty. ...We also have something called a soul, which, isolated, might not be any of the above (Or it could be all of them. Or something else. Long story short, we have souls.). And if you claim the Judeo/Christian tradition, you might want to consider sin: we are inclined towards evil thoughts and actions by our very nature, and no amount of education or reward will make us less sinful.

Now, how the heck are we going to get something organized that takes care of all of these component parts of a human being, when by nature we actively rebel against good? Which parts are most important, most essential to a good life? As much as I love thinking that I'm capable of it, I doubt any human being is wise enough to order all human life according to nature. For right now, I just wanted to point out that human nature demands more than just a favorable temporal regime to keep it fulfilled.

So I'm going to reject seeking the "restoration of Christendom."

I'm not aware of how there could properly be a "christian" "kingdom." "Christian" is about religion. "Kingdom" is about political associations with other humans. Trying to saddle one temporal organization with all that responsibility is bound to fail.The church looks after one part of human nature, and political organizations among men are meant to look after something else. Regimes properly ought to establish, say, peace and justice and liberty. What the church does, when done properly, is a theological discussion of much importance.

Again, my imagination of "Christendom" has been various kingdoms, regimes, dominions, poleis, countries, nations, or temporal "political" associations organized with intent to wield the force to protect and support christians. This is not a bad thing, in fact I would be happy if it happened again. I dislike persecution and death as much as the next guy.

This is what you look like when you
seek the restoration of Christendom

But seeking to restore Christendom? Man... You've got to be kidding. That's not how it works (Thanks to whoever brought up Russell Kirk's point about the cult and cultus). Society is made out of human beings. Each of those has their own unique will and mind. Collectively, their mores tends to determine the activity of their government, which comes from the people. Ordering the nature of our political associations is a necessary thing, but not the first or highest thing. I'll tip my hand a little: The first thing is the soul. Based on that soul, the rest of the body follows. It seems natural to infer that the mores of a people will spring from their soul. From the mores: the regime, if we must have one. If you're seeking to restore christendom the regime, then you're seeking a byproduct of something much larger and greater than a certain political association of mere regimes. It'd be like trying to put a sword into the hands of someone whose heart no longer pumps real blood. Or give a map to a man who has no head. It won't work.

No, theology isn't politics. No, the bible does not contain some kind of divine manual for how a bill becomes a law, you'll have to watch something else for that. We actually have to organize ourselves politically somehow, and that information might have to come from plain reason. I'm not the political science major. But when it comes to how we understand ourselves, our nature, and our relationship to how God has ordered the cosmos. Why? Who is the ultimate politician, the architectonic genius who alone is capable of understanding all of us? Not just the human polis, but all of creation as well. Who? Every sunday school child can answer this one. God! Can you see why the content of the theology that cares for the soul is quite important? The nature and content of who God is offers an understanding of the world comprehensive, architectonic, and I believe, True.

That said, if what we're suggesting is that we simply convert everyone to orthodox Christianity, I'm there. I'm in. It's not political science or designing a regime to save the world, it's not even us saving the world, a group of people, or anything at all. We're not doing the work (thanks Joy for the somebodyson Davison Hunterson book link. I want to read it). With the faith planted in their souls by the Holy Spirit through Baptism and the Word, and it regularly nurtured by Word and Sacrament, those sinners would also be saints, ONLY because of the saving work of Christ Jesus on the cross, and on no account through an act of their own will. Those saints would love their neighbor as Christ first loved them, as a byproduct of the faith put in them, rather than the express end of their faith. That's a mores I'd like to live with, a mores that would quite naturally establish just government, probably as an afterthought.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
-Matthew 6:33

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This just in...

We're not the only ones having this conversation: Gene Edward Veith, a well-respected scholar and contributor to WORLD magazine, as well as provost at Patrick Henry University, just raised the "question of Christendom" on his blog. I'm on a Blackberry right now, so I can't write much (which should make you all breathe a sigh of relief) and I can't really repost his piece, but you can read his thoughts, as well as any discussion generated by them, by following this link. Who knows? If the muse strikes, you could even participate in said conversation...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Christendom and the Kingdom of Heaven; or, Pop Music in the Hereafter

Glad to be here among such fine folk, and so on.

