Friday, July 03, 2009

The Annual July 4th Post

I regularly visit the Religionblog of the Dallas Morning News. Its tough to find papers covering matters of faith. There is Articles of Faith from the Boston Globe but that ranges as you will see if you check it out, from 'All Catholic News All the Time' to a rediculous video of someone playing Michael Jackson tunes on a church organ in an Episcopalian Church. (Just when I thought I might try to recover some connection with the Anglican Tradition, from which Baptists separated, they go and do this and I thank God for Smyth and Helwys!!!!)

Anyway this link is from Religionblog and its about Believers and the Fourth of July. As you can read the blog asks the question of the relation of religious and national allegiance and how the two interact. You will note that most of the panel of responders essentially say the same thing... that we can celebrate the blessing of the freedoms afforded us by our nation, but must always remember that our ultimate allegiance is to God and his Kingdom. Sounds good doesn't it? But here is my problem with their response and this comes from being influenced by Yoder and Hauerwas; Essentially each panelist speaks to the good that Christians and their faith can do for the Nation. In other words, our faith serves the constitution and the values of our nation. But none of them truly address what Christian's should do when faced with cultural and societal norms and customs that do subvert the basic values of our faith. They do make a few anemic nods toward the 'prophetic' nature of church, but no one ever fleshes out issues like abortion, war, capital punishment, consumerism, the history of racism and slavery. My fear is that in focusing so much on how good Christians make our nation better these panelist are implicitely doing what they say Christians should not do, which is forget our ultimate allegiance. While I am not suggesting violent uprising or even protest, as Christians, I believe, and Yoder strongly suggests that there is a peaceful revolutionary aspect of worship. We are to present an alternative which is a peaceful critique of the American Culture in which we live. Even the assumption that we are fortunate that our country affords us freedom to worship is questionable theologically. What do we mean by freedom? How does our culture define freedom and how does the Bible define freedom? Where does freedom come from and lead to according to our faith?
In seminary I did a paper on including the American Flag in worship. I studied and recorded all of the symbolism of the flag; the colors, the striped, etc. But then I suggested that in addition to the traditioning meaning of the various colors (say red for the blood of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom) that same red also symbolized the blood of African Slaves, Native Americans, Chinese Immigrants used in the builiding of the railroad, etc, etc. My point was not that my interpretation of the symbolism of the flag was the 'real' meaning of the flag... all its symbolism is at play at once. But the symbolism of slavery and the massacre of native americans should also then be ackowledged, so that our celebration of the constructive aspects of the flags symbolism must be held in humble tension with the destructive elements. Prayers then must offered not only of thanksgiving and blessing, but also of repentance and forgiveness and redemption.
Hauerwas is definately against all forms of worship that celebrate the fourth... I agree, but in order to be both pastoral and prophetic believe that in worship we can both celebrate and critique and bind the two together in honest preaching and in confession and pardon.

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