Nationalism and Christian Faith

Nationalism in America’s churches is in many ways more explicit and more unnoticed by participants than even 1930’s Germany. The church I work at has decided that it’s far more acceptable to say the pledge of allegiance than to take communion on a regular basis. This shows a church that has lost its way, a community not gathered around the cross, but around a constitution, around not God’s Word, but the republic.

The church I attend is confesssional, it has creeds, it has liturgies, the sad fact of the matter is that these liturgies are America’s ideology. Our creeds are not the Christian creeds, but the creeds of America. Our pastor stands to decry a godless society week after week in love and patience, but, cannot even begin to articulate the problems which we really face. I’ve heard sermons about the evils of evolution and how serving Jesus is like being in the American service, I’ve stood in silent horror as my brothers and sisters salute a flag, pledging allegiance to a bloodthirsty nation in the very community that was built as a community of peace, and cross bearing discipleship.

I’ve heard our pastor thank veterans for defending our freedom, when really, there hasn’t been anything near a just war in the history of America, and the only war that comes remotely close is the European theatre of WWII. But even that was invalidated by our decision to as a nation commit the greatest act of terrorism ever known to history. There’s no defense of freedom in the wars we fight today, or in any of our wars, it’s never been about the defense of freedom it’s been about the unnamed expansion of empire. It’s been about cultural indoctrination and the self-entitled right to supremacy assumed by the American people.

The “tolerant” Americans have sought to excuse themselves from their imperialism by calling it other things, including: a war on terror, defending our freedom, liberating the oppressed, taking out a threat to our national security, disabling a mass murderer, bringing democracy to a people in need of freedom. The rhetoric is all the same and all underlies what’s really going on. America is a darkened face, and a nation willing to commit seedy acts to save her image, to save face. Just like Two-Face and Batman in the Dark Knight, our image has been marred by the publication of torture acts, of really looking at the things we’ve done in order to save “this fair city” from “madmen”.

America’s two face is the presidency and the CIA, agencies we love to praise, that we now have no choice but to see as disfigured and disfiguring aspects of our society. So we’ve created the idea of “the troops” and “freedom” as our heroes, who bear the weight of our guilt, for better and for worse, we shove off the blame on the president, the vice president, the government agencies, the powerlessness of the american people. The mask we’ve taken on for ourselves is a deliberate and overtly intentional rebranding, a way to distance ourselves from the war we find ourselves in. Yet it doesn’t change the reality that is Two-Face, the reality that our white knights have turned out to be monsters.

Our nation is a people determined to be free of guilt, obsessed with ignoring the past to live in the eternal present. The death of metanarrative and historical unity in American culture is a sign of the ways in which the American project is mediating its own failure to itself. We have become dejected and rather than acknowledge our place in history, we’d rather displace ourselves from it in what Foucault called differance. Trying to make ourselves differ from the past and even our present, making America an ideal, an invisible unity, a sinless body removed from the sins of individual persons.

America’s ecclesiological apologetic for itself is that it is an invisible body, perfectly unmarred by the sins of the past. The ideal still lives on, despite historical failures, because these were the failures of presidents, of leaders, but not of America. Underlying America is a strong belief in her invisible unity, despite her radical inclusion of most peoples (although there are some dissenters like Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh). But nevertheless, the claim of America’s idealistic unity and legitimacy as this ideal society in the minds of both conservatives and liberals stands.

As Christians, we do not hope for America, we do not hope in America, we do not take oaths of allegiance, to church or state, baptism is our yes. We need take no oaths of allegiance to the church, to the bible, to the Christian flag, to Jesus. Baptism is our yes, so let us live as though it matters. Pledging allegiance to the Christian flag is rarely if ever done without pledging allegiance to the American flag first, and it just goes to show where the priorities are.

I think that this video shows the problem in explicit detail so you know i’m not just making this up.

the only difference between that first video and the one that follows is not all the children in the first video have flags, but the sentiment is the same. The only difference between American and German fascism is that Americans are gathered around the invisible church that is “Christian America” rather than a charismatic leader. Fundamentalist churches have displaced the invisible church with the visible america in need of “restoration”. My only question is, were we a Christian nation while we moved in slaughtering indians, or after that, when we decided to import slaves to create our livelihoods? Was it at our earliest founding, by Catholic missionaries? Or was it when Puritans decided to betray the natives who had taught them to work the land?

What separates the “Christian” nationalism above from the one presented below?

What would Bonhoeffer say? What would Karl Barth say? What might St. Paul say? Augustine?


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