Is America’s Honor, a Christian’s Honor? Thoughts on Glenn Beck and the “Restoring Honor” Rally
The recent “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, D.C. has seemed to encapsulate a rising tide of American conservatism exemplified by the Tea Party movement and particularly the popularity of the rally’s key speakers, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. In the midst of an attempt to call America “back to God” Palin, Beck and others have sought to frame Christian faithfulness within a very particular notion of American citizenship.
But what are we (those who feel some or much discomfort with the Tea Party movement and its claims to Christian nationalism) to do in the face of the voices that seek to protect America’s honor? Do we join or die?
While conservatives such as Beck and Palin point to a time past when America had honor, I am puzzled. Presumably, Beck and Palin mean America had honor in the eyes of God. Presumably, this honor was due to our limited government and desire for individual liberty.
But if we assume this to be true, was God also honored with the systematic displacement of native peoples; the enslavement, lynching, and raping of African women, children and men forcibly brought to our “blessed” shores; and the continual repression of women’s votes just to name a few? Was God being honored when those atrocities were not only permitted, but nationally sanctioned? Is God not honored because millions more have healthcare? Is God not honored because I do not keep what I rightfully earned?
God help us all if God’s only son refused to give what he had every “right” to keep!
The point is not to say that our present is better than our past or that our past is better than our present. Instead let us confess that our past, present, and future are all bound within humanity’s perpetual imperfection and God’s faithfulness despite us.
This argument will more than likely not convince those who attended the rally in Washington, D.C. this weekend, or even Beck or Palin themselves. But perhaps it will allow those of us who imagine America’s changing demographics and policies to be something hopeful to also begin to embody those possibilities within our lives and congregations.
As words of “restoration” and “honor” bellow among conservative nationalists, let our lives be restorative, let our churches honor God in our service to the poor, the illegal, the foreigner, any whom the nationalist deem alien to what America was. What we all know is that the poor, the destitute, the stranger are not only among us, but that we are counted among them when we stand in the shadow of the cross.
In this way, we can counter their fiery rhetoric with hospitality, undermine their distorted claims of honor and freedom through communities of compassion and justice, and render their songs of citizenship tepid as Christ’s body and blood become sung in our love for all.
We cannot shout them down, but we can embody the promise of Christ’s words in such a way that the words of nationalism become nothing more than words of a people clinging to a dream that had more to do with their comfort than God’s calling.