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I believe that the Yost family's pathologies are supposed to symbolize the crisis into which America entered during the Vietnam war, and from which it never recovered. I therefore think this series is more about politics than religion, although since America has always been a profoundly religious country, religion necessarily enters into the story. Or, to put this in more profane language -- no disrespect intended -- the real religion of America is politics.
I think John hinted at this when he switched from a Biblical to an American historical cadence at the end of his cookout speech, and began paraphrasing the Gettysburg Address. The American moral crisis which culminated in the national crucifixion of the Civil War brought forth the distinctly un-Christlike messiah of Abraham Lincoln, a man as far from God as the rest of us, but also more aware of this distance than any of us.
Frederick Denison Maurice, the great English educator and thinker, said three months after reading Lincoln's Second Inaugural, "....I regard Lincoln's inauguration speech as the grandest return from the democracy of the Declaration of Independence to the theocracy of the Pilgrim Fathers that I have seen anywhere. I always hoped that might be the effect of the war on the best Americans. I never dreamed of seeing it expressed officially in such language as that. And it was not merely the old Calvinistic theocracy -- the divinity minus humanity. In so far as it recognized the divine vengeance for the wrongs of the colored race, it implied a Christ as Head of the human race." (quoted from The Religion of Abraham Religion, by William J. Wolf, 1963.)
David Milch, obviously a man of enormous courage and integrity, appears to be attempting a second secular redemption of America, through drama, not dissimilar to what Lincoln achieved through political rhetoric. I just hope he has the historical sensitivity to cast this drama in its proper framework, which is to say, not Catholicism but American Protestantism, not sloppy spirituality and lovingkindess, or fast-food redemption and forgiveness, but Lincolnian rigor and measured compassion.
In the meantime, God bless the Yosts. And by the way, I am not a Christian. -- Tomamil 29 July 2007