I hope that everyone in America reads this essay. If it makes a similar impression on you, feel free to pass it on. God knows, (pun intended) I've received enough email spam essays about how "liberals are ruining our country because they want to take 'under God' out of the pledge of allegiance."
God and Country: What it means to be a Christian under George Bush
The author, Charles Marsh, is professor of religion and director of the Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia. I'll post some of the highlights:
"Despite approval for the president's decision to go to war by 87 percent of white evangelicals in April 2003, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts poll, almost every Christian leader in the world (and almost every nonevangelical leader in the United States) voiced opposition to the war.
In their enthusiastic support of the White House's decision to invade Iraq, evangelicals in the United States practiced an ecumenical isolationism that mirrored the prevailing political trend. Rush Limbaugh may have pleased his "dittoheads" in mocking the dissenting pastors, archbishops, bishops, and church leaders who stuck their noses into our nation's foreign policy, but the people in the United States who call themselves Christian must organize their priorities and values on a different standard than partisan loyalty.
These past six years have been transformative in the religious history of the United States. It is arguably the passing of the evangelical moment -- if not the end of evangelicalism's cultural and political relevance, then certainly the loss of its theological credibility. Conservative evangelical elites, in exchange for political access and power, have ransacked the faith and trivialized its convictions. It is as though these Christians consider themselves to be recipients of a special revelation, as if God has whispered eternal secrets in their ears and summoned them to world-historic leadership in the present and future."
Marsh goes on to bring up Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who opposed the Nazis and was executed in a concentration camp in 1945, saying "(he) believed that the church had so compromised its witness to Jesus Christ that it was now incapable of "taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world." The misuse of the language of faith had humiliated the Word; any hope for renewal would need to begin with the humble recognition that God was most certainly tired of all our talk.
It is time to give Bonhoeffer's meditations a new hearing. With many other Christians in the United States and many more abroad, I have watched with horror in recent years as the name of Jesus has been used to serve national ambitions and justify war.
Sometime after Operation Iraqi Freedom began, I made a remarkable discovery. I had gone to one of my local Christian bookstores to find a Bible for my goddaughter. On a whim, I also decided to look for a Holy Spirit lapel pin, in the symbolic shape of a dove, the kind that had always been easy to find in the display case in the front. Many people in my church and in the places where I traveled had been wearing the American flag on their lapel for months now. It seemed like a pretty good time for Christians to put the Spirit back on.
But the doves were nowhere in sight. In the place near the front where I once would have found them, I was greeted instead by a full assortment of patriotic accessories -- red-white-and-blue ties, bandanas, buttons, handkerchiefs, "I support our troops" ribbons, "God Bless America" gear, and an extraordinary cross and flag button with the two images interlocked. I felt slightly panicked by the new arrangement. I asked the clerk behind the counter where the doves had gone. The man's response was jarring, although the remark might well be remembered as an apt theological summation of our present religious age. "They're in the back with the other discounted items," he said"
I can just picture it too, and why I cringe at the car in front of me with the "I support our troops" yellow, and red white and blue magnets and the "Vote Democrat, support terrorism" bumper sticker. Or Worse.
"I have thought of this visit to the local Christian bookstore many times in the past several years. I remember the outrage I felt when I saw a photograph in Time magazine during the 2004 presidential election of Christian Coalition activists in Ohio. Two men, both white, and both identified as Coalition members, are holding two crosses aloft. The crosses upon closer inspection appear to be made of balloons twisted together. Across the beam-section of one of the crosses was the "Bush-Cheney" logo, and alongside the president's name was the image of an American flag. In the second cross, the president's name appeared in full at the places where Jesus's hands were nailed."
Scary, isn't it? He closes with this:
"I am certain that it would be better for Christians to stand in solidarity with compassionate atheists and agnostics, firmly resolved against injustice and cruelty, than to sing "Amazing Grace" with the heroic masses who cannot tell the difference between the cross and the flag."
If you actually put up with me and read all that, thanks.