Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Flag pins and other idols

As though Senator Barack Obama's American flag lapel pin had not been covered enough, talking heads on the Right have been questioning the senator's patriotism and love of country. Again.

Democrats have been screaming that, like Jeremiah Wright, the flag pin is not an issue. Well, they are half-right. The flag pin is not, but Reverend Wright was. A person's friends can tell a lot about the person in question. A flag lapel pin does not. The implication is that Mr. Obama is not patriotic or does not love his country because he does not wear an American flag lapel pin. If I was a politician who hated this country and was bent on its destruction, you can be damn sure I would wear a flag pin and anything else I could do to deceive the electorate.

During this resurgence of the flag pin issue, I have been noticing a disturbing trend on talk radio. Rush Limbaugh in particular has been hammering Senator Obama and the Democrats as unpatriotic and anti-American. First of all, "anti-American" is an empty and useless term. From the best that I can tell, "anti-American" only means arguing against whatever the user is arguing for. Second of all, when the 400 Million Dollar Man calls the Democrats unpatriotic or anti-American, his rationale amounts to simply their opposition to many of President Bush's policies. Mr. Limbaugh even lists the U.S. government as something the Democrats loathe. Who actually believes the Democrats hate government? They were the first to worship the state. Is this the best the talk radio king can do? The Democrats must hate America because they oppose Mr. Bush's foreign and domestic policies (I say they oppose instead of hate or denounce them because they probably only do so because Mr. Bush is a Republican and they would implement many of these same policies if they could)? Furthermore, it is this unconditional support for what the federal government does domestically and abroad that amounts to what I call "State Worship."

Conservatives have historically been skeptical of government and its intentions because right-wingers know as well as anyone that the constant temptation of government is to their their power. However, limited-government conservatives during the Bush administration have been the first and ablest defenders of a Great Society liberal. Not only that, but President Bush's words have become infallible. Despite the National Intelligence Estimate's claim that Iran abandoned its nuclear program five years ago, the president disputes it and the 21st Century Right has taken him at his word despite recent reasons to believe that Americans might want to be skeptical of their president.

This refusal to even question the president or the government amounts to state worship. To not support what the state is doing then becomes heresy and of course, "anti-Americanism." If love of country has been reduced to merely supporting what the federal government does, then I would like to hesitate as to whether I really do love my country.

Do not be mistaken. I greatly admire my country, its people, and its historic values of liberty and the right to privacy. I would rather live here than anywhere else in the world. However, I prefer as a Christian to leave my worship for the Triune God. Jesus Christ saved humanity from its sins. To constantly try to "save" the world (or just Europe) from itself is idolatrous because it turns the country itself into God and a savior. How many people in our great nation are still duped by the notion that we are the greatest gift the world has ever known or that America will be around forever as an imperial power? For that, I suggest that we consult the bones of all the other empires and world powers (including Christian ones) that thought and acted like they were infallible and immortal.

For decades now, and by no means is this relegated to the Bush administration, the federal government has become a god and an idol. There is a prevailing opinion that the United States is needed to solve the world's problems and that there are so many problems in the world because we are not engaged with it enough. There are also many who think and speak as though the United States somehow defeated original sin and is the good arbiter of the world -- as though we know what's best for the world and any criticism is apostasy.

My humble opinion is that this is state worship and idolatry. Why else does a matter as inane as a flag pin matter so much? Senator Obama represents bloated Great Society liberalism just as well, if not better than President Bush. Even before his infamous wiggling on Iraq, Mr. Obama has said that he would consider intervening in Pakistan and I would not rule out "humanitarian efforts" in Darfur if he is elected president.

After all, Barack Obama is just as much of a statist as George W. Bush. As far as these issues are concerned, why is Mr. Obama so much scarier than Mr. Bush? John McCain will continue the war, do nothing about immigration or the size of government, and is unlikely to lift a finger to halt the slaughter of innocents.

But we can all rest assured that "he loves America" because he wears a flag pin.

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