Thomas Nast, “Church and State”

Today’s random thought on religion in America is a Thomas Nast cartoon that I use in my intro course on American religious history: “Church and State–No Union Upon Any Terms.” The Library of Congress has wonderful very hi-res scans of the cartoon. I’m using a snippet of the steeple-filled skyline as a cover image for my syllabus this semester.

If we play with the metaphor around which Nast’s cartoon is based: The spirit of Columbia isn’t quite as impartial or consistent as she looks in spurning church-state union. What Nast isn’t showing us is that certain religious groups are already inside the great hall of the state, running the country as they see fit… and worrying about all the newcomer (or not-so-newcomer) minorities outside clamoring to get in. That would have been a more accurate picture for Nast to have painted, say I.


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