The former mayor said the country plays a "divinely inspired role'' motivated by "ideas and idealism.''I want to expand on a point I noted yesterday. Barnes is doing something to Giuliani that is often done to Bush — making it seem as though religion generates and controls his political ideology.
"It was this nation that saved the world from the two great tyrannies of the 20th Century--Nazism and communism," Giuliani said. "It's this country that is going to save civilzation [sic] from Islamic terrorism.''
There are several questions this raises:
1. Does the politician deserve this characterization?
2. If so, is the politician sincere, or is he wooing the people who like religion in politics?
3. If the former, do we like or at least accept religion in politics?
4. If the latter, is it unremarkable ordinary politics or something that should worry us?
To answer question #1, we can look at the text of the Giuliani speech:
The theme of this conference is “Shining City Upon a Hill: American Exceptionalism.” Of course the shining city upon a hill was the great reference that Ronald Reagan used bringing up the words of John Winthrop....So Giuliani is speaking at a conference with a title that is a religion reference. In 1630, John Winthrop wrote a sermon for the Puritans as they were arriving in the New World:
For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. Soe that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.This is a reference to the Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:13-14:
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.Many politicians have invoked Winthrop's sermon over the years, including John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Wesley Clark, and Howard Dean. But Giuliani names Ronald Reagan. He's speaking to a conservative group, making a political speech, and connecting his remarks to the theme of the conference. If it were a liberal group, I think we'd see John Kennedy's name in this part of the speech.
Look how he goes on after saying "Of course the shining city upon a hill was the great reference that Ronald Reagan used bringing up the words of John Winthrop....":
... but the American exceptionalism is also a very, very important part of that theme. There are some people I think nowadays that doubt that America has a special, even a divinely inspired role in the world. Now I don’t understand how you can look at history and not see the wisdom of that and the reality of it.Here we see the phrase Barnes quoted. Clearly, Giuliani is disparaging those who don't believe that America has a special role to play in the world. But he doesn't say that this is necessarily a "divinely inspired" role. He says "a special, even a divinely inspired role," which means it's certainly a "special" role and one might "even" think that role is "divinely inspired."
That's short enough that you could miss it — especially if there's static in you mental facilities when you hear religious things — but Giuliani is not expressing a personal belief that America's role in the world is "divinely inspired."
In a way, he is saying it without saying it, and therefore signaling to people who want to hear it. That one word — "even" — carries a lot of weight in my analysis. But it's there and it means that he has not said he thinks America's role is "divinely inspired."
So the answer to Question #1 is: probably not. Since I'm not giving a definite no, we should go on to Questions 2 and 3 or 4. I'll leave that to you for now.