As I have stated in the comments of a few posts, I did not initially join this collaborative project because I lacked (and lack) any certainty about the relationships among and between Christendom, the kingdom of heaven, "the secular world," politics, nationalism, regionalism, religion, etc. Lacking that, I had (and probably have) no real assertions to offer. So I stuck with a few questions and dubious criticisms in the comments sections. Trent Suedeπgraph has consistently tried to pull me out of my vague disagreements into a more clear stance–the better to bring me down, I imagine.

“I certainly agree that the two kingdoms are not nearly as disparate and divisible as most Protestants would like to believe.”

This was my latest vague throwaway. Trent suggested this was casuistry. If I knew what that meant, I imagine I'd agree. Wikipedia tells me casuistry has something to do with arguments made from case-studies. In any case (pun!), that sentence is certainly one of those things that sounds like a hefty statement until you realize it's actually a meaningless deflection. I drink better beer than most people. I am more fun than most Calvinists. I'm more intelligent, well-rounded, and modest than other grad students. All true statements, by the way.

Unfortunately for all of us, Suedeπgraph π convinced me to be a little more specific about the kingdom of heaven. And because one's position "ON CHRISTENDOM," if you will, depends in large part on what one thinks of the kingdom of heaven, here I am.

I imagine we all agree that there's such a thing as the kingdom of heaven. Yes? Good.

We likely agree also that not everyone and everything is in it. Next we have to ask what constitutes part of the kingdom of heaven and what does not.

That question is too large for a comment, too large for a post, too large for a book, too large for our little minds. I'm not suggesting that God is uncertain about who–and what–is the kingdom of heaven, and who and what is not. I am suggesting that from our view–which happens to be the only one available to us–the lines are pretty fuzzy. Nevertheless I will venture a few undeveloped, and possibly incoherent, ideas.

In theory the "who" issue is quite simple. The body of Christ is the kingdom of heaven. And we can come up with some fairly reasonable ideas about who the body is–those who confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead. Essentially, we who believe that Jesus is Lord, with all that that entails, are the body of Christ. Specificity on the issue ("he's in; he's out") is another thing entirely, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

I'm more interested in the possibly less pressing "what" question. I tend to think the kingdom of heaven includes creation beyond man. As creation fell with Adam, so it is being and eventually will be redeemed with Christ, and we believers are part of that redemption (indicated in Romans 8).

What is creation? Well, obviously, we're talking about the six days.

But does creation include what Dr. Birzer (among many others, no doubt) refers to as sub-creation? Are the things that we make with our minds and hands part of creation, since we fashion them out of God's creation? If they are part of creation, and if indeed God's creation will be redeemed with and in some way through the redemption of the sons of God, then the things that are made by us and perhaps even by those who are not in the kingdom will be redeemed too. I am less than certain about the nature of "subcreation," though I don't think it's an entirely unreasonable idea.

If that is the case, virtually every pursuit on this earth is connected to the kingdom of heaven. In this mundane world, we not only do all for the glory of God but also recognize that all that we do is somehow reflected in the kingdom of heaven. Our sub-creative work is not only intended to bring persons into the kingdom. In some sense it is the kingdom. This is, by the way, a foundation of the parish, in which one's life in this mundane world revolves around the church community.

I am not certain what this means for "Christendom," though it does imply that our political order has some connection with the hereafter on this earth. At the moment I find myself somewhat less interested in political orders, somewhat more interested in the cultural implications.

I may be venturing into casuistry again, but I suspect that "most evangelicals" do not believe in a kingdom of heaven that involves anything from this life except the souls (and also for some the bodies) of human beings, and I certainly don't believe the evangelical community imagines sub-creative work being present in the hereafter. Otherwise we wouldn't have the Religious Right trying to destroy the last puny barriers set up to prevent the total consumption by fire of the last blessings of the earth. Otherwise we wouldn't have Christian bookstores stocked with books and music that evangelize, yet without any subtlety or art. These products are good only as (a) tools for self-help/inspiration, (b) tools for evangelism, and (c) tools for making money off well-meaning schmucks.

Evangelism and inspiration–not bad things, these. What I mean, though, is that apart from such ends most of the latest products in any given Christian bookstore are not generally worthwhile.


