Richard Meier's Jubilee Church in suburban Rome was commissioned by the Vatican to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Christianity. The three self-supporting, sail-like forms are built of 12-ton precast concrete blocks that were lifted into place by a huge gantry which moved along curved rails to create the arcs. To ensure that the church would not become discolored, he worked with Italcementi, which developed a brilliantly white cement incorporating photocatalytic particles that will neutralize atmospheric pollutants* (National Building Museum photo from "Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete").
"In its passionate and unreasoning intensity, anti-Americanism resembles a religion -- or a caricature of a religion. And this fact tells us something important about Americanism itself," writes David Gelertner in a tour de force on the origins of the "shining city upon a hill" in Commentary [via Lucianne]:
By Americanism I mean the set of beliefs that are thought to constitute America’s essence and to set it apart; the beliefs that make Americans positive that their nation is superior to all others -- morally superior, closer to God.
From the 17th century through John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Americans kept talking about their country as if it were the biblical Israel and they were the chosen people.
Where did that view of America come from? It came from Puritanism . . . Puritans spoke of themselves as God’s new chosen people, living in God’s new promised land -- in short, as God’s new Israel.
I believe that Puritanism did not drop out of history. It transformed itself into Americanism. This new religion was the end-stage of Puritanism: Puritanism realized among God’s self-proclaimed “new” chosen people -- or, in Abraham Lincoln’s remarkable phrase, God’s “almost chosen people.”
Freedom, equality, democracy: the Declaration held these truths to be self-evident, but “self-evident” they were certainly not. Otherwise, America would hardly have been the first nation in history to be built on this foundation. Deriving all three from the Bible, theologians of Americanism understood these doctrines not as philosophical ideas but as the word of God. Hence the fervor and passion with which Americans believe their creed. Americans, virtually alone in the world, insist that freedom, equality, and democracy are right not only for France and Spain but for Afghanistan and Iraq.
"And we needn’t go to Norway or Britain to find angry denunciations of President Bush and the Americans who support him in religion-mocking terms," continues Gelertner in a most telling observation:
The President’s faith, said one prominent American politician in September 2004, is “the American version of the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia, in Kashmir, and in many religions around the world.”
The speaker was former Vice President Al Gore. His comments were offensive and false. Today’s radical Islam is a religion of death, a religion that rejoices in slaughter. The radical Christianity known as Puritanism insisted on choosing life. Americanism does, too.
That's the crucial difference. We all harbor within us the dark and light sides of human nature, but the Islamicists embrace the dark side. We simplistic red staters embrace the light. The nuanced elitists of Europe and their fellow travelers here in academia and the MSM preach moral equivalency. Nihilism and socialism and utopianism seem so yesterday, especially post Berlin Wall and all that, but the memory lingers on. We toast l'chayim. To life.
*Thanks to our blogging pal Donna B. of Pajama Pundits for directing us to a Science News article on the future of concrete: "The most fascinating new mixes to me are the self-cleaning ones. Structures built with these will not only stay clean, but can actually clean the air." Go read all about it.