One Nation Under God?
My husband and I spent some time processing on what it was that was so disturbing about the speeches at the RNC last night, particularly those of Giuliani and Palin. They were powerful speeches. They were effective speeches. But throughout all the mocking and honking and laughing, they attacked and shredded and demeaned. I think David Gergen summed it up well as he reflected almost tearfully, “I have never seen the country so divided.”
What was most disturbing to me is the assumption by many that the rhetoric proffered by the RNC is somehow Christian. Here are some of our observations and reflections:
- The egregious use of fear as a weapon. My husband Aram remarked, “They hit me where I’m vulnerable. The economy and the war. I felt afraid. If I were to vote for McCain it would be because they succeeded in making me afraid.” The use of fear is definitely an effective strategy, but what do people of faith, hope and love draw upon for security? What have we lost? This brought to mind the first lines of the book Jesus for President by Claiborne and Haw. I think they really nailed it:
“We in the church are schizophrenic: we want to be good Christians, but deep down we trust that only the power of the state and its militaries and markets can really make a difference in the world. And we’re hardly able to distinguish between what is American and what is Christian. As a result, power corrupts the church and its goals and practices. When Jesus said ‘You cannot serve two masters,’ he meant that in serving one, you destroy your relationship to the other. Or as our brother and fellow activist Tony Campolo puts it, ‘Mixing church and state is like mixing ice cream and cow manure. It may not do much to the manure, but it sure messes up the ice cream.’ As Jesus warned, what good is it to gain the whole world if we lose our soul?”
- Amidst all the chant of USA first! USA first! I was wondering, are we called to put ourselves first? I am not foolish enough to think we shouldn’t be wise in caring for our families. But our allegiance is to the Kingdom which extends far beyond our national borders. And as Jesus said, the first shall be last…
- The commitment to drill for offshore oil and the frenzied shouts of “drill baby drill”! My friend Becky says on her Facebook page that she is “struggling with why destruction of non-renewable natural resources are first in the list of energy independence reform for the RNC. God gave us wind and sun…”. Good point, Becks.
- Palin talked about the hard workers from small towns who are the salt of the earth folks. She rightly notes that, “They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America … who grow our food, run our factories, and fight our wars. They love their country, in good times and bad, and they’re always proud of America.” Ok, I respect these people too but this was an obvious dig at Michelle Obama. This exposes the cluelessness of the party to the experiences of Americans who are different from themselves. And a unique and essential characteristic of democracy and freedom is that we may freely criticize our government. We are free to be proud and free not to be proud. That is a freedom we cannot afford to mock.
- Palin said, “While terrorists are plotting their next attack, Obama is worried about their rights.” This whipped the crowd into a nearly orgasmic frenzy. However, Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” And Paul later writes, “Do not return evil for evil but overcome evil with good.” Then of course, Jesus and Paul were despised. And in this context they sound like wimps. But the weapons of the Kingdom are not those of this world.
- Giuliani said, “How dare you question whether Palin can serve well and be a good parent. You’d never ask a man that!” The irony is that this question has been championed by evangelicals – the very ones who are now hooting and hollering with glee about this woman. It’s hypocritical at best, and perhaps a tad crazy making. They’re saying, “A woman belongs in the home- except when she doesn’t.”
This all reminds me of when Jerry Falwell said that we should blow away the terrorists in the name of the Lord. Likewise, Monty Python offers the useful Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, about which the Book of Armaments (Chapter Two, Verses Nine to Twenty-One) saith:
“And Saint Atila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, ‘Oh, Lord, bless this thy hand grenade that with it thou mayest blow thy enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.’ …And the Lord spake, saying, ‘First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.'”
It all seems to have entered the realm of the ridiculous. Seriously, there’s so much more to discuss in all this such as, what does it truly mean to love our enemies? What does it mean to lay down our lives in order to find our lives? Rather than stirring up fear, division and ethnocentrism, can we talk about what it means to seek first the Kingdom?
“To our most bitter opponents we say: Throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our houses and threaten our children and we will still love you. Beat us and leave us half dead, and we will still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr., The American Dream