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The sanctity of the British Constitution is embodied in the monarch, who is anointed in emulation of the ancient kings of Israel for this reason. The sanctity of the sovereign rises above race; Elizabeth II reigns in Barbados as well as in Birmingham. The rites and rituals of the monarchy infuse Britain’s popular culture. Popular support for the monarchy bespeaks a perception that it protects the rights of Britons against the prospective tyranny of passing parliamentary majorities, by incorporating the distilled experience of centuries of British political life. The sense of the sacred that Britons attach to their Constitution provides the basis for a wholesome and successful nationalism, without making excuses for sometimes sordid acts undertaken by the British Empire in the past. The monarchy is the filter of Britain’s collective memory through which its people forms its sense of identity.

Alexander Gauland, the most influential spokesman for AfD, has characterised Americans as “a people thrown together at random without its own culture”. In fact, it is far easier to identity the unique characteristics of American culture than it is in the case of German culture. America is the progeny of Britain’s radical Protestants, who believed that sovereignty and sanctity must be founded in the individual citizen rather than in the person of the monarch. American political thought flows directly from the revelation theology of the Reformation, which first appeared in the West with John Wycliffe and the 14th-century Lollards, and reemerges in the writings of John Selden and John Milton. Sola scriptura presumes that every individual receives revelation directly from Scripture, and a state founded on American principles thus presumes a nation of Bible readers — which America emphatically was at the time of our Revolution.

Whether or not they attend Church of England services, Britons retain a pronounced sense of the sacred — one might say in spite of the feckless Church of England rather than because of it. Whether or not they read the Bible (and most still do), Americans retain a sense of the sacred which is pervaded by the radical Protestantism of 17th-century British thinkers. This concept of individual sovereignty precludes a monarchy and a state church. No national culture is so monothematically obsessed with the theme of individual redemption. It is a routine observation that the English Separatists who founded the Plymouth Bay Colony saw themselves as a new Mission in the Wilderness whose task was to found a new City on a Hill, an “almost chosen people”, in Lincoln’s bon mot. That is unremarkable; what still astonishes about the United States is that a nonconforming religious doctrine embraced by a small minority of Britons became the foundation of the popular culture of the world’s most powerful country.
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December 5th, 2017
10:12 PM
Anonymous: America is indeed experiencing a wave of fascism, but it is not at the hands of the nationalists. It is at the hands of ANTIFA, BLM, and university students, faculty, and staff beating to a pulp, or attempting to murder, those people who believe that nations are allowed to have borders. What name would you apply to the belief system that commanded the decapitation of a British policeman, and the systematic rape of a continent's women? AnonymousHegelman: Most of the world's sacred systems prohibit murder. Only one religion's scripture commands the murder of all non-believers.

Rick Groves
December 5th, 2017
3:12 PM
In America, enlightenment values used to be held sacred. This was the key differentiating point about America. It was not based on arbitrary lines on a map nor wrongly held ideas about the superiority of one's own tribe. It was an idea of a polity held together by the commitment to liberty and justice. Cultural practices evolve by their nature. That's what they are and what they do. Holding cultures sacred is misguided and destined to create conflict as that inevitable evolution pushes forward. The path forward is not through embracing the arbitrary and superficial and trying to entrench and protect it. It is finding core, deep values that benefit all peoples and following those ideas where they lead us.

December 5th, 2017
9:12 AM
When people talk of the sacred, they usually mean murder. All of us have a sense of the sacred. We just differ as to what precisely.

December 5th, 2017
4:12 AM
there is no such thing as a new nationalism, as there is no such thing as an illiberal democracy. There is a good, old fascism.

December 4th, 2017
9:12 PM
Anglo-American identity is built on the individualism of Appalachia and the pragmatism of Colonial Virginia as much as the Utopianism of the Puritans.

Warren Bonesteel
December 4th, 2017
4:12 PM
A great start...but... imposing your own belief system upon a movement comprised of several billion people, from a wide variety of ancient and modern cultures and sub-cultures, who hold a wide variety of religious and spiritual beliefs? That supposition is unfounded. Instead of religion, try 'freedom' and 'personal liberty'. I think you'll find a better fit, with that premise.

Marvin J. Greenberg
December 4th, 2017
8:12 AM
I greatly appreciate the way Goldman takes the usually superficial level of political discussion to a much deeper level, as he does in this essay emphasizing the vital importance of the sacred.

December 4th, 2017
2:12 AM
Alan Vanneman, America will not go gently into that bad night of sharia. Enjoy Europe, while its women are not yet required to wear burqas!

Alan Vanneman
December 1st, 2017
3:12 PM
"occasionally vulgar"? Don't you mean "constantly vulgar and utterly meretricious"? What fools these mortals be.

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