John Jeremiah Sullivan writes about a Christian-rock festival:

These were not Christian bands, you see; these were Christian-rock bands. The key to digging this scene lies in that one-syllable distinction. Christian rock is a genre that exists to edify and make money off of evangelical Christians. It's message music for listeners who know the message cold, and, what's more, it operates under a perceived responsibility—one the artists embrace—to "reach people." As such, it rewards both obviousness and maximum palatability (the artists would say clarity), which in turn means parasitism. Remember those perfume dispensers they used to have in pharmacies—"If you like Drakkar Noir, you'll love Sexy Musk"? Well, Christian rock works like that. Every successful crappy secular group has its Christian off-brand, and that's proper, because culturally speaking, it's supposed to serve as a stand-in for, not an alternative to or an improvement on, those very groups. In this it succeeds wonderfully. If you think it profoundly sucks, that's because your priorities are not its priorities; you want to hear something cool and new, it needs to play something proven to please…while praising Jesus Christ. That's Christian rock. [. . .] And here, if I can drop the open-minded pretense real quick, is where the stickier problem of actually being any good comes in, because a question that must be asked is whether a hard-core Christian who turns 19 and finds he or she can write first-rate songs (someone like Damien Jurado) would ever have anything whatsoever to do with Christian rock. Talent tends to come hand in hand with a certain base level of subtlety. [. . .] So it's possible—and indeed seems likely—that Christian rock is a musical genre, the only one I can think of, that has excellence-proofed itself.

I love that last sentence: "So it's possible—and indeed seems likely—that Christian rock is a musical genre, the only one I can think of, that has excellence-proofed itself."

Matthew: (out of the corner of his mouth) So, Mr. Demarest, how'd you like to have a Conversation on Lemmings?

Trent: Uh...

Matthew: Pistachios?

Trent: Well, we...could...do that?

Matthew: How about a Conversation on Christendom?

Trent: OK, we could do that. What's the plan?

Matthew: Well, I was thinking of starting the conversation off and posting a few times, and then totally disappearing from the scene, never to post or be heard from again. How's that sound?

Trent: Uh...

Matthew: Do we have a deal?

Trent: (Thinking of how he could twist the circumstances for personal gain) Yes! Sure. We have a deal, my good sir...

Matthew: (To himself) I am very, very suave. And evil. Look at my vest.

Trent: Aha! A small Cuban! I will make him converse with us on Christendom!

Small, anonymous Cuban: Ayuda me! No señor! Necessito pan para mi familia!! No quiero tener Conversemos en Christendoma!

Trent: Look! A fair maiden! Perhaps she will converse with us! Word on the street is that she has a very high GPA!

Fair maiden: (to herself) Wha? Crap. Don't have my pepper spray.

Fair maiden: Go away. I don't want to converse with you and the strange English man. Besides, I have to do all these dishes before I go to the ball. Look at all of them...

...go away.

Trent: Wow! I am experiencing significant rejection here. Whatever am I to do?

...to be continued. Or not.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Charity, Altruism and the Siren-Song of False Ecumenism

How It Was
Czeslaw Milosz

Stalking a deer I wandered deep into the mountains and from there
I saw.

Or perhaps it was for some other reason that I rose above the setting

Above the hills of blackwood and a slab of ocean and the steps of a
glacier, carmine-colored in the dusk.

I saw absence; the mighty power of counter-fulfillment; the penalty of a
promise lost for ever.

If, in tepees of plywood, tire shreds and grimy sheet iron, ancient inhabit-
ants of this land shook their rattles, it was all in vain.

No eagle-creator circled in the air from which the thunderbolt of its
glory had been cast out.

Protective spirits hid themselves in subterranean beds of bubbling ore,
jolting the surface from time to time so that the fabric of freeways was
bursting asunder.

God the Father didn't walk about any longer tending the new shoots of
a cedar, no longer did man hear his rushing spirit.

His son did not know his sonship and turned his eyes away when passing
by a neon cross flat as a movie screen showing a striptease.

This time it was really the end of the Old and New Testament.

No one implored, everyone picked up a nodule of agate or diorite to
whisper in loneliness: I cannot live any longer.

Bearded messengers in bead necklaces founded clandestine communes
in imperial cities and in ports overseas.

But none of them announced the birth of a child-savior.

Soldiers from expeditions sent to punish nations would go disguised
and masked to take part in forbidden rites, not looking for any hope.

They inhaled smoke soothing all memory and, rocking from side to side,
shared with each other a word of nameless union.

Carved in black wood the Wheel of Eternal Return stood before the
tents of wandering monastic orders.

And those who longed for the Kingdom took refuge like me in the
mountains to become the last heirs of a dishonored myth.

