Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Good 'Mericans

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
One of our number received one of those ridiculous email messages along the lines of… Can a Muslim REALLY be a good American? And then they proceeded to list the multitude of reasons (Muslims first allegiance is to Allah, etc) why the answer was, No, they can’t.

This goofy letter also included the preposterous charge that Barack Obama is a Muslim (and hence, couldn’t be a good ‘merican, let alone a good president…)

Our church member was saying that she had received this email from a friend who she would have thought more aware than this letter indicated. She was asking for advice on how to respond. Several folk pointed out that by that reasoning, Christians couldn’t be good Americans either. But my favorite answer was from our dear Karen, who is a preacher in Muslim Morocco.

Hi, friends,

Kevin's Dad received this email last summer (while Karen was home visiting). When I read it I was so, so angry and upset that I had to go outside and take a long walk.

What I was wondering at the time was, as Mike has said, whether or not I could ever be a "good American" or if I even wanted to be a good American, and not simply as these right-wing people define it, but even as it might be defined more "liberally".

It took smelling the sweet hay and admiring the cornflowers and the Queen Anne's Lace on the roadside in the farm country of Hardin County for me to remember that I love the land and am attached to it and wanted to find a way to be an American without being angry about my country all the time.

These accusations are ridiculous and easily refuted, or at least turned on their heads with respect to Christians, as others have done. (And by the way, the Qur'an explicitly calls for tolerance of other "religions of the book", Judaism and Christianity, and tells Muslims to befriend Christians who are "the closest in affection" to them; thought I might mention this for those who might not know that.)

But I believe that it is truly hard to be Christian and American at the same time in this era. Our allegiance is to a God of radical, sacrificial love who belongs to no nation and "is no respecter of persons" or national boundaries. My faith teaches me that my allegiance has to be to God and not to any nation when that nation would have me act in ways that oppose the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

I believe that now God asks us to stand in opposition to the actions of our nation which has abandoned its commitment to liberty and justice for all in the name of national "security" -- our national sinfulness is so blatantly seen in Guantanamo and it satellite torture-centers, in this "preemptive war" undertaken to ensure American hegemony in the oil-rich middle east no matter what the consequences for other peoples and nations. But America has also turned so thoroughgoingly to idolatry -- obsessing over wealth and possessions, worshiping the god of materialism and consumerism which has seduced virtually our entire population, rich and poor alike, while the two-thirds world is seen as target for exploitation as well as conversion.

I identify strongly with Jeremiah, accused of disloyalty, and I suspect others of you have felt this way. But most of the time, I feel like my love for this land and its peoples can only be expressed in tears and in protest.

Last summer, oddly enough, what brought me around, feeling more hopeful about America, was the Harry Potter party at Carmichael's bookstore. I was still brooding when we came up from Rineyville to take Claire to the big event with Ellie, Michaela, Laura, and Katherine. That night as we hung out in funky costumes and watched our kids running up and down Frankfort Avenue for the treasure hunt, I found myself loving a country that would throw such a grand party over a book.

So while my allegiance remains to a God who will never play favorites among nations, not distinguishing between Iraq, Venezuela, or the USA, I am still trying to be a hopeful American (with a little help from Harry Potter).


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