The Freedom Basilica

Among the many achievements of America's first bishop, John Carroll, is the neo-classical Basilica of the Assumption. WaTi documents its recently completed restoration, and this line in the story struck my fancy:
He wanted to create a light-filled symbol of the country's newfound religious freedom, not a Gothic-style throwback to the medieval "dark ages."
While I doubt the good bishop shared that modernist assessment of the medieval period, he was grateful for religious liberty and deeply committed to the American project. Which brings me to this sober reflection from a friend of mine, occasioned by a milquetoast Thanksgiving homily:
What I miss most from clergy in general is any sense of WHAT gifts our nation is supposed to be thankful for on this day of thanksgiving. The homily I heard yesterday barely mentioned some unspecified "gifts"and quickly fled to working and praying for the poor, overcoming hatred, divisions, etc. All good things to pray for, to be sure, but hardly the purpose of a day of giving thanks to God for benefits.
After years of seeing up close the conditions under which most Muslims live, it does seem strange we don't muster more intense gratitude for liberty. Our clergy, ignoring the examples of JP the Great and B16 (who manage to be at one and the same time deeply patriotic and universal pastors) seem to fear saying anything good about America in a sermon. As if they think praising the good will blind people to faults that need correcting. I rather think the reverse --the more deeply we revere what we have, the more committed we will be to getting things right.
God gave America extraordinary gifts not given to other nations. There is a reason Lincoln called Americans "the almost chosen people," -- a phrase taken incorrectly as a joke which Lincoln meant in the opposite sense. Calvin Coolidge used to speak about how our material abundance was the result of our belief in "the unseen things," by which he meant the guiding hand of God and especially our dedication to equal natural rights. No nation in history had ever grounded its polity on commitment to the equal dignity of the human person, and perhaps none since. Our clergy should be foremost in reminding our people about the real gifts for which we should have gratitude.

Here's the sobering part, with which, unfortunately, I also agree:
I do not believe that God will continue to shower our country with the gifts of freedom or abundance if we take them for granted, as our clergy seem to do, and of course others as well.
I think that means American clergy need to do a better job of inculturation; they think that means reaching out to immigrants. They might learn to be Americans themselves first.