American Idolatry

An unusual event happened this weekend that I just can’t get out of my head.  We went to my uncle’s wedding.  It was a short ceremony, actually we were fifteen minutes late and it was already over.  During the reception they had karaoke.  My girlfriend loves karaoke and has a great voice, so later when they had a special song that they wanted sung they asked her to sing.  So they call her up to the stage and demand everyone come in and form a circle and hold hands.  My poor girlfriend was terrified, she had no idea that they were going to do all this.  Together we all sang that I’m proud to be an American song.  Halfway through it I saw my uncle was crying like a baby.  By the end several of them were.  Then they all grabbed my cousin, who is in the navy, and hugged him and thanked him and cried over him.  Now I am proud of my cousin, but he is stationed in Pearl Harbor, not in the Persian Gulf.  The whole thing was creepy to me.

So what does it say that the “religious” part of the ceremony was less than fifteen minutes long, and the height of the party was an overly patriotic love-fest?  (Other than my family is insane, which I have always known!)

Maybe I should explain a little about my uncle and his friends to better illustrate my point.  He is a biker, and he and his friends are in the Patriot Guard.  They provide security to soldiers funerals so the protesters don’t disturb the families.  A noble thing.  (Sad the protesters are usually angry Christians.)  They are all Republicans.  They fill my Facebook with mindless Tea Party propaganda all day.  (This is what usually leads me to write my anti-political rants!)  They are not unique in all this, and to some degree represent a certain part of the population.  Those who idolize America.

Americans have had two hundred years of national idolatry on a massive scale.  We seem to think that our country, our form of government, our way of doing things came straight from heaven.  The founding fathers are like the Apostles, guiding us to righteousness.  President Bush even had the audacity to say that our way of life was “sacred.”  We honestly believe that if everyone would live like Americans the world would be happy.  Few people will say it, they don’t need to.  It is assumed.

It doesn’t matter if the Republicans or the Democrats win the election, because neither will usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.  It sounds obvious, but many act as though it were true.  Americans have been that naive most of our history.  What is Superman’s motto?  Truth, justice, and the American way!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-American.  Our country, our government, our economic system, is all ok.  We have done great things, but we have also done some horrible things.  We are a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people, and the people are fallible.  All human systems are.  All of it is temporary.  All of it is passing away.  Everything except God is.  All the guns in America won’t change that, nor will they give you the same security that Jesus does.

Idols are always disguised.  Few of their worshipers know what they are doing.  If people saw it they probably wouldn’t do it.  Most patriotic Americans would say they are Christian and worship Jesus.  My family does.  But what they worship is a cultural myth.  They say they worship Christ, but they put their trust in economic success, hard work, and love of country.  These seem like virtues, but when they take the place of God there is something wrong.

When Jesus met the enemy  in the wilderness, the devil told him that all the kingdoms in the world were his.  I see no reason to think that the United States is any different.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t keep trying to make it better, just don’t put your faith in America.

Do you have a crazy uncle like me?  Is there something your family idolizes other than America?  What do you say to them about it?

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