It has often been noted that, in the United States, politics is our national religion.
Through pseudo-biblicism the Bible became a living text, an ongoing scriptural venture which complemented and foritified notions of national chosenness and mission. This transformation occurred within a poisoned political culture which created “two parallel imagined communities,” namely the two political parties—the Federalists and the Republicans—that denied each other’s legitimacy. This disposition…created a political culture governed by a grammar of combat, which entailed a “politics of anxious extremes.” It fostered the intense employment and further construction of biblical politics, each side depicting the other as wrong-doing “Adamites” or “Jeffersonites.” …The pseudo-biblical language thus wove the Bible into American life and sanctified the young nation. American politics were transformed, in texts largely devoid of references to God, into the new religion of the republic.
In building a modern state and overcoming clientelism, the United States had one big advantage over many contemporary developing countries: from the first days of the republic, it had a strong national identity that was rooted less in ethnicity or religion than in a set of political values centering around loyalty to its own democratic institutions. Americans in some sense worshiped their constitution, which embodied universalistic values, making the assimilation of new, culturally different immigrants relatively easy.
There’s a lot we could talk about in this quote, but here’s one idea I want to focus on in brief. If the United States has a political–and, in a sense, a secular–national religion, than one way to co-opt that religion and re-infuse theism into a specifically and authentically American viewpoint is to claim that the Constitution itself is actually a divine document in some sense.
Which, of course, is precisely the claim that Mormons have long made.
Note: I inadvertently published an unfinished version of this post (missing the Evan Shalev quote) earlier today. Apologies for the confusion.