Nations in the Old World were founded upon Blood and Land. This was my dirt, we were the people with the foreheads and eyes that looked just so, and we had always been here, so shove off. The United States of America was - uniquely in her time - founded upon a set of ideals. This marks a fundamental difference in our social DNA. You can tell by how we go about hating each other. Nobody in England (so far as I am aware) wins elections by subtly hinting that their opponent is “anti-British”; nor do French politicians bicker over who is betraying the belief system of Louis XVI. In America, however, anti-war protestors are “anti-American”. Also, those who call anti-war Protestors “anti-American” are themselves, apparently, “anti-American.” Dissent is the highest form of Patriotism except when it’s not: Tea Party protestors are anti-American, as are those who try to intimidate or silence them. Republicans who oppose healthcare reform as put forth by Democrats are the “enemies of America,” while Democrats who put forth the reform “want to be like Europe” (ie: not ‘like’ America). We all are on agreement that we have a set of ideals; that these ideals define Who We Are as a Nation; and that it is such a good set of ideals that everyone wishes to claim them while denying their nobility to whomever they wish to tarnish in the public eye.
It IS a good and noble set of ideals. They are very Christian and (c)atholic in nature. All men are created equal, and are imbued with certain dignities and rights by their Creator. Governments that oppress their people are not just inefficient but fundamentally wrong. They deserve to be overthrown and replaced with a better way. The best government is that which most protects the rights and liberties of it’s people; the kind of government most likely to do that is one which is limited; the kind of government most likely to remain limited is a representative one marked by the free competition of idea(l)s. In one sense this agreed-upon common ground for “America’s Founding Ideals” seems the most basic starting point to create a decent society, but to us it is the highest set of governing ideals yet attained in mans’ many, painful centuries.
It is also universalistic. Americans do not simply believe that freedom, dignity, and liberty are for them; we believe that it is intended for all humanity. We have since the beginning; it’s in our founding document. That’s why we so easily get pulled into actions much of the rest of the world deems arrogantly unilateralist; their foundations don’t demand universal application. It’s why we were the threat to Communism in the 20th Century, it’s why we are the threat today to Islamist Fundamentalism: both of them recognize another universalistic creed when they see it. In fights between such paradigms, one of us must survive to ultimately take over the entire world, and one of us must die.
And this is a great danger for modern Christian Americans, particularly conservative ones. It is all too easy for us to mistake which universalistic creed founded upon noble ideals we are supporting. We confuse them, blend them; ideologically we are prone to build an American Identity that is Conservative Christian and a Christian Identity that is fundamentally American. For my fellow conservatives to whom that last sentence doesn’t fully click, consider: One sect of us, the Catholics, are now dealing with a painful scandal involving pedophile priests because some of its leadership confused serving the Church with serving God. They made the institution their god, and served it instead. The Catholic Church has done incredible good around the world, engaged in brave and dangerous sacrifice to bring God’s Truth to all peoples’, it is a noble institution… which is why it was easier for Satan to trick some of its’ members into making that confused identification. The United States of America, too, is a noble nation founded on a noble set of ideals, which has engaged in brave and dangerous sacrifice to bring freedom to peoples around the world… which is why it is easy for Satan to convince us that it is only “Christian” to honor and serve it in ways that are meant only for God. “Americanism” becomes our a priori argument; we hang American flags in our worship services, the identity of our faith group (Christians) and our political group (Republicans) becomes in some places fused. Even the logic of sanctification can get co-opted. The first thing we reach for when under ideological attack is our identity: You Can’t Attack Me, I’m A Proud American / Patriot / Veteran/ and so forth. When did our service to a country or ideological inclination pick up even a hint of purifying our deeds and persons? The Christian Coalition for America tells me that the major goal for Christians in this country is (using our incredible wealth to bring medical aid to Africa?) (using our world-dominating military to stop genocide?) (using our unique blend of many denominations to lead the way in Ecumenical efforts?)… preserving a series of tax cuts from the last Republican Administration.
Now, I’m not against tax cuts. But I’m against Believing
in tax cuts. I’m not against my country nor it’s founding ideals. But I’m against putting my Faith in my nation and its’ founding ideals. All things built by man crumble to dust; only those things we build explicitly on and in Gods’ will have any chance of survival (and depending on how you look at Revelations; even those are doomed). If we put our faith, if we believe, in that which we design by man for man… then we have built our house on sand, and however well we have built it, it will be swept away and we shall perish.
This is perhaps a point of fine distinction, but I think it is a critical one. I know I’m accusing many Christians who are far stronger and wiser in the faith than I of setting up idols, and I apologize in advance if it turns out in the end that I’m an idiot and just wasted however much of your time it took you to read this far.
But bear with me; though I warn, if you have a vindictive streak (like I do), you will have to fight its temptation where I’m going (like I will). In airing our dirty laundry I begin with a self-conviction (I know the problem with worshiping at the Christian Church of Americanism because I’m a deacon there) as my introduction into warning our brethren on the Left against a similar mistake. In our (Christian) drive to bring dignity and freedom to man, we have surrendered part of our worship to a nation, to a political ideology, and, to a lesser extent, to militarism; we have mistaken our tools for our desired end. Our Liberal Christian brethren have done something similar; except where Conservatives “believe” in tax cuts (and being something called ‘red-blooded’), Liberals “believe” in ‘progressive’ social programs. I begin by admitting to the log in my own eye so that I can move to warn them that the condition is contagious (this is the first in what is going to be a series). Satan loves little better than to corrupt us via our most noble intentions.