“The triple contagions of nationalism, utopianism and religious absolutism effervesce together into an acid that corrodes the moral metal of a race, and it shamelessly and even proudly performs deeds that it would deem vile if they were done by any other." ~ Louis Bernieres, British Novelist
A country could not be any guiltier of the “triple contagion” than our own great USA.
Nationalism. We have always had a sort of exalted opinion of ourselves as Americans and for good reason. We have a lot to be proud of and thankful for. But when pride and gratitude morph into arrogance and domination, then we begin to lose the grandness of our identity.
We have lost our way. Neighborliness, hard work, compassion, generosity, vision, creativity, genius— gifts and character traits that were once the substance and soul of our nation are disappearing. In their place we now display a cold indifference to all who are not like us. A nation once so brimming with transcendent forces like goodness and openness and yes even love, is now a place fuming with division and greed and hate.
Our neurotic need to rule the world, to force our politics, the Christian religion, and our way of life onto other nations is such a glaring symptom of our dysfunction and unhealthiness. What we have done to Iraq ought to make every American hang their head in shame. And this thing we are doing in Afghanistan should be seen by all of us for what it is, an abhorrent and twisted need to endlessly keep trying to seek revenge for 911, and worse, to use war as a way to keep the economy working for the wealthiest among us.
Most of us have little understanding or use for history; and to our own detriment. We refuse to remember or hear that the German people were so humiliated and mortified by their defeat in World War I that they were ready to hear and believe anything in order to feel good about themselves again. And up stepped a maniacal leader with a golden tongue and the promise of transforming their beaten motherland into a paradise of prosperity and good fortune for everyone. Hitler though failed to tell them it would be at the expense of 9 million Jews, slaughtered and treated as waste in order to fulfill his demented dreams. He failed to tell them they would lose the soul of their country on their way to some shabby glorification.
Nationalism is a very insidious evil and the countries that allow and embrace it make themselves vulnerable to crippling and shameful ruin.
Utopianism. America is so caught up in this. Republicans are forever now accusing Democrats of being bleeding heart liberals looking for some perfect socio-political environment where everyone is equal and all of our needs are met. But conservative Republicans are really the ones out of touch. They want a country they can control and own themselves. They want to return to a long past era dominated by whites and the rich and powerful. They don’t want to be bothered by diversity and poverty and the messiness of humanity. And nearly all of us want some kind of Hollywood life of wealth and fame and pleasure that costs us nothing. We just want to wake up and be rich and popular. We’re all contestants on some American Idol drama playing inside our heads.
Religious Absolutism. This ought to scare the living daylights out of all of us. And yet, we just keep bowing to those in this country who want to turn us into a theocracy where the government is our church and the president is our preacher and the Congress makes moral laws for all of us to follow.
Again, we fail to remember history. Our ancestors came to this country to escape religious absolutism. How can we forget that? The freedom to worship whatever God we choose, or to not worship any God, was once one of the essential tenets of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But no longer.
I do not want to live in a Christian nation, not the kind being displayed today. I want to live in a country where all religions are revered and understood and welcome. I want people to be free to pursue a deeper spiritual experience however unorthodox. But I do not want to live in a nation where some fanatical phony politician is passing laws to enforce his interpretation of Christianity or any other religion on the rest of us. And I do not want to live in a nation where the church is so cozy with the government that you can’t tell the two apart.
Perhaps the greatest preacher ever in England, Charles H. Spurgeon, once said, “When you see a man with a great deal of religion displayed in his shop window, you may depend upon it he keeps a very small stock of it within.”
That’s where we are with religion and Christianity in this country. Everyone talks about the Bible and goes to their favorite mega church and carries on about Jesus and waves their arms in praise. But it’s all show. The truth is, we are so spiritually shallow in this country. Forget all this talk about Jesus from politicians and popular clergymen and that crowd on Fox News. None of them are following anything he ever said or did.
The “triple contagion” of nationalism, utopianism, and religious absolutism should not be taken lightly by any of us. They really will destroy the goodness and decency of our nation and leave us morally and economically bankrupt.
© 2012 Timothy Moody