Stars and Stripes and Blasphemy

tags: Christianity, evangelicals, Mike Pence, Republican National Convention

L.D. Burnett is an American cultural and intellectual historian, professor of history, and editor of the U.S. Intellectual History blog.. Her book Canon Wars: The 1980s Western Civ Debates at Stanford and the Triumph of Neoliberalism in Higher Education, is under contract with University of North Carolina Press.

So there he stood, Mike Pence, a lifelong evangelical and the Vice President of the United States, wrapping up his speech with some lovely phrasing from the letter to the Hebrews:  "Let us run with patience the race marked out for us..."  I figured he would end the rhetorical flourish there, broadly suggesting that white evangelical supporters of the current administration are fighting for their faith when they go to the polls and they should not be weary in the political contest, or something like that. I mean, whatever.

But Pence didn't stop there.  What he said was this:  "Let us run with patience the race marked out for us, keeping our eyes on Old Glory."

I was aghast.  I could not believe what I heard.  Anyone -- anyone -- who grew up in a Bible-focused or Bible-thumping church knows exactly where the scripture writer wants our eyes to turn:  Jesus.  That is the word, that is the Name, that is the object of our gaze and the object of that phrase, and it rolls easily off the tongue of anyone who has ever read and marked that passage.

What we heard instead was a white evangelical Christian swapping out the Savior for the United States flag.  

I am not a stranger to American civil religion, to the conflation of God and country, to the syncretic mishmash of secular and sacred symbolism.  But I have never heard a more chilling bit of political rhetoric in my life.  Truly.  The flag as a stand-in for Christ on the cross.  And the fact that millions of white evangelical Christians will hear that rhetoric and find it unobjectionable fills me with despair -- despair and fear.  

When those in the highest positions of power in the world -- in the world -- become the arbiters of orthodoxy and the ones who define and describe what is true faith, what is true worship, we are all of us headed for trials and tribulations, no matter what faith we hold, no matter if we hold no faith at all.

Wickedness in high places demands worship it does not deserve, and if the ambition of wickedness is denied, it will seek to destroy all who do not bend the knee.  

You can take that as an analogy, or you can take that as an exegesis.  Either way, my friends, I urge you by the mercies of God:  do not bend the knee to these people.  As God is my witness, I will not.


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