* * *

Milosz’s last stanza is haunting to me, yet I think it aptly captures what the fate of the Church in the world must be: we are the heirs of a dishonored myth. And this is not merely a historical statement, as in “we have become the last heirs of a dishonored myth.” The truth is that we have always been the heirs of a dishonored myth. For broad is the path that leads to destruction, and many take it, but narrow is the path that leads to life, and few find it. On earth we have no abiding city, for we are looking forward to the city which is to come.

I suppose this post falls in the category of “talking ‘til I’m blue in the face” about a minor doctrinal issue, while the real, important issue -- namely, good works -- falls by the wayside. If only Athanasius would have realized that the Deity of Christ was a minor doctrinal issue and encouraged the Christians to join hands with the Arians at a local soup kitchen. Who cares if the Arians were heretics? They were sincere in what they believed -- “people of good will,” if I may be so bold as to say. What prevents Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists of good will from joining the party? Apparently the Church’s original confession of Christ as Lord is negligible compared to one’s works. In fact, a charitable Muslim is probably more of a disciple of Christ than a crabby Christian. The Buddhists are an irenic sort; they might even chant “Christ is Lord” right along with us. As long as this is left sufficiently vague, adequately devoid of confessional content, it shouldn’t be a problem. Just rally round a diluted confession that everyone can agree on, and then pat yourself on the back for expressing the visible unity of the “Church.” Don’t pay attention to the minor doctrinal disputes such as the nature of the Holy Eucharist -- you know, the Medicine of Immortality? Don’t concern yourself with such piddling details as whether or not it really is the flesh and blood of the Second Person of the Trinity. As long as we agree that “it’s important,” we can move on. And synergism! A mere trifle, really.

While the above is obviously a satire of the position put forth by Byrthnoth in “Genotype and Phenotype,” it is intended to make a serious point. For those of you offended by satire, sarcasm, et alia, my apologies. It’s a legitimate polemical technique.

I don’t know what the “charitable scene is,” but I am pretty sure that whatever goes on there (and, to quote Gertrude Stein, I’m not sure that there is a “there” there on this one) is not going to make a hill of beans worth of difference in the imaginary Index of Christian Unity. The first, most obvious problem with speaking of a “charitable scene” is the partitioning off of good works from the ordinary world of men’s vocations. Are you a dentist? Do your job well, and gladly serve your neighbor through your vocation. Your work is a divine ministry. You need not put down your fluoride trays and tools and go to South America. You may. But it doesn’t matter if you choose to serve your neighbor in your dental office, cleaning his children’s teeth and advising him and his family on oral hygiene. In fact, it may be better if you don’t go on a missionary trip. There is a strong likelihood that that is the case, in fact. But this is all hypothetical. For a far better treatment of this issue than I am giving, or ever could give, see Lewis’s essay “Good Work and Good Works,” in The World’s Last Night.

“Oddly, churches that have disagreed on whether or not to condone abortion or even the uniqueness of Christ have been able to agree that ‘all people of good will’ ought join hands in acts of Charity.”

Is this sarcasm? I don’t find this odd at all. I’ll go ahead and say it -- if you condone abortion or believe that Christ is not true God and true Man, you’re not a Christian. The Christian is not free to call God a liar, and to do either of those things is to do precisely that. It is no surprise that all people of good will” join hands in acts of “charity.” However, they aren’t acts of charity if it’s just “all people of good will” doing them. The supposedly good works of the “pagan of good will” are damnable, execrable sins -- “filthy rags,” St. Paul calls them in his Epistle to the Romans. Yes, good may come of them -- God uses all things and works them all together for good -- but the works themselves are the opposite of virtuous. Do not call it charity; call it altruism -- which the nineteenth century positivist philosopher Auguste Comte defined as “brotherhood without a father.” This was not an epithet; Comte thought this a good thing. In any case, it couldn’t be farther away from “Christendom.”

“We’re more popular than Jesus,” John Lennon famously said in 1966. He was, of course, entirely correct. Yes, the man who wrote “Come Together” smugly acknowledged that he and his fellows were the purveyors of a new, wildly popular social gospel. Come together, right now, over me. Look at me. Rally around me. Humanity. The People. Shiny happy people holding hands. Come together: it’s an altruistic mantra.

Really? Is this what we’re called to?

“[W]e should take note that the only time denominations come together in one place and join together to act like one church may currently be the charitable scene, and this, perhaps, may be a better starting place for a visibly united Christendom than political states forming war and peace agreements.”

