Patriotic Legislating in the Context of Grace?
The principal legislative response to the tragedy of September 11, 2001, was the U.S. PATRIOT Act of 2001. Despite its titular designation, the Patriot Act is not about patriotism in some explicit and defined sense. It is about expanding and extending the powers of the U.S. government in order to deter and destroy terrorism deriving mainly from radical Islamist sources and to protect against further terrorist acts.1 The introductory statement makes this purpose clear: it is “An act to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.” One suspects that the bill was called the “Patriot Act” as a defensive gimmick— that is, as a means to preempt challenges to the further intrusion of governmental power into the rights and privacies of the people entailed by its antiterrorism proposals and to suggest that anyone who is unwilling to sacrifice additional rights and liberties for this purpose is unpatriotic. In any event the bill is not about patriotism but about the uses and limits of governmental power in an extreme situation that threatens the American nation from several directions.2
KeywordsLegislative Process Body Politic Christian Faith Christian Theology Common Life
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