With this post, Hang Together becomes my personal blog. The old content remains available but I’ll be the sole contributor going forward. I’m deeply grateful for those who contributed to HT over the years.
In September 2012, four friends and I created Hang Together, under the banner shown above, as a group blog to discuss whether and how the original vision of the American experiment in religious freedom and goodwill across religious and partisan lines might be renewed. For a time, the group discussion thrived. Eventually, however, other contributors – including a new one added to fill the gap – fell away.
Although this was partly because we were all busy, I now see that we were also trying to have the wrong conversation. Surprising as this is to me, our original vision – which we thought was so forward-looking – actually took for granted far too much continuity in our national political landscape. HT was a conversation among people who were conservatives as well as Christians, striving to overcome political as well as religious polarization. The problem is that conservatism more or less no longer exists, and the conversation we need to renew America is not one in which a discussion of conservatism is going to play a large role, except insofar as forensic diagnosis of the successes and failures of conservatism before its disintegration will be necessary to understand the challenges ahead.
Below the jump, the complete text (with images) of the original expression of the vision for Hang Together is preserved for posterity. I’m looking forward to ongoing conversations with all our contributors in the years to come.
Hang Together is a blog exploring a wide variety of ways in which religion, political order and national identity do and do not intersect.
We believe America is founded on a historically new social model, described by George Washington in his reply to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport:
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
America is a society founded upon “good will” and social solidarity across lines of belief and party; that encourages all people to live their whole lives in accordance with their consciences, even if their beliefs are diverse; that protects everyone’s right to do so (Washington invokes the vine and figtree image of Micah 4:4 as a model of justice and flourishing for our emulation); that requires of all only that they demean themselves as good citizens; that trusts us to find enough shared moral ground to make a common life and citizenship.
This model is losing ground, and it must be renewed. The challenge of our time is to find ways to build civic solidarity and a genuinely shared moral consensus across religious and partisan lines. Yet the consensus cannot be truly shared if we betray our consciences to build it, either by compromising our fidelity to the beliefs, practices and institutions we think are right and good; or by constructing false dualisms that deny the real interrelatedness of religion, morality, politics and nationality.
At Hang Together, we are Christians, conservatives and Americans.
We have seen some of our fellow Christians identify the success of conservatism or the success of America with the success of Christianity; we will not go that way. We have seen other Christians try to avoid this problem by denying that the faith has much distinctive to say about politics or nation, even to the point of supporting policies they know are destructive to their neighbors for the sake of comity with those same neighbors; we will not go that way, either.
We have seen some of our fellow conservatives identify the success of conservatism with the success of America, such that progressives are viewed as alien to the polity rather than fellow Americans with whom we disagree; we will not go that way. We have seen other conservatives try to avoid this problem by downplaying or denying the role of politics in human life, even to the point of denying that politics is grounded in justice, and abandoning the political traditions (rule of law, rights of conscience, constitutional democracy, enterprise and entrepreneurship) that have created so much justice, freedom and flourishing in America; we will not go that way, either.
What way will we go? The road through these difficulties is unclear. But we know we have a moral imperative to find such a road, and we know that the Lord did not make a chaotic universe. Therefore, the road exists. We may or may not find it, but we know it’s there to be found.
Our title, tagline and header image – all produced by Benjamin Franklin at the dawn of the Revolution – express our view that now is the time for all good Americans of every belief and party to “hang together” in civic solidarity, grounded in a renewed American moral consensus, for the sake of their country and their grandchildren. For our part, we do so in full fidelity both to Christian conscience and conservative conviction; we would not do so on any other terms.
Images: Norman Rockwell’s 1943 “Freedom of Worship” (source); June 19, 1790 copy of the Gazette of the United States, reprinting George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport (source); architectural depiction of Micah 4:4, Amiens Cathedral in Amiens, France (source).
Special Thanks: Our original main header was adapted from a political cartoon published by Benjamin Franklin in the Pennsyvania Gazette on May 9, 1754 (source); image manipulation by Maria Bakouti of shootbox.co.
Disclaimer: Hang Together is not affiliated with anyone or anything other than ourselves. We’re just here to say what we think, on our own behalf and no one else’s. Our institutional affiliations are listed on the bio page for identification only.