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Psuedochristiopatriotism

I dislike immensely the sort of uber Christian patriotism that seems to pop up quite frequently on Facebook or Myspace. These posts that talk about the founding fathers as if they were all devout priests waiting for the ascension or the ones that spout on and on about the Pledge of Allegiance as if it's some holy prayer and ultimate measure of a persons devotion to God and country. There are a ton of these feel-good-look-I'm-just-like-you garbage posts out there and people waiting to see who all follows along fairly thoughtlessly reposting something that sounds good but has no logical, historical, or biblical foundation.

#1 - The Pledge of Elegance

  • written by a Christian and Socialist in 1892
  • meant to be recited in 15 seconds or less
  • originally spoken with the right arm stiff and raised, palm down at first and then palm up at the end
  • under God was only added in 1954

The Pledge of Elegance as originally written by Francis Bellamy in 1892 read as follows:

"I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

It went through a couple of revisions including adding "of the United States" and later "of America" after flag. It was also recited NOT with the hand over the heart but with the hand raised in Bellamy salute a derivation of the Roman Salute similar to that used by the Nazi's in WWII. This would have been the custom as practiced by my grandparents between 1892 and about 1948 when the Bellamy Salute was replaced to distinguish our practice from that of the Nazi's and fascists.

It wasn't until 1954, the year my mother was born, that the growing cold war prompted an amendment aimed at further distinguishing our practice from that of the godless communists. It was only then that "under God" was added.

It's ironic that in today's climate of anti-socialist rhetoric, at a time when conservatives are wanting to go "back to their roots", and "look to our founding fathers" that they would choose the Pledge as their rallying point. Francis Bellamy was a Socialist. He was also a theologian and Baptist minister and yet felt no need to author the pledge with the mention of God. Nor was "under God" deemed a necessity of the pledge for almost 50+ years after it's creation.

It makes one wonder exactly which roots conservatives are trying to get back to.

#2 - The 2nd (or 3rd) Commandment (depends on your denomination)

It goes something like this:

"Thou shalt not take the Lord your God's name in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who uses takes His name in vain

Now, the usual interpretation is something along the lines of "don't use His name as a curse word." However, it goes beyond that. Using His name in vain is using His name without purpose, without respect for the name or the entity or the greatness. It's using His name or speaking of His being in a way that is diminishing and not glorifying.

So I ask people what glory does it bring to Him to have school children mindlessly repeating His name day after day after day? Or tens of thousands of people at a game simply following the TV screen, mindlessly hopping up from their seat secretly wishing that the game would just start already? Likewise how does it glorify Him to have His name on the dollar bill or the penny. Think about it in this manner, His name in the past was reserved for recitation only in the deepest part of the temple, the cleanest most holy areas. His name was meant to be spoken with reverence and fear in those quiet dark places.

Now contrast that with modern American society where tele-evangelists hock books and DVDs using His name, where we place it on our currency that's riddled with feces and dirt and germs and traces of drugs. We put His name on the corners of buildings and on stone outcroppings that thousands of people pass by daily never realizing that His name is there just feet away. We litter the airwaves and internet posts with it, cutting and pasting our way closer to him? Is this really what we would call glory to Him on high!

Worse still are the people who use His name in hate and in anger. They carry placards with His name in crayon, denouncing others, spewing hatred and violence. His name used with pictures of dead children, with words like "hates" and "punishes" and "detests" and "kills", espousing any number of beliefs about Him and his feelings towards us and our sins. As if we knew. As if mere words in a book, however divinely inspired, could intimate to us and our largely primate minds, the simplest of His feelings towards us and His ultimate direction for our life.

It frustrates me to no end to see people following that path while espousing that they are glorifying him in doing so.

It just feels all wrong to click some little button and say "like" for the Creator of the universe. It seems too trivial for Him. Like saying "honk if you love Jesus!" or football players pointing to the sky after they've made a touch-down. It's banal and crude and beneath the reverence that we should be placing on him. To me it all seems for show.

Like the latest article a friend posted about "fake" or "mutant" Christians and how "real" Christians should be making grand gestures and then being loud about those gestures to their children, family and friends to make it clear that they're "real" Christians and whatever they did was the righteous thing to do. Their goal being to represent a faith that's not "watered down."

The problem is that type of attention getting personal evangelism sounds appears exactly like what Jesus warns against in the bible.

(5)”And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (6)But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (7)And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (8)Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6.5-8 NASB

In my mind prayer is not evangelism. Prayer is communication of praise and need to Him. If we choose to pray loudly to Him it should be for that purpose alone and not as a show to those around us. It should not be some parlor trick or marketing gimmick to get others excited. They should be excited by the spontaneity or joy of the outburst or because their own belief aligns to that praise.

The risk though with that kind of outburst is that it can alienate the very people Christians NEED to connect with. Additionally it's hard to determine from the outside whether it's spontaneous heartfelt praise or attention seeking pseudo-evangelism. Therefore in my mind the soft and subtle approach wins out. Keep your prayers for private time. Pray with people in public only when they've asked you to join them in prayer and there's not a private area available. And there, again, keep it reverent, sedate, and unobtrusive. That reverence is more likely to draw people in for the right reasons that will jumping up and down and loudly proclaiming His name every moment or two.

By no means do I want a return to yesteryear, at least not the one espoused by today's armchair politicians and TV pundits. They use the cafeteria plan of history, picking only the bits that serve them, ignoring wars and slavery and famine and disease and torture. Instead they act as though the shows they remember from the 50's were real places and real situations. Worse still they pretend as if it's always been that way until just recently. They're using their own made up histories to move us backward, not forward.

Instead we should be forging a new future. We can certainly pick REAL historical examples to draw from. We can then use those examples and what we've learned from them to move forward not backward.

Francis Bellamy, that Christian Socialist who originally wrote the Pledge of Allegiance was originally going to include a phrase from the French Revolution "Liberty, equality, fraternity". However, as much as our founding father's loved the ideal, Bellamy felt it was too far in the future possibly even thousands of years off. But isn't that the future we should be striving towards. Incrementally "Liberty. Equality. Fraternity." God willing.