American Patriotism and God


Why does Religion impact Patriotism?

9 out of 10 evangelical Christians say that America is the best country in the world, compared to 1 out of 5 non-religious persons, according to a recent Pew poll covered over at CNN’s Belief Blog.

If I hazard to guess, the same logic that prevents us from cowering in the face of a fictional supernatural being is the same logic that makes blind obedience to a Nation impossible.

But, is not thinking that America is “the greatest nation on Earth,” or not waving American flags around for the hell of it really unpatriotic? I don’t think so. I say honest criticism is perhaps more patriotic than adhering to delusions of grandeur.

Sometimes I feel that I fall into the 80% of non believers who doubt the complete supremacy of America, and my doubts come from statistics, yet sometimes I align with the other 20%. It all depends on how one defines greatness. We are the most powerful nation on the planet, with unmatched global power projection capabilities and the highest percentage of wealth and technological advancement. We are the nation that creates the world economy though our inventions and investment. We are not the best educated, happiest, fittest, or the most equitable society. We remain the most motivated nation but our once unmatched standard of living is declining. Yet I still consider myself patriotic and proud of my American heritage.

Some of the links between the religious and the patriotic are bound to be a result of the meme that “we are a Christian nation”, “We are God’s chosen”, or similar ideas. Which makes sense, if you think that your god has handpicked America as its nation, then obedience to that nation is a clear result and that somehow strikes me as the moral underpinnings of a theocracy.

American is the world’s second largest democracy but performs better than India. Yet our diverse society causes problems that smaller, more successful, and more homogenous countries avoid due to their demographics. That diversity is part of the appeal of the American experiment, that so varied a people can live in relative peace, harmony, and prosperity while continuing to add immigrants from the world over as new citizens, a uniquely American ideal (even if it remains a tradition to shit all over the new comers). It is that chaotic diversity that sustains us.

America might not be the best nation on the planet, but it always has the potential to be and when we choose to fulfill the fundamental tenets of our founding, we are. I think a true patriot does not have to continually slap himself on the back and laud his country; you have to be critical to avoid cultural stagnation. A person who must continually remind themselves about how great they are, is usually not that great of a person. Patriotism is in the eye of the beholder. Patriotism (IMHO) comes from not settling for what the country is and civilly pursuing your ideas on how to improve the country with the same gusto as those on the opposite side of the political spectrum as democracy slowly grinds out a compromise that hopefully moves us all forward.

My Grandparents generation struggled to build the nation into the greatest country on Earth, my parent’s generation marveled at the world created for them yet let it slowly start to crumble as other nations arose. It falls to my generation to reclaim our standing in the world. If we assume we are the greatest, then I feel that we will lack the drive to do the hard work that is required.

Like religion, patriotism requires faith. Unlike religion, the faith placed on a nation can be measured, evaluated, and tested though the performance of a nation. In their own ways the Tea Party and the Oppose Wall Street protests are more patriotic than simply singing “God Bless America”. Patriotism is action. And actions always speak louder than words.

 (Source: CNN Belief Blog)

Comments

  1. fastlane says

    My Grandparents generation struggled to build the nation into the greatest country on Earth, my parent’s generation marveled at the world created for them yet let it slowly start to crumble as other nations arose. It falls to my generation to reclaim our standing in the world.

    I might disagree with this, depending on how mean ‘reclaim our standing’.

    I think the US should strive for a more equitable relationship with the other nations of the world, not strive for some kind of supremacy. In some ways, yes, the US could be the ‘greatest’, but I think that it should be through diplomacy and helping other countries develop a standard of living that improves everyone’s lot in life.

    Think of the US society as the world society, and the parallels become (fairly) clear. What do we (meaning, most progressives and liberals) want for the US? Better living standards for all, a social safety net for those who need it, more equitable economic conditions, etc.

    The US needs to stop spending such a huge portion of it’s GDP on military, and focus that effort on improving the world’s energy outlook, reducing carbon footprint of humans, and one biggie that often gets overlooked, take a lead in encouraging people to have fewer children. (We absolutely need to flatten out or reverse global population in the next 20-50 years, or we are going to suffer a huge crash, IMO.)

    So yes, we should strive to be the greatest, but in a way that encourages greatness for all, not in the usual sense of American Exceptionalism (America, Fuck yeah!).

    • says

      Thats kinda what I was getting at. Greatness is in the eye of the beholder so our diverse society will define it in a myriad of ways. Somehow religion ties all those together without providing a real direction or goal. It becomes backslaping rather than the above critique of an individual.

  2. JoeKaistoe says

    Yet our diverse society causes problems that smaller, more successful, and more homogenous countries avoid due to their demographics. That diversity is part of the appeal of the American experiment, that so varied a people can live in relative peace, harmony, and prosperity while continuing to add immigrants from the world over as new citizens, a uniquely American ideal (even if it remains a tradition to shit all over the new comers). It is that chaotic diversity that sustains us.

    I’ve seen this argument quite a bit when people talk about how America is beyond compare to other countries. It just seems like the next sentence after this should be, “What’s Canada? Never heard of it.”

    I hate to burst the collective Patriotic American bubble, but there is another successful nation on earth that has comparable diversity and immigration from all over the world.

    • Kate from Iowa says

      Canada’s population is currently between 34 and 35 million. The US’ current documented population is somewhere between 312 and 313 million. Canada is (yes, much more successful) much smaller, even if just as or more diverse than the US. And (did I mention?) yes, much much more successful than we. It’s not a “partiotic American bubble”, it’s a simple statement of opinion. Even with the same exact percentages, a smaller group can avoid the troubles of a larger group. Example, you have 20 students, one fourth are nerds, half of the rest are athletes and the remaining group are the special ed kids. What’s likely to happen? The athletes clump together, the nerds avoid everyone and the special ed kids get either ignored or tormented by each group. But if you have five students, the chances of the nerd tormenting the special ed kids goes down to almost nothing. Maybe the lone nerd stands up for them, even. Different sizes of groups have different dynamics, we all know that. It’s not hard at all to apply it to the above blog post.

      (hm. I wonder which group might be Quebec.)

  3. geocatherder says

    What bugs me is how many Americans are willing to make insightful criticisms of the U.S… but can’t get their butts to the ballot box. We the people still have some control over the situation, but we have to make our views known by voting. (BTW, Husband, if you read this, I’m talking about you!) Perhaps this is a California thing and I’m reacting to a local or semi-local phenomenon, but I suspect not. And those with progressive values are not nearly as good about voting as those with regressive values.

    • says

      Well said.

      There might be a reason for that apathy in California (where I hail from, too).

      California has been blue longer than most places. A vote does not count much when it comes to either the Republican primaries (often too late in the cycle), or even the Democratic primaries. The slim pickings we had from the Green Party or the Libertarians got slimmer this last time around, and with Gail Lightfoot turning birther, there is essentially no difference between most of the Republicans, Libertarians, and Tea Partiers.

      And if you live in OC like I do, it is like the Bible belt of California. My congressman ran unopposed. This despite being him being Gary Miller.

      Even in the great wave of 2008, the state did not vote any more Democrat than it does otherwise, and in the tsunami of 2010, it did not vote any less Democrat than it does.

      The bottom line is that incumbents are hard to displace (see Boxer, Feinstein), and the POTUS never visits California except to collect campaign cash.

      I agree we should get out butts to the ballot box (or splurge on a stamp and vote by mail), but when we get there, the offerings are the same.

      It is far too costly to run a campaign against an incumbent, and unless you outraise the person 3:1. you are going against the wave of incumbency. 90% (http://bit.ly/oGp7BQ)

      So what would you suggest?

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