Friday, April 11, 2008

Perhaps--just perhaps--a little more American humility is in order. . . .

I've been looking for a copy of this obscure book, Anxious About Empire, Theological Essays on the New Global Realities for three or four years. OK, maybe not that hard, since I probably could have found it on Amazon or at Abebooks.com, but at least checking out the used bookstores for a copy.

This paragraph is one of the reasons why. It was written by Robert Bellah just a few months after Dubya's "with us or agin' us" speech and the publication of our National Strategery against Terrorism:

The central point I want to make is that the American polity is in no way prepared for this world-historical role that has been thrust upon us, making it doubtful that we can sustain the hegemony the national security document asserts. We remain a profoundly provincial, monolingual nation. Most Americans are not interested in the rest of the world and certainly don't know much about it. Foreing news has been in decline as a proportion not only of television news, but even of newspaper reporting for decades. Our degree of national pride is unmatched in the world. Even before September 11 the National Opinion Research Center found that 90.4 percent of Americans agree with the statement "I would rather be a citizen of America than of any other country in the world" (rising to 97.2 percent after September 11). Only slightly fewer Americans agreed with the statement that "America is a better country than most other countries." After September 11 almost half of our people agreed with the state "The world would be a better place if people from other countries were more like Americans." In his cover letter to the National Security Strategy document Mr. Bush asserts that there is "a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise." The document itself makes it clear that all other nations not merely should, but must, follow this single model--or else.


Then there's this, from Arthur Paul Boers:

September 11 has become a cliche. I reject the claim that "everything changed" or that everything should change because of that day. Rather, I see it in its truest sense as an apocalyptic moment, an opening or revelation where truths are made clear and are suddenly hard to ignore. The truths revealed, however, are not necessarily those being drawn by political leaders, the military, the media, or even many church folks, alas.

One concern I have as a pastor is how God-language, and Christian vocabulary are usurped for the purposes of war and patriotism. This is especially striking now. I was not listening to the radio on September 11, but was informed of the events by my born-again auto mechanic, who promptly proceeded to make hateful remarks about Muslims. I later watched with great sorrow as outspoken Christians and churches supported US violent responses in Afghanistan and Iraq. The largest American flag that I have ever seen (make that the largest flag I have ever seen) is draped on the outside wall of a local church. One bumper sticker reads: "It's God's job to forgive Osama bin Laden. It's our job to arrange the meeting." God is being called on to bless all things American and, I might add, all things commercial. I am perplexed when I see patriotic slogans and claims about God's blessings on stores and gas stations.

Thus, in absolute seriousness, I say we must for God's sake bear a different witness. We must not coast along with such agendas. Christians do need to take a stand on the national urge to violence. If we do not, our loathing and denunciation of the violence on September 11 is hypocrisy.


Why this post, and why now? Because I was disturbed that I could be disturbed by donviti's post on Christian When Convenient at Delawareliberal. There is a test for those of us who claim to be Christians of any flavor, and as a whole I believe so far that we're failing it.

Is it more important to try to be a good Christian or a good American?

Maybe it's just more important to try to be good.

And what does that mean?

Good night, moon.

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