America’s Religion

We just wished America a happy birthday. She is a magnificent lady, but she is starting to show her age. There are a few tell-tale signs that everything is not working as good as it used to. It is one of those concerns that I would like to address today.

I’ll just jump in.

Mr. Trump, the Bible is not a prop and the church is not a photographer’s backdrop for your photo!

That scene was one of the weirdest, cheapest, cheesiest things I have ever seen. It reminds me that there is an American religion, an attempt to make the perfect marketable cultural cocktail. 

One of its main ingredients is patriotism; the flag-waving, military-loving, lower taxes for the middle class, idealization of days gone by, and American exceptionalism kind.  

There is nothing wrong with patriotism, except it has been turned into something as sacred as one’s faith, if not more so. The United Sates is a great ideal; brilliant really. But our national history is not without serious blots and we have not always been right or on the right side of history. It makes sense because the people leading us are only human, and therefore, they are wrong sometimes. 

The brilliance of the American experiment is that people should be free and government should be limited with checks and balances to make sure that it is truly doing the work of the people. The further we drift from the founding ideas, the more flawed and corrupt we become.

The other main ingredient is Evangelicalism which for the last several decades has pushed for a society that mirrors its own beliefs. Jesus lived in a country occupied by a military superpower and co-opted by a corrupt religious elite. He had a lot to say about the corrupt religious elite and almost nothing to say about the godless ruling superpower, except that we should pay our taxes. His emphasis was on how to live out his teachings in that kind of cultural context rather than complaining about it, trying to change it, or attempting to make life more comfortable for his followers. Today’s Evangelicalism seems to have little in common with the way of Jesus.

Evangelicalism has created its own little brew over the last forty years or so by aligning with presidential candidates and the Republican Party to push positions they care deeply about. People came to know Christians for what they were against, homosexuality and abortion, rather than what they are for; love.  

It seems like we have enough to do in trying to follow the ways of Jesus and love people (even when we disagree with them and their choices). Judgement repels people. Love is indisputable.

For a really great all-American cocktail, we need to add a dash of the NFL, NASCAR, and country music.

I love Jesus. I love America. I love auto racing and I really love the NFL. I can also do with some Cash and Willie. I am comfortable with it all. However, I don’t believe it all should be mixed up together into some sort of pagan American religion because that which is most important, pure faith in Jesus, will be compromised, as indeed, it has been. 

I offer this alternative, evaluate these things separately on their own merits, rather than mix them up into some sort of take-it-or leave-it cocktail. Then, we can love our country for the good things we enjoy as Americans and speak up when it goes astray, trying to preserve the great idea without compromising our faith.

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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