Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Click Bait with Depth

So, I've been sitting on this for a while. I clicked on some click bait a while back - I do that occasionally, I'm sad to admit. It was about a man who refused to take off his Marine Corps hat for his driver's license photo. You may have seen it around. Essentially, the story was that an older gentleman was asked to remove his hat for the photo, as is general practice, but he refused, pointing to a man allowed to keep his turban on. When told the only exemption is for religious items worn daily, he claimed his hat was such an item and, after a flurry of phone calls, was allowed to wear it for the photo.

We have no real way of knowing if this is true. Even Snopes says it's anybody's guess, although the details are plausible. I believe the quote from the story is that his marine corps oath was "to one nation under God, which makes it as good as religion." Whether fabricated or not, it's a pretty telling statement about the perception of nationalism and the ways in which Christianity has been distorted to serve powerful and violent interests. We've essentially sanctified "common sense," when the gospel is foolishness to the wisdom of the world.

What's more telling, perhaps, is that this was designed to get people clicking. It's popular. It's the kind of feel good story people are willing to read and share. I sure hope my Christian friends are uncomfortable with it, but I've also seen plenty defend this kind of analogy. I've long heard people say you can serve God and country as long as you have them in the right order. Those are often the same people who say its un-American to welcome immigrants, for example - without much thought to Biblical teaching on the matter; who choose war over peace.

It's a broad brush and perhaps the characterization doesn't fit you - for that I'm glad - but it's been true in enough of my conversations to warrant comment. We simply can't combine nationalism and Christianity - even if there is some purported "right" order of allegiance, in any conglomeration of the two, Christianity always loses. Power is a wily foe - it's why Jesus says a man cannot serve both God and Mammon. We typically take that to mean "money," and greed is probably the best translation, but it's not always about money. Greed speaks to accumulation, typically at the expense of others. This is a power game.

When we seek to be "the best country in the world," there's tacit implications that this means others are less good. Perhaps we could be the best country in the world while also helping the rest of the world to achieve what we have. However, our typical fallback for maintain "greatness" is not magnanimous generosity and sacrifice; it's military might, force, and power. We hoard those things and in doing so, give worship and honor to Mammon.

The guy in the click bait, if he really exists, has nobly given his life to a certain set of principles and assumptions. They're "noble" in every sense of our vernacular, but they're not Christian values and the Church can't continue to strain between two pillars moving in opposite directions. That edifice, of God and country, is simply unstable. Better for it to fall and us pick up the pieces than to kill ourselves in an unwinnable task.

That's not to say nationalism or American patriotism doesn't have elements of true virtue embedded within it - just that they're in service to a worldview that's dead and dying. The sooner we cut the cord, the better we're all going to be.

I still don't advocate giving in to the clickbait - it's the surest way for your to spread fake news or contract a computer virus - but here's one, at least, that speaks volumes beyond simply the words on the screen. Our lives are telling; they reveal information about us we may never have intended or known. Let's serve God and keep Mammon out of it.

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