17 May 2006

More on Christian Nationalism

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

Some thoughts on Christian Nationalism, a topic that has been discussed both in this space and over at Marshwiggle's blog.

When I addressed this topic several days ago, I said that I was saddened by Christian nationalists who not only want the Constitutional right to worship freely, but also want to "take our nation back for Christ." There was a time when "taking our nation back for Christ" would have been precisely the course of action I wanted. Indeed, I would have been shocked if a genuine, Bible-believing Christian had suggested any different. Since then, however, I have come to believe some new things about politics, religion, and their intersection in the U.S. public sphere.

If you will bear with me, I will begin with a brief close reading of the Christian Nationalist's war cry as I understand it. I will then provide my critique of said war cry. My purpose here is not to disprove anyone; rather, I hope to enlarge the discussion through giving a fuller account of my own understanding of it.

The multiword verb "to take back" has several important implications. Firstly, it suggests a forceful action done in the face of strong opposition. Secondly, it implies rightful ownership by the taker. Thirdly, by extension, it may be read as a moral imperative -- if the taking back does not occur, then things will remain in a state of undesirable disarray, and right cannot possibly prevail.

The noun phrase "our nation" has similarly deep resonance. The "our" is a first-person plural possessive referring to some specific group. Again, this reinforces the notion of ownership of the sentence's object. "Nation" is a word loaded with meanings. It can be a group of like-minded people with a common goal, or it can be a group of differently-minded people who live in a specified range of geographic space. In this case, the "our" seems to imply that the only true members of the nation are in the aforementioned (but undefined) specific group. They also are presumably the ones doing the "taking back."

Perhaps the most polarizing element of this slogan is its final prepositional phrase. What Christian doesn't desire to serve Christ? And if we are doing something in the name of Christ, it surely must be justified, right? The "for Christ" phrase has the added bonus of enabling the nation-takers to place their opponents in opposition to Christ, and thus in alliance to the world, the flesh, and/or the Devil. These two words are what make the slogan especially effective among American Christian Nationalists.

I currently have a number of problems with this slogan, as you might have been able to tell in my reading of it. For the sake of brevity, I will simply list a few of them for your consideration:

1.) America was not founded as a Christian nation. It was not even founded on Christian principles. You can argue all you like about the beliefs of the "Founding Fathers," but these alleged beliefs are not carried over into the Constitution. The First Amendment specifically dictates that the U.S. government neither support any specific religious stance nor interfere with the free practice of any religion. In today's America, this means avoiding the privileging of any theology (including Judeo-Christian theologies) above any other. This is why the government should take a more or less areligious stance -- its duty is to enable people to believe whatever they want and practice their belief system (within set limits -- for instance, human-sacrificing cults take life in worship and are thus violating the inalienable rights of others). Thus, America never has belonged to Christianity.

2.) It is a good thing that Christianity is not state-sponsored. State sponsorship of religion inevitably leads to corruption of the sponsored religion. Look at state-sponsored religion from Constantine through the Crusades if you want evidence from the history of Christianity.

3.) Promoting an "us vs. them" mentality among Christians means that they are much mroe likely to become alienated from unbelievers. Making all opponents of your particular political stance "other" is a great way to drag Christ's name through the dirt.

4.) "Taking America Back" is often associated with voting. I have no problem with voting with one's convictions, but I do have a problem with legislating individual morality... especially legislating it one-sidedly. For instance, many Christians want to create/reinstate/uphold laws against sodomy to such an extent that they overlook the lack of laws/enforcement to prevent adultery or fornication. What are we punishing here? The fact that gay sex has a zero percent chance of producing children? Are children, then, the ultimate good? Should we have minimum child requirements for married couples, accompanied by forced castration and clitorectomies of those who will not or cannot comply?

5.) The implication of "let's take America back for Christ" is that this is a struggle that can one day be over and done with. What happens then? Do we stop in our attempts to live a Christian life? More than that, how would "retaking America" help us to live Christian lives?

Sorry about the scattered nature of these observations; I'm out of time. :-)

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