The freedom narrative and the War on Terror: Civil‐religious idolatry for the 9/11 generation

Peace &Change, Volume 48, Issue 4, Page 298-312, October 2023.


The dominant narrative by which political and military leaders justified the American War on Terror held that America was attacked on 9/11 because America is “the brightest beacon of freedom and opportunity in the world.” Today, an entire generation has been raised in the shadow of 9/11 and steeped in a dualistic and militaristic understanding of American destiny. That view of America's role in Providence is centered on a totem cult of the sacrificial soldier and makes the flag a symbol of American greatness and of freedom itself. This essay examines the “freedom narrative” as a justification of the War on Terror, analyses the cult of the sacrificial soldier as a backstop for a militaristic religious nationalism, and ultimately shows how the dominant narrative legitimating the war represents an idolatrous devolution of a more prophetic and classically republican understanding of American civil religion.

This was originally published on Wiley: Peace & Change: Table of Contents.