I've heard it said that religion and politics are the two things not to mention in polite company. The following comment will combine the two of them. I apologize, but to make up for my rudeness I will try to keep my comments brief.

There has been a lot of noise made in the past twenty or so years by people on both sides about the place of Christianity in the civil life of my country, The United States of America. This has especially come to a head in the recent administration of Governor Bush, and the ex-Senator from Missouri, John Ashcroft. All arguments about the intentions of our founding fathers, the first amendement, and the separation of church and state aside, what should be pointed out is that the religion nominally embraced by the "character education" crowd, Christianity, has little or nothing to do with their ideas of civic virtue.

Civic virtue, which dates back to the time of Aristotle, is virtue based on the principle of moderation, the Golden Mean. The idea here is that virtue is the application of intelligence to moral situations in such a way that the best result is rationally arrived at. Moderation is in many ways just a utilitarian tool.

The Christian virtues are Charity, Faith and Hope, and for better or worse, these aren't meant to be moderate, and they aren't even very rational. In Christianity, people are all sinners, all equally bad, and all equally good, in the eyes of God. While society may like people educated to be "virtuous" citizens, in the eyes of God, Mr. Bennet and Mr. Ashcroft (even according to their own views of themselves) are just as sinful and dependent on Grace as the worst murderer and rapist. People don't remove their sinful nature through "character education", they have it redeemed through grace.

So Christianity can claim to be many things. It can claim to be the literal word, it can claim to be the only truth, it can claim to be the only way to escape the eternal hellfire, but as I see it, the central teaching of Christianity is not to assure a "prosperous, peaceful society", at least not in this world.

Of course, Christianity is for the most part, only the nominal religion of the "Religious Right" in this nation, and their real religion is Roman State Paganism. In the 13th Century, when Dante, who was a great admirer of the culture of Ancient Rome, wrote the Divine Comedy, he placed the greatest lights of the Greek and Roman pagan world in Hell. He put them in the highest circle of Hell, where they were free from any obvious suffering, but still cut off from the light of Heaven. It would seem that Dante would view a life of "civic virtue" as a hellish one, but one without obvious torments.

For all of the talk of "culture wars", the real "culture war" in this country is not between Christianity and paganisn, but between the paganism of Rome and the paganism of Northern Europe.