Obligatory 4th of July-is-an-offering-to-Baal post.

For a lot of us, celebrating the 4th of July is getting creepier and creepier as the line between allegiance to God and state is blurred. Something about body counts and puppet governments; cobalt mines and oilspills, make the celebration uneasy. They cause a moment of reflection every time the flag waves, the marching band plays, the fireworks burst and the Costco cake comes ‘round on the stars & stripes napkin. Nationalism, what we have come to call patriotism, is idolatry, plain and simple. Saying that doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful to live where you do, it means your primary commitment isn’t to country, but to God. American exceptionalism seems like the same kind of Temple exceptionalism Jeremiah warned of.

This year, with all the talk of economy, I’ve been thinking a lot about Revelation 18

4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues; 5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed. 7 As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her a like measure of torment and grief. Since in her heart she says, "I rule as a queen; I am no widow, and I will never see grief,' 8 therefore her plagues will come in a single day— pestilence and mourning and famine— and she will be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her." 9 And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; 10 they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, "Alas, alas, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come." 11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves—and human lives.

It lays profound guilt and consequences at the feet of Rome (Babylon) for their economic practices, and is quite frightening. Is it unpatriotic to think so? Does it matter? America: home of the effectively self-interested…

I used to think that flight was the only answer – run away and be free from the US’s guilt. Now, I’m not so sure. Certainly we must flee the blind allegiance to the ruling ideology of the United States if we profess faith in Christ first (v. 4, above), but these days, fleeing doesn’t seem to make me any less guilty. Nor has anywhere else, “got it”, an Eden of justice to escape to. I find myself guilty wherever I go for a variety of reasons. (I would like to understand more fully the “rational” deciding conscience that judges this guilt for me.. what is my own psychology, the holy spirit, modern liberalism, etc.).  I'm all out of easy answers.

My  conclusion is that the only truly free way to act is to take responsibility for the situation in some appropriate way and undo the tangle of oppression. We have to own the injustice of our existence, especially on the 4th, so we aren’t duped into worshipping the flag like an idol. Things need to be Undone, and now I can end this post in a self-promoting, self-referential way that must surely make me American.


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