I read online yesterday that the situation in the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War was so mild compared to today, that we really have no reason to be celebrating our independence from Great Britain any longer.
And yet, here we are – another year replete with conflict, economic turmoil, violation of humanity and the most idolatry ever known to mankind in its entire history – celebrating our independence from the Brits and their “oppressive” King.
Really, the financial tribute we had to give to King George was pennies compared to the way Americans are taxed and abused by the IRS today. If anything, we should be staging a revolution to go back in time and remain under his authority!
Honestly, there’s really nothing left worth celebrating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful that I can write this blog post and complain about my nation and its anti-Christian government. But really, you can do that in pretty much every other country in the world, too (with a few extremist exceptions). Just look at the middle east and northern Africa right now for a perfect example of this. Yes, even within these “oppressive” and “backwards” third-world nations, one can “take it to the streets” and protest peacefully about their government.
Of course, they do this with the support of our government (and with ulterior motives), but I digress.
I once read a wise remark that Americans celebrate “freedom” in the sense that we celebrate our existence as Americans – but not necessarily freedom itself. In other words, even though we’re not that free any more, we have bought into this idea so well that we assume that whatever it is that we experience – living as American citizens – is synonymous with “freedom.” How sad.
“But,” someone might retort, “We have the greatest form of government ever known to the world! We should be proud and celebrate that fact, knowing that we’re no longer under the oppression of a bitter monarch!”
Not so fast. The multi-party, constitutional republic – this is what the United States is supposed to be, not a “democracy” – is very, very old. We didn’t invent it, and it wasn’t an act of “enlightenment” to bring it into the world in the 18th century. We blazed no trails; we’re simply following the cycle of history. In fact, the republican form of government (in various forms) can be seen in the ancient city-states of Sparta and Athens, the Roman Republic and even later on in history in places such as the Icelandic Commonwealth (c. AD 930). The cautionary tale, however, to be read from all of the other republics in history is to realize that once the republican experiment has run its course, the Totalitarian Democracy takes its place. We are more than simply on the verge of this transition right now in the United States, and any student of history and current events can point to a great number of examples of this very transition. How sad.
So what happens in a republic? What happens when a nation throws off the supposed “shackles” of a king? The people are led into idolatry and debauchery. C.S. Lewis poignantly notes:
“Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”
Look no further than present-day America to see this laid out for all to bare. This is not a theory or far-fetched idea; it is reality. We are a nation that reveres the athlete or the film star more than anyone else, and we long for their lifestyles, their “freedom” and their bank accounts. We have been deprived of a real Icon of Christ in our government (a King) and therefore replace Icons with idols. Iconoclasm (as found in protestantism) always leads to great idolatry.
On that point, consider the various rituals of our nation. The pledge of allegiance, for example, where most Americans will thoughtlessly and instantly remove their hats, face the flag, place their hands over their hearts and pay homage to “America.” Think of the evangelical Christians who fill their hi-tech auditoriums (they’re not sanctuaries, so I won’t bother with pleasantries) with American flags and regalia and pay homage to this nation and its ideals during a “worship” service! They will cover their hearts and honor the flag of this country with great reverence but instantly balk at the idea of making the “sign of the cross” or venerating an Icon as superstition and empty ritual (or as idolatry!). There are even many Orthodox converts in the United States today who are “uncomfortable” doing the sign of the cross or venerating Icons, but they won’t hesitate to remove their hats and face the flag with hands-on-hearts when the “Star Spangled Banner” is played. We have a long way to go.
Last night, as the sounds of fireworks were already ringing through the air, I couldn’t help but think about our military forces overseas and what we have done over the last decade in the “war on terror.” There is something very troubling to me, as an aside, about our use of fireworks to celebrate our nation’s independence – if you had lost a loved one or your home to the bombs of NATO, the sound of explosions wouldn’t exactly bring you comfort. Anyway, the sounds of war in my neighborhood made me think about the over 1 million people (a great number of which are innocent bystanders and civilians, little boys and girls that will never get a chance to grow up and live their lives) that have died since we invaded Iraq.
