Friday, July 26, 2013

Support for the Abusive Parent?

Walking through a wealthy neighborhood, I noted a number of American flags and patriotic slogans.  I often recoil from such open displays, but this time I realized that they were absolutely right to display their undying support for their nation.

After all, their nation really made them what they are.  They have the nice house, the nice cars, the good food, the health insurance-- the basis of a comfortable, good life.  And how did they get this good life?  Well, they worked for it, I assume.  But most importantly, the system worked for their work.  The system of the nation supported them and granted them wealth and comfort.

It is like Socrates said, speaking as his state, Athens:

...after having brought you into the world, and nurtured and educated you, and given you and every other citizen a share in every good that we had to give, we further proclaim and give the right to every Athenian, that if he does not like us when he has come of age and has seen the ways of the city, and made our acquaintance, he may go where he pleases and take his goods with him; and none of us laws will forbid him or interfere with him. Any of you who does not like us and the city, and who wants to go to a colony or to any other city, may go where he likes, and take his goods with him. But he who has experience of the manner in which we order justice and administer the State, and still remains, has entered into an implied contract that he will do as we command him.  (Crito)

So the state, the nation, grants so much, and the least we can give back to the state is our support, our obedience and our taxes.  That makes sense.

But what if the state doesn't support you?  What if it has been disinterested in you?  What if, instead of providing an education that makes you succeed, it provides an education that teaches you how to be a slave-wage employee?  What if instead of giving you a route to comfort, it provides you a route to poverty or distress?  What if it takes away your ability to have health care?  What if the state, instead of treating you like the full citizen you are, treats you like a criminal?

Well, then, patriotism doesn't really make sense in that situation.  Because the state, then, isn't acting like a nurturing parent, but like an abusive parent.

But what can you do?  Most of us don't have the ability to move somewhere else, because there is a certain level of worldly success needed to immigrate in today's society.

This is where Jesus comes in.

Perhaps some of you are saying, "You've got to be kidding, Steve!  You're going to pull in some spiritual mumbo-jumbo?"  Well, maybe, but this is the whole point of the gospel.

The gospel begins with us being oppressed by an unjust state, whether as slaves in Egypt or as outcasts from our own theocracy.  And Jesus comes to us and says, "Hey, I'm starting my own nation.  It's called the kingdom of God.  It doesn't have the same rules as the nation you live in now.  And if you love God, you will be completely accepted in this nation.  And if you work hard in love of others, I guarantee you great success."

No racial divide, no poverty divide, no oppressive corporations, no evil government-- just a bunch of people who agree to be ruled by a king who loved them so much that he died for them.  Everyone gets what they need, everyone gets mercy and the poor gets justice.

So I'm not very patriotic about the United States.  Because as a mother, she plays favorites.  I'm very patriotic about the Kingdom of God, though.  Because everyone is welcome, and all this nation wants us to do is to love each other.  That's awesome. 

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