There. Always wanted to paraphrase Stanley Hauerwas. Today I finally get my chance... which ain't the easiest thing to do considering that Hauerwas' language can be salty enough to restock a brine factory.
Hauerwas actually said "God is killing the church, and we goddamn well deserve it!" but I've been thinking lately about how God is letting one of the larger shoots of this vine wither and die on its own. I wouldn't have understood that except for discovering Stanley Hauerwas years ago: it was in a college class on modern Christian thinkers that I read his books Resident Aliens and Unleashing the Scripture. I'd only been a Christian for a little less than a year at that point, after a lifetime of being told what Christianity was by people who didn't understand what it was about at all. Hauerwas and other theologians forced me to reconsider everything that I'd come to to accept about this faith, compelling me to take nothing at face value, especially if it was something that man insisted upon. From that time on my growth in Christ has depended upon actively crucifying my own understanding of things so that His truth, whatever it may be and regardless of how I desire to accept it, might take precedence in my life. I want to progress as a Christian according to His will, not my own. Certainly not what any number of "Christians" who make spectacles of themselves would have me become.
To wit: Christians in America are a decadent and lazy lot that - with very few exceptions - have no notion whatsoever about what it means to REALLY surrender all to God's will. I know: no one can do that perfectly. I sure as Hell can't. But most Christians in the "civilized" world and America in particular don't even give a flying rat's butt about yielding anything to Christ at all! The institution of the church in America is a flaccid, useless organ that does little about the malignancy beneath this country's boastful veneer: heck, if anything complacent Christians are helping to spread it.
You know what scares me? That so many Christians in America don't give a damn about the freedom that Christ died to give them. They don't want to think for themselves. They fear being apart from the comfortable patterns of this world. Fercryinoutloud, most "evangelicals" can't even THINK on their own enough to NOT vote for whoever it is that their "Christian leaders" and the Republican party put before them. These people aren't worthy of being considered American citizens... and much less bold witnesses for Christ. You don't show much boldness by letting your personal character get raped without lubricant while Jerry Falwell tells you to lay back and enjoy it 'cuz yer assailant can be forgiven since he's got an "R" or a "W" stamped on his forehead.
The church institution dying in America? Let it die. Let this country die with it too. It was only really alive so long as it had a humbleness before God fueling her vitality: minus that, it's as when Jesus said that salt which loses its taste is useless. Why should we keep propping it up with desperate measures that trash the Constitution and destroy our freedoms? I mean how the Hell do I, as a Christian and a patriot, dare be persuaded that this nation's current state is anything comparable to what our fathers fought and died for?
I can't because it ain't. I'd rather see America die an honest death than let her linger in indignity on life support. Come to think of it, now's as good a time as any - I'd even say it's downright obligatory - for a Christian guy who's been labelled a "conservative" by most to take an American flag and burn it to cinders. Hey, why not? It's just a piece of cloth, after all. It doesn't really stand for anything. Not anything worth putting into routine practice, anyway.
Don't think that the thought of publically burning the American flag hasn't crossed my mind lately. 'Twould be my own protest against nationalism. That's not protesting "patriotism" folks, and we need to differentiate here. Real patriots are children who are too ashamed to simply do nothing while an alcoholic parent drinks himself and his family to ruin: they're gonna tell that parent how bad he's become, no matter how much it hurts doing so. Nationalists are the kids who help themselves to Daddy's bottle while he's passed out in a stupor. They don't CARE if he gets better, or even WANT him to: it's their way of controlling and exploiting him.
Nationalists are the ones who've created a bastardized Christianity where both God and State demand our unquestioning loyalty. And unfortunately, it's this damnable syncresis that "has the reins" of American government right now. Patriots - the true patriots - will be the ones who contest this. They will condemn the dogma that the President of the United States, the Congress and the courts are divinely anointed to be over the people, as though they were priests acting on our behalf. Bullcrap to that: God gave authority over this country to We the People, not to a would-be Caesar and his court of patricians. And the common citizen owes not any man, or political party, or judicial decree any allegiance or respect in the slightest, when those things violate the authority that God has set.
Ya see, we as Christians in America used to understand that. Back when we were a free country. Back when we were free because we generally did let God have sovereignty over our individual lives. Then we chose to let the state have the sovereignty instead. We relegated God to second place or no place at all... and incrementally found ourselves a slave race for benefit of contemptible men.
This is why I have come to hate so much of American Christianity. Because it got trusted with a LOT of responsibility by God Himself... and it Screwed. It. All. Up. We were once the freest nation in history by the grace of God. Today many of our "Christian" leaders use the name of God to shackle us all the more. They distract us from our bondage by giving us idolatry: the images of the Strong Leader, the Powerful Missile, the Waving Flag... all of them tin gods that we have allowed to take the homage due the Lord Above All. They have converted the meaningless deaths of our soldiers during dubious conflict into a kind of sacrament: they are a blood offering on the altar of the dual figurehead of God and America.
To be blunt: American Christians, a whole sorry lot of 'em anyway, are a bunch of spiritual whores. And I defy any of 'em to declare that I'm being a "bad Christian" or a "traitor to my country" for pointing out their own wretched apathy. THEY are the ones who have let both God and this country down, and not all the bowing before the burning Bush in the world will tender that seared conscience into anything redeemable.
Lot of this stuff has been on my mind already since the start of this week. It was Kyle Williams' blog entry discussing Rick Mercier's article "If you read the Gospels, the Religious Right is most often wrong" in the Fredricksburg Free-Lance Star that prompted me to lay these thoughts out. And Mercier referenced Stanley Hauerwas in the piece... which REALLY got my theological juices pumping!
So for whatever it's worth, here's the thoughts that have been dwelling upon my mind lately. I hadn't posted serious stuff in the past week or so 'cuz I needed to "suss things out" a bit. I haven't quite finished that yet... but, here ya go.
By the way, I've met Stanley Hauerwas before: very, very interesting fella. You walk away with no doubt that this guy takes his Christianity dead serious. You also leave him with your own conceptions assaulted and flayed to the bone. Go listen to him speak sometime if he ever comes to town. Like I said, very neat guy. He even autographed my copy of Unleashing the Scripture when we met :-)