God and Country: A church’s 4th of July message

“God re-bless America”

Normally I don’t pay much attention to church signs.  Flimsy, backwoods aphorisms about heaven and hell are not my thing.  But this one caught my eye as I sped past in my ramshackle Camry, windows down, blasting some blood-stirring Bach.  It seemed offensive yet so utterly meaningless.

God re-bless America?  What could that possibly mean?  Did his first blessing not take?  Are we at present too corrupt to be blessed?  Is it a call to resume being the Christian nation that many conservatives think we were and still should be?

Buried deep in those three words is a myriad of implications with which I’m at odds. Firstly, it seems implied that America is morally backslid and out of favor with God. Never mind that the violent crime rate in America has been generally  declining since the early 90’s (alongside the rise of secularism).  Haven’t we become more moral?  Alright, true, our morality is not aligned with the God of the Bible who endorses the death penalty for witches, homosexuals, and disobedient children.  But I’m talking about a rational morality derived from no holy book.  We share many goals in common as humans.  We try to figure out what actions help us achieve those goals (based on evidence), not only individually, but as a society.  (After all, we have to live among others.)  What works, works.  That becomes our morality.

So if morality is actions which tend toward common goals for all people, such as happiness, security, pursuit of personal meaningfulness, etc. I’d say America is slowly but surely progressing.  Step by step we are learning how to pursue the things we want without infringing on the rights of others.  Thanks, New York, for inspiring some optimism in my thinking!  The Empire State Building in rainbow-colored lights was a truly joyful sight.

Isn’t it interesting that injustices in American history have often been enforced with justification from the Bible?  As we emerge from the mire of religiosity, we see that African-Americans (Ephesians 6:5), women (1 Tim. 2:12), and LGBT people (Lev. 18:22) are all worthy of love and respect (and human rights).

I think we will be blessed.  The blessing will not be some supernatural effect of following horrific rules but rather a real, tangible result of our own work.  Isn’t that more comforting – to know that we can change our world for the better – than to be at the whim of God?

“God re-bless America”

Here is a paradox which I have yet to understand.  Conservative Christians love (and claim) patriotism but hate what our country currently is.  “America” to some people is a concept of a Theocratic distopia which legislates morality but “stays out of the way” as concerns money, and which (thank God) has never existed.  We are officially a secular nation.  It is everyone’s right to believe or doubt whatever.  When did we come up with this mystical idea that if the majority of people within arbitrary, human-made boundaries don’t follow Jehovah, that that nation will be cursed?  Why not say that God’s blessing only works on a personal or familial level?

This is probably too much time to spend thinking about a church sign, but I can’t escape the fact that I, as an atheist, am being held responsible by Christians for our nation’s ills.  They think that as long as I and my comrades are living apart from God, that America will reside under the curse of God.  They will try to evangelize me and make me submit to silly delusions instead of actually DOING things that could improve our world.

Forget God’s blessing.  Let’s bless ourselves and each other.  WE can bless the world.

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~ by falleninparadise on July 8, 2011.

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