Sunday, November 19, 2006

Let's Be Honest

"Let's Not Make our Religion Too Civil", the headline proclaimed. It was the late eighties and the column was on the back page of a nationally distributed Evangelical magazine. The author was warning against letting too much "patriotism" mix with our faith. Looking back, this was pretty darned prescient. Today, they say you're just not much of a Christian if you are not a Republican, and people have actually been disfellowshipped from churches for voting Democrat. The Republican party cynically mines the membership roles of Evangelical Churches for their mailing lists, and both liberals and conservatives proclaim that conservatives are godly and liberal know better.

This Sunday we, as is the custom of many churches around the country, had our Thanksgiving service. During the service I reflected on these things. How we as Americans swallow the officail line; hook, line and sinker.

We celebrate the birth of Christopher Columbus; and call it a natiional holiday, but the Christopher Columbus of history is not someone that we should revere. Christopher Columbus did something no other historic figure has done; he succeeded at genocide. He enslaved and then exterminated an entire race of people. He forced the natives to mine gold at an unattainable rate and then cut off their hands when they failed.
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And, as always, do a little research for your self.

In today's history books reconstruction is often portrayed as a dismal failure, rife with incompetence and corruption. But the failure of reconstruction was precipitated by the powerful undermining the reforms instituted at that time. There was an attempt to finally live up to the great ideals that our founding documents claimed; and those whose wealth and comfort were threatened by a free and equtiable society fought back; delaying most of the reforms by nearly a hundred years, and honestly, we still have not witnessed the realization of the founders dreams, or those of good will during the reconstruction, or indeed those activists who fought so hard in the 1960's. The ideals and reforms of reconstruction were good ones, they were both effective and just. The greater majority of the reconstructionists were good honest people who would have accomplished great things if not for the corruption of their opposition.
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And back to Thanksgiving. Most important, Thanksgiving was instituted by Abraham Lincoln and made official by Franklyn Delanore Roosevelt, both to play on the patriotic impulse of the American people during a difficult war. The local tribes, upon noticing that the European settlers were starving to death, instructed them on what crops to plant, and how to survive the hard New England winters. The serttlers reciprocated by giving the natives "blankets." These blankets proved so effective in pacifying the native populations that the settlers carried them along on all of their treks of expansion. They just killed!! The war department on discovering how effective these blankets were, sent them ahead a couple of times and just sat back and waited for them to do their work.
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Is patriotism wrong for Christians? No, it is a healthy impulse. Christians should love their country and work for it's betterment. But, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, with very specific laws and ethics and we may never abandon those ethics for nationalism. We may never equate patriotism with piety. Spreading the Kingdom must come first. An argument that this practice or that technique is effective in advancing the countries ends must hold no sway if those practices or techniques violate the rules of our faith. Torture may be effective (it is not), capital punishment may fit into our present law and order philosophy nad war may appear necessary for survival, but they are counter to the teachings of Christ, and as such are not an option for the Christian. Jesus said "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt 6:23).

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