04 July 2013

Independence Day, 2013.

Happy Independence Day.

Haven’t done much for it yet. Ordinarily we might hit up the Fourth of July parade in Fairfield, but my favorite vantage point from which to watch it, the air-conditioned Alpha Pregnancy Resource Center office, is no longer available, since Mom doesn't work there anymore. We’re in the middle of a heat wave: It’s before noon, and already 93 degrees in Fairfield, and 103 in Vacaville. I'm spending it indoors if I can help it, and only venturing outside for fireworks. And barbecue.

I did go outdoors briefly. My sister Shannon and her family are visiting from Spokane, and since she’s so seldom in California, my brother Chad wanted to gather us Leslie siblings together and have coffee or something. We compromised: Kerry and I went to Peets Coffee & Tea, and Chad and Shannon went to Jamba Juice; the stores are right by one another in the Nut Tree shopping center. (Kerry took the selfie at right.) The temperature was already climbing by then. But I’ll still drink coffee. Forget energy drinks; coffee is the original, and as far as I’m concerned, still the best of them.

Tonight we’re all at Mom’s for barbecue. We’re not decided on fireworks. Either we’ll stay in town and watch Vacaville’s spectacle from someplace we can easily drive away from (the traffic gets nuts afterwards), or we’ll go to Dixon and watch their show. Dixon is a little warmer and a little farther away, but on the up side, fireworks are legal in Dixon, so there’s always the chance we can watch someone accidentally set themselves or their car on fire. So there’s that.

Today I was scanning the blogosphere, and a lot of the Christian bloggers I read were commenting on civic idolatry. It’s a problem, and one patriotic Christians (particularly conservative Christians) don’t think about all that deeply. Looks like they’re starting to; even the conservatives were commenting on it today. I notice they get less idolatrous the longer Democrats are in power. Because I used to engage in it quite a lot myself, I’m a little hyper-sensitive about it.

Civic idolatry is when we take our patriotism too far, and start to talk about the United States as if it can do no wrong, or talk about our Founders as if they were infallibly wise, or move beyond “God bless America” to the usual baloney about America being a Christian nation which needs to return to the Christian principles of the Founders.

I’ve read and taught enough Revolutionary-era history to know better. Times may change, but human nature doesn’t. Politicians back then were exactly the same as politicians now. They paid a lot of lip service to God and Christianity, but once you look closely at their personal lives, you find they were neither as conservative or as Christian as some of us would like to believe. The so-called “Christian principles” they followed were largely the principles which managed to leak down from Christendom into English common law and the larger society. The Christianity they followed, same as today, is what the wider Christian culture interprets as religion as Jesus would want it practiced, and not necessarily the behavior Jesus truly wants of us. Fr’instance, the slaveholders: Did any of them actually follow the principles of slaves-are-brothers-in-Christ that we read in Paul’s letter to Philemon? Other than George Washington, who among them actually freed their slaves? While some Founders were certainly devout, I can’t say that as a whole they were any more devout than our present-day Congress.

I never presume when we say, “God bless the U.S.A.,” God’s automatic answer is yes. I do pray he blesses it; I certainly don’t pray this because I believe we deserve it. (I realize many people consider it blasphemy against America to say this, and that anyone who says it is somehow not a “real” American.) On the contrary: “God bless America” is a prayer for grace, because we don’t deserve it. We don’t make enough of an effort. Whether liberals or libertarians, too many of us figure all the necessary sacrifice was done by the Founders and the veterans, so we don’t have to put anything in. We just have to be true believers in order to draw freely from the blessings of liberty. Tax-free whenever possible.

It’s great that we believe in freedom. It’s annoying how very few of us believe in the values which need to work hand-in-hand with freedom to make it worthwhile. Namely justice and equality and sacrifice. It irritates me when so-called Christians blame the needy for their own neediness, and insist prosperity should be rewarded, as if it were merited, instead of the blessing from God that it is. It bothers me when conservatives and liberals both are more concerned about defending the purity of their ideologies as a whole, rather than recognizing which parts of them are of God, which parts are not, and holding onto the good and shunning the evil.

I’m concerned that our insistence that America is a Christian nation (when our Constitution has clearly made it a secular one) is unduly alienating non-Christians. I’m concerned this will get in the way of sharing Jesus with them, ’cause all they can focus on is how we seem to want them gone or marginalized. I’m concerned too many Christians equate the Kingdom of God with the United States (or the Republican Party)… and are due for a shock when Jesus decides to remove them once he returns. Or, God forbear, sooner.

I love my country, but I’d like to think I love it realistically. I’m not one of those idiots who threaten to leave it whenever the other party wins an election. Nor am I one of those idiots who side with it regardless of whether it does right or wrong. I want the best for it, and still believe the best is achievable—which is why America is great.

That, and we have coffeehouses with free refills. Okay, Peets isn’t one of them, but still.