Sunday, March 16, 2008

Love Your Country

Responding to recent controversial remarks by Obama's former pastor, Feddie blogged a rather innocuous post entitled "God Bless America". Unfortunately, the effect was rather like tossing kerosene on an open flame, sparking a furious debate (100+ comments and counting).

Jeremiah Wright screams from his pulpit "GOD DAMN AMERICA" -- from his "sermon" (if you can call it that), one might gather that "America" is constituted of "rich, white people" who live for nothing more than to acquire as much wealth as possible and kill off the black man by inventing AIDS and distributing crack cocaine, with 9/11 being nothing more than its just reward.

It is one thing to speak out against the recognizable evils that have befallen our country, to call our nation to moral accountability in light of the principles upon which it was founded. Paul Johnson noted this in History of the American People, on the first great stain upon our nation -- the matter of slavery:

In America the moral and political dilemma over slavery had been there right from the start, since by a sinister coincidence 1619 marked the beginning of both slavery and representative government. But it had inevitably become more acute, since the identification of American moral Christianity, its undefined national religion, with democracy made slavery come to seem both an offense against God and an offense against the nation. Ultimately the American religious impulse and slavery were incompatible. Hence the Second Great Awakening, with its huge intensification of religious passion, sounded the death-knell of American slavery just as the First Awakening had sounded the death-knell of British colonialism.
In this particular case, however, it does not seem that Pastor Wright is calling Americans to "the better angels of their nature" -- rather, that he has in fact succumbed to the leftist tendency of identifying this country with all that is evil in the world (as those who in fact celebrated 9/11 as an expression of divine judgement). Indeed, Pastor Wright seems to have more in common with these folk than the great Dr. Martin Luther King.

DarwinCatholic recommends as a corrective to those dealing with anger-management issues and a noticeable lack of patriotism Edward Everett Hale's excellent short story "A Man without a Country, about a young United States Army leutenant who, when tried for treason, bitterly renounces his nation shouting "Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" -- suffice to say the judge grants him his wish, the sentence carried out to the letter. The end result is that he came to understand how much he had lost in receiving his wish.

A similar lesson might be a book my father read to us when we were little: Peter Jenkin's memoir, A Walk Across America, about an angry young radical who was challenged by an older, wiser man to actually explore the country he was thinking about leaving in his disgust -- and literally walked across our nation, meeting and staying with American citizens of every color, class and stripe along the way.

At the time he read it to us my brothers and I thought it was a neat story, a great adventure -- in retrospect, perhaps he was trying to teach us something more.

As nature and religion prescribe to children dutiful conduct towards the parents who brought them into the world, so nature and religion impose on citizens certain obligations towards their country and its rulers. These obligations may be reduced to those of patriotism and obedience. Patriotism requires that the citizen should have a reasonable esteem and love for his country. He should take an interest in his country's history, he should know how to value her institutions, and he should be prepared to sacrifice himself for her welfare. In his country's need it is not only a noble thing, but it is a sacred duty to lay down one's life for the safety of the commonwealth.

Love for his country will lead the citizen to show honour and respect to its rulers. They represent the State, and are entrusted by God with power to rule it for the common good. The citizen's chief duty is to obey the just laws of his country. To be able to distinguish what laws of the civil authority are just and obligatory, it will be advisable to lay down the principles of Catholic theology respecting the nature, subject-matter, and limits of the obedience which citizens owe to the State. -- Catholic Enyclopedia 1917

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