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Beyond IdolsThe Shape of a Secular Society$
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Richard K. Fenn

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195143690

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195143698.001.0001

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Ambiguity, Controversy, and the Limits of Language as The Bearer of The Sacred

Ambiguity, Controversy, and the Limits of Language as The Bearer of The Sacred

Chapter:
(p.143) 7 Ambiguity, Controversy, and the Limits of Language as The Bearer of The Sacred
Source:
Beyond Idols
Author(s):

Richard K. Fenn (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0195143698.003.0008

Political rhetoric employs references to the religious traditions and providential prospects of the nation and uses religious language to solemnize public oath‐taking. The more that public religiosity and civil religion receive political patronage at the center, the more do marginal or minority groups take religious offense at majoritarian pretenses. Even the political center, however, is divided between those who view the sacred as inhering in a strict interpretation of particular texts and those for whom the sacred has more evanescent, negotiable, and contestable meanings. These divisions surfaced in the Senate debates over the articles of impeachment of President Clinton. Thus, secularization underscores the importance of language while reducing sacred speech to discourse.

Keywords:   civil religion, impeachment, language, oaths, political, rhetoric, sacred, secularization, speech, texts

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