An Election Season Reminder

There’s no time, really, when the United States isn’t suffused with an overwhelming sense of its own importance, both in world affairs and in the eyes of the God we insist guides them.

We have, over the course of this nation’s history, woven an American biography that insists that the U.S. was birthed from the Bible study of devout evangelical men, grew up as a shining light on the global hill, marched proudly into maturity as an imperialistic messenger of Manifest Destiny, stumbled only just a bit in its nascent maturity with its occasional mishandling of the power it seized and the prestige it was accorded — I’m thinking of the excesses of its foreign “anti-communism” policies and, domestically, its failed “war on drugs” — and continues today, strong and secure in its relative youth, as a beacon of prosperity, Christian morality, righteous economics and Gospel-infused politics.

Which, if true, would be lovely.  Suffice it to say that if we wake up tomorrow and find that we’re in a nation like that, we will not only NOT be in the United States, we will be in the New Jerusalem while wondering how it is that we missed the parousia happening during our slumber. 

Nonetheless, we enter into the last five weeks of our every-four-years national electioneering orgy convinced that we can elect a president — this time, either Obama or Romney — who will somehow “preserve” the glory of America and do so without ever once telling us that not only is that glory greatly diminished in the first dozen years of the 21st century, but has been since this nation’s inception.  We like, for example, to tell ourselves that “only in America” can someone rise from poverty and “make it” — walk the hallowed halls of political, educational, or corporate power as a respected player, or even start their own business and become a key player in local economics.  That’s certainly more true in the United States than in other places, and all Americans should be glad about it.

But this country was birthed in its original sin of racism, classism, and sexism, and we are, a decade or so shy of our 250th birthday, backsliding, and backsliding with a degree of enthusiasm that makes one wonder how suffrage, the Civil Rights movement, workers’ rights movements, and other harbingers of brighter social consciousness could ever have succeeded.  Those gains firmly fixed in our national coda, we have coasted over the last six decades or so, believing that our house is in order, our immature Christian behavior discipled out of us by a faithful remnant we now despise as “sentimental” and “compromising,” and our current troubles troublesome only because they threaten the social divide that’s grown to dizzying, and dizzyingly unequal, widths.  And for those aligned with the Religious Right, any other social and economic problems — hidden to them during the previous Republican administration — are the sole fault of a man they’ve identified as a dark-skinned, foreign usurper unworthy of even basic regard, much less a reasonable chance to undo in four years the horrors their guy unleashed upon us in eight.  If unseating Obama requires a convoluted Gospel that maligns the poor and lavishes honor on the unscrupulous rich, well . . . the greater good must require it.  Or so say our prophets, the pundits who feed us our daily ration of self-soothing, self-aggrandizing pabulum.

When a man with at least a fairly even shot of unseating the incumbent can rail against nearly half the population, calling them “victims” unworthy of his concern simply because they reap the benefits of a social services system they’ve paid into, the country itself loses moral stature and veers from paths of righteousness.  When, in a country where about one-third of children live in poverty — defined as $22,300 a year for a family of four — and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of formerly middle-class people are tasting unemployment and poverty for the first time as the income inequality gap yaws obscenely before us, pastors and politicos crow that Obamacare is the supreme evil of our time, the nation’s international voice, once proudly deemed prophetic, cracks, stutters, and whimpers.  And when our cities are crumbling, our infrastructure falling apart as a consequence of our unslaked war-thirst, our schools are being degraded by business-model “reforms” that treat children like so many widgets in an assembly line, and women are at risk of losing control over their most intimate healthcare decisions, those with the loudest microphones can still convince us that the love between two women or two men is the greatest threat before us, our country’s reputation as a wide harbor of opportunity and industry, much less courage, is rightly belittled.

This nation, which proudly clings to its “Christian” heritage and insists that the Gospel be celebrated in every area of life — while using it as a sledgehammer to bludgeon justice and righteousness and a megaphone to proclaim cheerful alliance with the false and idiot gods of wealth and power — is as lost as any “pagan” nation it invades.  It doesn’t matter who we elect, although I see more concrete righteousness in the Obama platform than in Romney’s.  I believe he’ll win, although he’ll win with nary a whisper of support from the Bible-believing, the Gospel-proclaiming, and the churchgoing.  Their easy trust of charlatans and crooks, coupled with the ease with which old prejudices and fears have rushed to the forefront in the wake of Obama’s election, has rendered them less of a true movement of Christian disciples than a conservative social club.  They’re powerful, having convinced themselves and the rest of the Church that opposition to healthcare reform is the primary duty of the believer, but the pagans and progressives they abuse outnumber them.  So they wield power in one hand and wave to us with the other so we’ll notice that they’re being persecuted.

The bigotry and ignorance, duplicity and idolatry, of the Religious Right has made the once-benign Republican Party the single most dangerous group in the United States.  It threatens the tremendous goodness our country is capable of, domestically and around the world, and sullies its testimony globally as a “Christian” nation.

And that leads me to ask, in all seriousness, what wondrous possibilities could be realized if the Religious Right ever were truly converted to Christianity.

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