Thursday, July 9, 2009

Church of Treason

Alright, it's rant time, because I need to get this one off my chest.

I'm not a church-going man, but occasionally I'll go along to support family members who are singing or have a special occasion or whatnot. This past weekend, 4th of July weekend, was one such occasion. They had a mildly patriotic service, including having military servicemen (and, well, there actually weren't any women there) stand up and be recognized. Everyone applauded and it lead nicely into the sermon about commitment.

However, at one point in the service, someone got up to sing a "special song" according to the bulletin.  A lot of times, special songs at patriotic services go something along the lines of "God bless America, and no one else".  Sure, they're not quite that blatant, but there's usually an implication that our country is far superior to all other countries, and even the "chosen one" of the nations of the world.  I find this to be mildly offensive, but tend to just smile and nod and let it slide.  

In this case however, the song was "In God We Still Trust" by Rio Diamond. To only slightly exaggerate, he might as well have gotten up there and started singing Mein Kompf set to the Afghanistan national anthem. The song was a direct attack on America and our freedom. How so? Here are the two versus (the chorus was pretty mild "We all believe in God and so should You" stuff):

"You place your hand on His Bible, when you swear to tell the Truth
His name is on our greatest Monuments, and all our money too,
And when we Pledge allegiance, there's no doubt where we stand,
There is no separation, we're one Nation under Him.

Now there are those among us, who want to push Him out,
And erase His name from everything, this country's all about,
From the Schoolhouse to the Courthouse, they're Silencing His Word,
Now it's time for all Believers, to make our Voices heard."

What's wrong with this song? Let me count the ways...

Verse 1:

1) Swearing on the Bible in court is optional.
2) Monuments don't dictate policy.
3) "In God we Trust" was added to coins in 1864 (nearly 100 years after we were founded), and on bills in 1957. It has also disappeared from coinage occasionally and is hotly debated.
4) "under God" was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954.
5) No separation? This is where the song goes from silly to an assault on some of our country's dearest principles. We're going to reject what our founding fathers have set in place (despite attempting to use historical religious sentiment to justify current policy just a few lines previously) and declare that there is no separation of church and state and in fact we should be a theocracy. Screw you Bill of Rights.
6) "stand" definitely doesn't rhyme with "Him".

Verse 2:

1) This country is all about the Christian God? I must have missed that part of US History, especially when Ben Franklin said, on his death bed, that he doubted the divinity of Jesus.
2) God's Word is being silenced in school. Ok, I might see the desire to include it in school, though not to be taught as "God's Word", but instead as Hebrew Mythology, since those stories are very relevant to modern literature and culture. But to teach it as "Truth" would be highly irresponsible and a violation of the 1st amendment.
3) God's Word is being silenced in court. This was the line that really set me off. To claim that our legal system, that our laws, should be governed by the Bible is offensive to the highest order. We would be turning ourselves into a full-on theocracy - the very thing that this country was founded in protest of.
4) Now it's time for believers to make their voices heard? Perhaps I'm reading too much into this one, but it sounds a lot like a threat of force. "You're not listening, so we're going to make you listen." This is where we start to cross the line over to a physical threat of assault and overthrowing the government.  

So, what did I do when I heard this nearly treasonous song, sung 4th of July weekend, in front a number of war veterans? The same thing as everyone else: nothing. I don't know if other people didn't notice, didn't care, or agreed with the song's sentiment. But I do know that no one said anything at all.

Now I wonder to myself: "Should I have spoken up? Should I have stood up in the middle of a church I'm a guest at, in front of my family, and lashed out at singer, telling him that he was spitting in the face of the veterans who sit before him?" The answer is "probably not". The damage done to my family wouldn't have been worth it. Most likely, everyone would have thought I was a raving lunatic and instead agreed with the singer.

Was my silence correct? These were just words, not actions, but they were poisonous words. Should they be corrected, or would the low likelihood of correction, combined with the potential to alienate family, make it so that such an outcry would be foolish?  I don't know.  I hesitate to take silence as tacit approval, for I was silent myself.  I don't tend even to feel that the singer is evil or malicious, but more misguided.  What scares me is that he, and the other members of this church, are voters.  It is precisely in situations like this that I realize just how wise the founders were when they created different branches of the government.  Without the Supreme Court to strike down such misguided voting this nation would have fallen long ago.
In any case, it's easy for me to sit here, retrospectively imagining an impassioned and articulate speech that was so compelling that everyone in the room would have agreed with me, when in fact such a spontaneous outburst without forethought probably would have gone something like "You guys are a bunch of poopie-heads who hate America."  So, instead of that supreme form of embarrassment, I am writing this blog post.  

God bless the edit button.  

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