Friday, September 11, 2009

America: Welcome to the Second World

A little while back my wife and I offered someone a ride home from somewhere. But they had already called a cab. About a week later, I ran into the person again, who with glee told me of her luck on the taxi ride. She had found an envelope with $400 dollars in the back of the cab. Rather than give it to the driver, whom she figured would simply pocket it himself, she took it with delight.

Maybe America has always been this way. Maybe I'm just more in contact now with this dimension of American society. Maybe it's the economic crisis. But America is feeling less and less to me like that dream-land I grew up admiring. I have perhaps skewed opinions of which countries you have to watch your wallet in. England--pretty safe. Germany--pretty safe. Switzerland--very safe. But I watch it like a hawk in Paris or Italy. Has America become a place where you have to watch your wallet because everyone pretty much is only looking out for themselves?

Then there's the absence of real debate. Forget blaming postmodernism, this is as old as the hills. Cable channels mostly are just bully pulpits. Congressmen for the first time in history yell out disrespectfully at the President. I'm tired of the popular one-sided evaluation, "the Enlightenment was bad." There's nothing wrong with aiming at objectivity or following the very beneficial rules of how to do so. There was a lot, a lot of good in the movement during which America was founded.

It's not too late, but either we are slipping into being just another nation as usual or I had been falsely looking at America through skewed glasses all those years.

It is ironic that this gnawing feeling that we are in danger of radical decline reached its critical mass to post today, on 9-11, this horrible day in our history. But also ironic is the fact that excessive nationalism is itself part of that decline away from objectivity. The two or three years immediately following 9-11 were years of excessive irrationality in America. We forgot important distinctions, like the difference between the bad people who attacked us (Al Qaeda) and a different bad person named Saddam Hussein of similar skin color of the same general religion (although as different from bin Laden as a liberal Episcopalian would be from an ultra-fundamentalist baptist) living in the same general region (Afghanistan is about as far from Iraq as east and west coast of America).

The greatness of the America I love is to put truth above nation. Christians should do this naturally because God is over all and shows no favoritism. Nationalism, then by my definition, is itself anti-American if it leads to thinking we have some intrinsic greater worth than anyone from anywhere else. The greatness of America is in its real attempt at objectivity in its assessment of truth, its openness to all people of all races and religions if they will play nice, and in its advocacy for good in the world.

9-11 is an excellent day for us to remind ourselves of these core values!


Anonymous said...

have we so deconstructed everything (country, faith, civility, etc...) that any unity around truth is fading?


Angie Van De Merwe said...

You speak of truth as if it has no attachment to values. And yet, you say that American nationalism or patriotism is a limited view on "truth".

No, I believe that values are what underwrote our Constitution, not religion. These values are the foundation of human rights. But human rights will not be upheld if the free world is destroyed.

You act as if we do not have an enemy when it comes to these freedoms, when you say that America should not be involved in these countries that not only undermine our understanding of human rights, but also hold nuclear arms. Those who hold to religious intolerance, have weapons of mass destruction or the means to make them, and also disregard "life and liberty" are enemies of what you call "the rule of law".

The rule of law is not questioned in the West, but what is questioned is whether these laws should be internationally defined, and how these liberties might undermine freedoms in the free world. These are the questions that drive political debate and threaten to undermine the society as we have known it.

Caleb Landis said...

Angie You talk as if nationalism and patriotism as the same thing? In reality they are at opposite ends of the spectrum, just as liberal and conservative. Patriotism is essentially the love of ones country. Nationalism is a little harder to define. There a couple of important definitions of Nationalism. The first is the love of ones government. The other is a little harder to understand but is also the reason people think its the same as patriotism. Nationalism can be the love of ones country with the hatred of another country. What Prof. Schenck is presenting in his blog is that very distinction. Bin Landin was responsible for 9-11 but his opposite was the main target of our military. If we are not careful Nationalism leads to prejudice against a race or a religious group. Which religious group do you think could soon be next? I think it could easily be Christians. We have a very false foundation of Christianity within this countries history. It won't be long before Christians go from the ignored group in society to the persecuted one.

9-11 to me is the day when America became a nation of Big Government, and of Ethnic prejudice!

Marc said...

