Sunday, May 08, 2005

Love God, Love the U.S.

Another columnist I like is George Will. Conservative, yes, but of the old-fashioned economic, almost Libertarian kind. Unlike the neo-conservatives, he still is about less government intrusion. Ah the good old days, when the GOP was about less government...

Anyway, his May 5 column was really good. The opening line really hit on my concerns about where the religious right is taking us:

The state of America's political discourse is such that the president has felt it necessary to declare that unbelievers can be good Americans. In last week's prime-time news conference, he said: "If you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship."

I'm glad the president said that, but the fact that he felt he had to is unsettling. American politics has come to the point where it is easy to assume that religious faith = patriotism and vice-versa. Wow. From the political side, it nudges at my fears that there are many in power who want the U.S. to be a theocracy and are pushing us in that direction. Worse, however, is the view from the faith side. Faith in God = "I Heart the USA." This strikes me as somewhat idolatrous, making love of country on the same level as love of God, like we've somehow replaced Zionist Israel of the Old Testament as God's Chosen People.

Will makes some other interesting points, too. I hear complaints from conservative Christians that America has become too secular, that those of faith are unjustly persecuted, that there is a lot of "anti religious sentiment...coming from the left these days." Will's noticed it too:

[M]any Christians are joining today's scramble for the status of victims. There is much lamentation about various "assaults" on "people of faith." Christians are indeed experiencing some petty insults and indignities concerning things such as restrictions on school Christmas observances. But their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic.

He goes on to show many indications of how infused into our culture not just Christianity, but specifically conservative or even fundamentalist Christianity has become.

Religion is today banished from the public square? John Kennedy finished his first report to the nation on the Soviet missiles in Cuba with these words: "Thank you and good night." It would be a rash president who today did not conclude a major address by saying, as President Ronald Reagan began the custom of doing, something very like "God bless America."

It's not that the left, or at least not the moderate left, is anti-religious. Many Democrats are Christians, too, after all. It's that there is a whole lot of fear about faith and patriotism being made into one and the same. There's nothing wrong with saying "God bless America." But there is something very, very wrong with the idea that you have to believe in God to love America or that you have to be thrilled with America to love God.


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