I would submit that the opposite is true: when “denominations come together in one place and join together to act like one church,” there is no other time when they are less the Church. Such falsely ecumenical posturing is not only vain, it is dangerous. It enlists the faithful in the construction of more and more Towers of Babel. More shameless question-begging follows with the assumption that anyone is seeking a “better starting place” for bringing about a “visibly united Christendom.” This is an incredibly vain proposition.

You want a visibly united Christendom? Go to Church and take the Eucharist. In the same way that each communicant receives the whole Body of Christ in the host, so also the whole Body of Christ gathers to partake of the Sacrament. The whole Church is mysteriously present wherever and whenever the Word is truly preached and the Sacraments are rightly administered. It is indeed truly ironic that Byrthnoth mentioned the Eucharist as something which amounts to an impediment to “a visibly united Christendom” -- it is actually the beating heart of anything even approximating “a visibly united Christendom.”

Now, I can imagine that a Pentecostal, a Methodist or any other Protestant who does not confess the apostolic doctrine concerning the Eucharist would resonate with Byrthnoth’s position, as it basically assumes that “what happens...concerning both the elements and the recipient” is really not of paramount importance (if my position has not been evident thus far, it is that “what happens...concerning both the elements and the recipient” is of paramount importance). I don’t think it would resonate with many Lutherans, Roman Catholics, or Eastern Orthodox.

I mainly just wanted to share the Milosz poem. I’d welcome any thoughts in response to what I’ve said.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, Matthew...

...and many happy returns from all of us on the blog (go with it, guys; bathe in the togetherness of it all). Thanks for initiating A Conversation on Christendom.

For he's a jolly good fellow! For he's a jolly good fellow! For he's a jolly good FEL-LOW! And so say all of us...

So, do you want to post something?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Genotype and Phenotype

So, I like biology, and sometimes science gives us better terms than the humanities (for those who disagree, please see www.xkcd.com to observe the numerous instances in which this are true). Several different genetic permutations, genotypes, result in the same end-product, or phenotype. For instance, two different sets of code could produce the same eye color, the same height, or the same disease. Similarly, two different diseases could produce the same symptoms and the same adverse affects. In political terms, the neo-con and the paleo-con fight like hell cats with one another, but they both voted for McCain rather than Obama in November. Different genotypes can and often do produce the same phenotype in the real world (outside of biology), especially when prudence is taken into account.

Earlier we had a question that asked if 300 different Christian denominations could agree on social or political causes in the same way if they disagreed on core doctrinal issues. The answer, I think, is a cautious "yes."

A strictly social gospel is a problem, but it doesn't surprise me that the social aspect of the gospel, loving one's neighbor, has been the only thing that many churches have been able to rally together around. Similarly, the Pope's bulls (ha!) have always been addressed to "all people of good will" (making it the longest running blog in history). Not specifically to Christians, but to all people of good will. hmm.

There is some validity in this, and I'm not saying that because I think he speaks with the voice of God. A methodist, a Lutheran, a Catholic, and a Pentecostal will all disagree on what happens during the Lord's Supper concerning both the elements and the recipient, but all will generally agree that one ought treat others with Christian Charity. I'm sure we've all seen the publicized efforts of "Christians joining hands in Haiti" or in several different inner city churches sponsoring joint work-days or soup kitchens. Many protestant missionaries are unaffiliated with a particular denomination, though they themselves, of course, align personally with a one.

We see in the Act and in the Pauline Epistles that this social (sorry, the word fits here) dimension of Christianity is important. Important enough, in fact, that the caveat to "only remember the poor" occurs often when instructions are sent, and the direction for the transportation of alms internationally takes up lines in the new testament as well. These charitable practices were seen as necessary, such that circumcision could be done away with, but not these. My church teaches that they are not necessary for salvation, but that does not make them any less necessary for the christian to do.

Oddly, churches that have disagreed on whether or not to condone abortion or even the uniqueness of Christ have been able to agree that "all people of good will" ought join hands in acts of Charity.

A unified visible Christian church is not an impossible thing. It existed once. I am not saying that we will ever be able to see the heart the way God does, or that we will ever create a heaven on earth before the Last Day when God creates a new heaven and a new earth, but I am saying that we should take note that the only time denominations come together in one place and join together to act like one church may currently be the charitable scene, and this, perhaps, may be a better starting place for a visibly united Christendom than political states forming war and peace agreements.

