Tag Archives: patriotism and religion

Raised Right: Patriotism and Idolatry

Rather than moving on to chapter six of Alisa Harris’s book, “Raised Right:  How I Untangled my Faith from Politics,” I’ve decided to remain in chapter five.  In last Monday’s post, I mainly focused on Harris’s attention on repentance (for others) and the need for Divine wrath to bring it about.  This week, I want to look at the underlying motivation for this desire for nation-wide repentance, which Harris also covers.

Ultimately, when 9/11 struck, the conservative Christians like Harris were hoping for a return to God by the whole nation.  The idea here is that they want to reclaim America’s place as the great Christian nation it was intended to be.[1]  To them, they want to create the great Christian America, which they assume will be the apple of God’s eye, much like Israel was the apple of God’s eye throughout the New Testament.[2]  So pulling down the separation of Church and State and pushing the supremacy of their version of Christianity is essential to establishing their version of God’s kingdom.

Years ago, I wrote on another (now defunct) blog that I felt that American evangelical’s desires to remake America into a Christian Nation struck me as a modern day golden calf.  In their efforts to bring this about, they have ignored the teachings of Christ and the methods for Kingdom-building that he and his apostles promoted throughout the New Testament.  It seems that in this regard, I have found a kindred spirit in Alisa Harris.  Harris even notes that this particular idolatry isn’t new:

Before American democracy became the form of government Christians favored, medieval Christians believed God favored the right of a king to rule over his people, protecting them in return for their allegiance and service.  The Puritan founder of Massachusetts, John Winthrop, didn’t believe we were all equals but that “God Almighty” had made “some … rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity, other mean and in subjection.  He and his fellow leaders thought a truly godly commonwealth should drive out Quakers, Catholics, Baptists, dissenters, questioners. … Christians today say the Bible endorses capitalism; Christians two hundred years ago said it endorsed the divine right of kings.  Both missed the point, which is that the Bible is neither an eighteenth- nor a twenty-first-century policy textbook.  It endorses neither the fiefdom nor the global superpower.  America is not a “uniquely Christian” nation, and it never was.

That last statement touches upon the biggest condemnation of the Religious Right’s idolization of America:  They forget that there are other Christians and Christian majorities in the world.  They forget that the Christians in India or Egypt trying to live godly lives deserve as much dignity and respect as their American counterparts.  In focusing on the Great Christian Nation, it seems to me that many American evangelicals have put themselves above their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.

[1]  Of course, this whole idea is based on the faulty claims of people like David Barton, who seek to prove that America was founded with the intention of making it a Christian nation at all, and particularly the brand of Christianity the Religious Right endorses.

[2]  This is one of the bizarre thing about the relationship between American evangelicals and Israel.  On the one hand, American evangelicals talk about Israel’s status as “God’s chosen people.”  Yet, on the other hand, they see themselves as Israel’s replacement in that official capacity.