We speak of freedom and liberty while our nation’s military are occupying foreign nations, raping their women and children, murdering civilians because they “look suspicious” and destroying homes and monuments – all for the sake of what? Freedom? Liberty? We know for a fact that Iraq had nothing to do with the destruction of the World Trade Center, and the only impact we’ve had on Iraq is 1 million deaths, a shattered nation, and the scattering of hundreds of thousands of Christians who are no longer safe under the Islamic government the U.S. helped put into place. Say what you will about Hussein, but at least he let the Christians worship in peace. I’m sorry if these things I say offend you – they are true, though.
Things get worse as we look at the other nations in turmoil across Africa and the middle east.
Libya is under assault by NATO because their Gaddafi gave indications he would no longer supply the oil and resources NATO nations “need” (especially the UK). The media, of course, doesn’t cover this, and only focuses on demonizing Gaddafi and promoting these fanciful ideas of “liberty” and “freedom” for the poor Libyans – the poor Libyans that we’re murdering by the handful. “But,” the faithful American will say, “Gaddafi is threatening to attack Europe and he’s a horrible person!” Well, what would you do if NATO were killing your family and friends and destroying your city/state/nation, all without provocation?
Syria, a nation with great freedom for Christians (our Patriarchate is located there, in Damascus) and led by a “liberal” (by Islamic standards) president who is part of a syncretistic Islamic-Christian hybrid sect (in other words, he poses no threat to Christianity), is now being torn apart by Muslim revolutionaries with full support of the American government. In other words, we are yet again siding with Islam against Christianity (just as in Serbia, for example, where we supplied Al Qaeda with the resources they needed to allegedly pull off 9/11 a few short years later).
I could go on and on, but sufficed to say, there isn’t much worth celebrating here in America if you’re a Christian – in my humble opinion. There is good reason to even argue that America is currently being punished for its wickedness throughout the world over the last century. We certainly deserve it; Lord, have mercy.
The greatest fallacy of all is that this nation somehow has Christian interests in mind or that it was founded by Christians – it was not. The U.S. was founded by Deists and Freemasons who had little regard for the Scriptures and the Holy Gospel and who’s only “gospel” was the Enlightenment. If the “founding fathers” were indeed faithful Christians (cf. Epistle to the Romans, ch. 13), the revolution against King George would’ve never happened. But that’s a debate for another day.
Our nation’s first president, just as one example, was emphatically not a Christian:
“George Washington’s practice of Christianity was limited and superficial because he was not himself a Christian [...] He repeatedly declined the church’s sacraments. Never did he take communion, and when his wife, Martha, did, he waited for her outside the sanctuary.”
Barry Schwartz, New York Press, 1987, pp. 174-175
People love to make a big deal of phrases like “In God We Trust” and “Divine Providence” found in the historical writings and documents of the U.S., but these are all phrases from Enlightenment-era Deism, not Christianity. There is so much that could be discussed on this subject, but I will leave it to the reader to do their own research.
Again, I must emphasize the fact that I am grateful that I can be so critical of our government and our nation’s history. Even though that is something you can do in probably 90% of the nations in the world right now, it is still enjoyable (although there will come a day when it will be forbidden, as in all Totalitarian states in both the past and present). I also believe firmly in our need as Christians to pray for our government, its leaders, and even our military – not that they would be successful in murdering others for no reason, but that they would never be placed in a situation where that is necessary and that they would be saved by our merciful Father.
The fathers of our Church are consistently clear that there is no hope or honor in war. “Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war – both in heaven and on earth – is brought to an end” (St Ignatius of Antioch). ”Christians have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not now how to fight” (St Irenaios of Lyons). “The devil is the author of all war” (St Justin the Philosopher & Martyr).
It is on sacrifice and love that our Faith has been founded – not war, and certainly not murder of the innocent. Our religion protects the innocent and shows mercy towards the helpless and needy. We are reminded by the countless Martyrs for the faith that that which is eternal far outweighs anything in this present life. Self-sacrifice and love for others should be our goal, not triumph over enemies or the vengeance and justice that belongs to the Trinity alone.
We must pledge allegiance to Christ (St Matthew 5:33-36) and never to any nation or “idea” of this present, evil age. Would it be that the “churches” of America were filled with praises for the undivided Trinity on this weekend, rather than songs and hymns to “America.” Lord, have mercy on us all.
As the sounds of war ring through your neighborhood this weekend, pray for our nation; pray for the salvation and peace for all; gather your family around you, and hold them close; be thankful that you don’t have to wonder if the next thing that will happen after you hear those explosions go off is seeing an American soldier entering your home and killing your spouse or your children.
At least for now.