McLaren says the West has a problem of over confidence, especially within the Evangelical Church, especially in America. It's clear America is fading as a super power but also as an economic power. It's a country where every 7th person is below the poverty line!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I am prejuidiced against religions that are intolerant of human rights.

I believe it is dead wrong for the U.N. to give "speical priviledge or exception" to Islam to "universal human rights".

Many countries in the West have made room in their laws to protect "family law" for Muslims. Now, we hear that President Obama has appointed a previous Yale professor as his legal advisor at the State Department, who believes in allowing Shairia law to be considered as "viable" in our courts. I find this disturbing?

Is this prejuidice, you bet it is! And rightfully so. This is why many secular humanists and atheists have campaigned against our nation's religious identity, which unfortunately has consequences to Christian faith and its expression.

Christians want political activism in legislating certain "family values", but with our view on civil rights, America can't disregard Islam's petition of family law, as a right.

In Virginia, an Islamic school which was teaching radicalism was asked to submit their texts to be evaluated. But, the school did not comply. And why would they when we have valued freedom of religion?

Hirshi Aryan Ali has warned us that it is the goal of Islm to revolutionize our way of life by infiliterating the West and becoming politically powerful. We see this happeining before our eyes.

It is hard to legilste against one religion and not persecute another, without implementing a "State" sanctioned religion or Church. And do we want this, as this was not the view at America's founding?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I apologize, I should have said that the school in Virginia was accused of perpetuating radicalism.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

While poverty is one social issue among many that our country faces. Don't be duped to think that poverty is the most important issue that needs addressing.

Caleb Landis said...


What are "Universal Human Rights?" I have never found anywhere in the Bible anything about human rights. All I see is God working in the midst of history. He wants a relationship with his people. In the Old Testament we have the Mosaic Law as the method of being in relationship with God and then in the New Testament we have Christ.

As for Christians in general being prejudice against anything is in my opinion against the teachings of Christ.

On the last point our government and our country aren't Christian! They never have been and they never will be, Ever! So by referring to our country as in Christians best interest is out in left field so to speak. If christens want to make a difference then we need to stop supporting war and such just because its good for our government. Over 3 thousand people died in 9-11 mostly Americans. Over 4 thousand Americans have died in Iraq. All of these deaths were not needed in anyway shape or form. With each of these deaths we lost a creation of God from our midst. 3 thousand are charged to the attack and 4 thousand are charged to America. The math doesn't really make sense here.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

There are many "kinds" of Christians. And even the ones who transcribe to Scripture as historically true, differ in their emphasis. This is why we have different denominations.

Authority and government is one of the subjects that is debated in Christian circles with no consensus at large.

For instance, is the Church defined by the religious leaders, Scripture, tradition, reason, experience, or what? And what is the Christians "duty" to government? The Amish and Mennonite believe that we have no allegience higher than our allegience to the transcendent, while Catholics believe that Christians have a duty to obey the tradition of which their priests carry out at the command of the Pope. The Pope being Christ's representative on earth.

How does God work in history and with men? Does he interject himself in the midst of events? Oversee and overrule events? What about evil and natural disaster? Does God control individuals? Does he pre-ordain and predestinate?

What about evolution and special creation? How do you understand these issues, and the change that has happened because of scientific discovery that has challenged traditional views of scripture?

Transcendental questions are really not relavant to rhe "real world" of geo-political politics, unless one believes in an "end-times" scenario of one kind or another. Geo-political politics is where real history and lives are played out in real time. And it is very de-humanizing to just theologize away tragedy, evil and suffering. We don't know why bad things happen to good people.

Theologians have given many answers to the question of suffering that really does not dissolve it. Is suffering because of sin, a purifying force, a cleansing, or some other purpose. do we really know?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I didn't have time to add that authority has many dimensions, as forementioned, but our Founding Fathers believed, as did Kant that humans were moral agents, that were to be "self-governing". This is the area of character development and it has little to do with trascendent realms of reality.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

As to your question of universal human rights...The Enlightenment understood that slavery and other types of authoritarianism in governance, was immoral. So, universal human rights is built upon the belief of natural law. That man was created with inalienable rights to life, liberty adn the pursuit of happiness. This is an individual "ideal".