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First, in "‘Under God’: Same-Sex Marriage & Foreign Affairs,” Andrew J. Bacevich writes on “just how attenuated the putative link between God’s law and American freedom has become.”

Cold War-era sexual mores had implications for U.S. foreign policy. Even if honored only in the breach, the prevailing code—sex consigned to monogamous heterosexual relationships sanctified by marriage—imparted legitimacy to the exercise of American power. In measured doses, self-restraint and self-denial offered indicators of collective moral fiber. By professing respect for God’s law, we positioned ourselves on his side. It followed that he was on ours. Here was American chosenness affirmed. Certainty that the United States enjoyed divine favor made it possible to excuse a multitude of transgressions committed in the name of defending a conception of freedom ostensibly mindful of God’s own strictures.

The justices voting in favor of gay marriage don’t care a lick about whether the United States is “under God” or not. On that score, however dubious their reading of the Constitution, they have accurately gauged the signs of the times. The people of “thou shall not” have long since become the people of “whatever,” with obligations deriving from moral tradition subordinated to claims of individual autonomy. That’s the way we like it. August members of the Supreme Court have now given their seal of approval.

Read the whole thing here.

And, in “Liberated by Grace,” E. J. Dionne Jr. looks at the importance of the African-American Christian tradition in America’s history “for reasons of the spirit but also as a political seedbed of freedom and a reminder that the Bible is a subversive book.”

In the days of slavery, masters emphasized the parts of Scripture that called for obedience to legitimate authority. But the slaves took another lesson: that the authority they were under was not legitimate, that the Old Testament prophets and Exodus preached liberation from bondage, and that Jesus himself took up the cry to “set the oppressed free” with passion and conviction unto death.

The church was also a free space for African-Americans, not unlike the Catholic Church in Poland under communism, which provided dissidents with room to maneuver. Even when segregationist Jim Crow laws were at their most oppressive, their churches provided places where African-Americans could pray and ponder, organize and debate, free of the restrictions imposed outside their doors by the white power structure, to borrow a phrase first widely heard in the 1960s.

It was thus no accident that the black church was at the center of the civil rights movement. And it’s precisely their role as an oasis from repression that the churches became the object of burnings and bombings. The freedom enabled by sacred and inviolable space has always been dangerous to white supremacy.

Read the whole thing here.

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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