Thursday, July 05, 2012

My Home Sweet Home

The holiday's over.  I hope yours was a marvelous as ours.  Good steaks, good beer and drinks, time with family.  It was one for the memory books.

Taking a day to celebrate and relax and enjoy is always necessary.  Coming back today, however, I find myself confronted with equally earnest yet opposing views on the question of do we, or perhaps even should we, celebrate the holiday marking American Independence.  Two of them are written from a self-consciously Christian perspective.  The third, from a self-consciously politically conservative perspective.  I found myself chuckling through them all, wondering at the larger question that all of them seemed unable to define: Why are they so worried about this?

Why do some Christians get themselves in a lather over the matter of love for and devotion to the land of their birth?  Why do some on the right create criteria for loyalty that have nothing to do with the reality of American history?  Why is this disputed territory at all?

Which is not to suggest these folks don't have every right and duty to express their feelings on the matter of love for country.  I just wonder why it's an issue.  Of course American history is filled with things both to celebrate and deplore.  Even at our best, we have rarely been outstanding; this same applies to pretty much any and every political commonwealth that has ever existed, and should hardly need repeating.  At our worst, both as we live together and relate to the rest of the world, ours is a bloody, violent, degraded history.  Again, not a big deal.

Jennifer Rubin wonders whether this reality is some kind of sum-game, a question that I find fascinating for its simple-mindedness.  On the other hand, the Christian perspective leave me puzzled.  While we in the Christian churches certainly have a duty to hold our fellow Americans accountable to the promise of the Gospel, we also have a duty to love and pray for the United States, its leaders and people.  We should never forget that, as fully human as our country has always been, as a practical matter we have much to celebrate and hold up as, at the very least, a political expression of some of the best humanistic ideals ever conceived.  That we are as consistent in our failures to live up to these as we are consistent in invoking them makes us no different from any other country.

We Christians living in America are also Americans who are Christian.  These identities, not necessarily either complementary or contradictory, meet and sometimes conflict.  Straining to define which should or might or does take priority is a fun game, but meaningless precisely because the banal reality is, conflict across various identity-markers is inevitable.  Furthermore, we Americans have a history of wondering about our identity that has been hijacked at times by those who have wished to use specific markers - race, ethnicity, preference for socio-economic organization - as essential.  I have no use for the kind of essentialism that creates an idol of some contingent reality.

Which is why I am an American and a Christian, as well as a Christian and an American.  These are accidents of history over which I have no control, yet for which I give thanks.  While some struggle with how these relate, I guess I'm just not that interested in that question.  It is enough for me that it is.

Virtual Tin Cup

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