Sometimes, many genotypes make one phenotype. I can talk until I'm blue in the face about another Christian, disagreeing about synergism or the Lord's Supper, but we can somehow both generally agree that we have a duty to love our neighbor. Sometimes this general agreement can even turn into a particular agreement, such as two churches jointly funding an inner-city day camp as a mission for children.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Leagues of State: of Turks, Greeks, and Israelis

The idea of a league of Christian states, or even of a League of states peopled by Christians (there is a difference between the two) may be a historical reality, but that does not necessarily mean that it is possible or prudent. Alliances between states are seldom made simply because states share some common religious or cultural tie. We have, historically, strong alliances between states sharing very little in the way of culture. Athens and Sparta, I think, would fit into this camp. We also have the example of the thirteen American colonies which, I hope we all know after the heritage sequence, might have prayed to the same God but were filled with peoples who had been blood enemies in the not very distant past (and would be again).

I suppose both of these instances provide us with an example of some degree of religious unity with very little cultural unity to buffer it being enough (with the added impetus of a common external enemy) to bring about a league of states for a sustained period of time, sustained meaning longer than it takes to fight a single war or battle, longer than it takes to fight off the common enemy which temporarily brought the allied states together. BUT, It should also be noted that in both cases, the lack of the external enemy saw the eventual need for force by one portion of the alliance to hold the body together or bring it together more completely.

Not to be a positivist or materialist, but the religious and cultural dimensions don't seem to be enough to hold groups of states together. They can hold together other systems of community, other rings of citizenship, such as the European intellectual and artistic culture which, to some degree, did survive reformations, schisms, and wars -no unscathed or unaltered, but the dialogue that Strauss referred to as the Great Tradition did continue. And before those reformations, schisms, and revolutions, European monarchs paying, in some way, homage to the same pope, whose people were all of the same faith and shared something of a common intellectual culture, often warred and fought one another. It would seem that the state, as a political body, must be held together by certain factors relating to politics. {I'm not an Aristotelian, politics is not an architectonic science, and classifying everything under God's golden sun as politics is as liken to an economist saying that everything is economics.} In he Christian tradition, we could look, perhaps, to the things St Paul mentions in Romans as an example of those areas of life which we could call political, or, shock, look at the modern consensus on what the term deals with: keeping the peace, economics, laws, etc.

As Americans, we have federal and state constitutions which outline, or at least were meant to outline for our country or state, those aspects of life falling under the term "politics." Calvin disagrees in his Institutes (Book 4, Chapter 20), and says that the duty of magistrates "extends to both tables of the law," but, whatever any of us may think of this (read the diatribe against Geneva found below), its impossible in a diverse society and illegal in ours.

States have a specific function, at least in our day, which does differ from the Greek polis. The local town, perhaps, may be different, but we live in the day of the Nation State and Multinational State.

Our closest allies (strategically/militarily/economically): UK (Christian Multinational State), Turkey (Secularist multi-ethnic state), Israel (Secularist ethnic state). By the way, secularist means just that: they don't like religion that much. Turkey and Israel, at least until last month's incident in the old Roman pond, have historically been great allies BECAUSE of their secularism, Turkey recognizing Israel and serving as an arms and military ally since 1947; they only stopped training in joint operations together last month, in fact.

Now the US has almost nothing in common with Turkey. It was founded in the heat of the Nationalism wave that crested after WWI, Ataturk consciously replacing Islam with Turkish Nationalism and his own hero cult (Khemalism). The people are nominally Muslim (20% is the published figure on active muslims), and their culture is not Western. Israel may have some common cultural ground...they like free markets and they fly cool new fighter jets, but its an ethnic state with an ethnic identity not informed in the same way by Western culture as the US.

England being, maybe, the exclusion, our closest military allies have almost nothing in common with us. One half of all of our foreign aid goes to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. These countries share with us one thing: fear of losing control of their region to radical Islammic groups which would destabilize the middle east. This is a goal that very few European nations seem very vested in, despite common culture and traditions. I'm not even advocating that the reasons behind are closest alliances are true, good, or prudent, only that our closest alliances are based around concerns of state, such as defense, rather than our common culture, ethnicity, or religion. Historically, Ethnicity was never a rallying point (take that Wilson), and, in terms of the affairs of states, religion and culture don't seemed to have faired to well either.