Friday, September 21, 2007

That which is not spoken about can hurt you

Take these trends into account: Walmart now sells Christian religious toys, a soldier is suing the military for allegedly being forced to participate in Christian activity, care packages to soldiers from evangelical groups including a violent video game featuring the killing of non-believers has been brought to light and subsequently nixed, and further back there have been allegations of an intolerant Christian atmosphere at the Air Force Academy. Christian activists, possibly in a nod to "MoveOn", have taken out a $90,000 full page ad in USA Today denouncing comedienne Kathy Griffin because she stated while accepting her Emmy that she owed nothing to Jesus. Left Behind novels...the increasing association of Christianity with patriotism.

There's something happening here, something that has been building up for a long time but now seems to be emerging with greater prominence. The ideal of what America and Americans should be like has always been implicitly conservative and Christian. Way back in people's minds, despite all experiences to the contrary, there lies a little voice saying that the people who really are good Americans are the people who live in small towns, are conservative, and who go to church regularly and believe most definitely in God and Jesus. God and Country. It's something that has let people who fit the description quietly take the moral high ground when looking at themselves, but something that has also been disregarded by people who don't believe that the attitude really matters that much. But now it's coming back to haunt us.

Marx had a wonderful analysis of what he termed the hypocrisy of bourgeois society. He said that bourgeois society, which essentially means a society that is modern and non-monarchical, presents itself as being value neutral and open to everyone, with freedom of conscience being assured, but that in reality when you scratch the claim of neutrality something very different emerges, bias, acceptance of inequality, and inconsistencies about how the economy really effects people. According to Marx it's the things that lay beneath the veneer of what's accepted as the conventional wisdom that really matter, that really shape things and that really constitute the vital issues of society. This could most definitely be applied to America right now in relation to the Christian Right and its subtle takeover of the military and of society in general.

We're caught in a contradiction. On the one hand we know that the people who argue that Christianity and conservatism are the real essentials of patriotism are biased and that they're not arguing in good faith, on the other it's very hard to confront them on this because the shield of claims of patriotism in public discourse is very strong and in a sense we've been programmed to have that suspicion in the back of our minds that maybe they're right after all. But God and Country are not so easily defined.

However, implicitly honoring their view of what patriotism is, we've allowed them to go into the military and attempt to convert it into a force for evangelical Christianity and we've allowed them to claim the high road in the culture in general, thinking that the consequences wouldn't be so bad since, after all, America at it's core is really value neutral when it comes to personal ideas about what and what doesn't constitute being a "good American".

Our value neutrality is killing us and may soon have very bad consequences around the world, worse consequences than the wars and policies already inflicted by the Bush administration. We need to drop the public attitude of passive acceptance of Christian values as essential to American identity and the sense of transgression that accompanies challenging this stance in public.

America is biased just like any other country, and of we don't drop the veneer of neutrality that neutrality might cause the end for liberal America. The conservatives are right in that 9/11 changed everything with regards to getting an ideology and not just passively accepting things as they are, their error was in going the wrong way in their response. The future holds ideology versus ideology, radical or liberal ideology versus Christian and conservative ideology, and the sooner we wake up to this the sooner we can start to get our country back on track, hopefully countering the influence of the emerging ultra-Christian dominated armed forces while we're at it.

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