Sunday, September 07, 2008

John McCain's Henotheism from "Creedal Christian"

Surfing the blogospere tonight had me reading the Creedal Christian blog, which is a blog with some great writing, challenging theological reflections, and just some wonderful stuff...tonight, I thought that Bryan Owen (the blog writer), was really onto something when he reflects on John McCain's use of religious language. In addition, he makes the quite interesting claim that "Ironically, the henotheism of our politicians and their attempts to reassure voters of the sincerity of their Christian faith may be a sign that secularism rather than Christianity is the real driver behind the wheel (even when the candidates in question happen to be self-professed evangelicals)."

An excerpt from Creedal Christian:

“My country saved me.”

John McCain said that last Thursday night in his acceptance speech as the Republican nominee for President of the United States.

I generally steer clear of politics on this blog. That’s not only because I believe that God is not a Republican or Democrat, but also because I have no desire to throw myself into the partisan mosh pit (the blogosphere can be brutal enough!). But I haven’t been able to get McCain’s statement out of my mind. I think it’s worth a look.

I’ll begin by saying that I’ve always admired John McCain. Sure, he’s not perfect. And I disagree with him on any number of issues. But his record of service to our country speaks volumes about his integrity. Flaws and all, he’s a fine American and a good public servant.

Listening to his speech last Thursday night, I thought that he did a powerful job of recounting his war service, his time as a POW, and his return home. That experience is hard for any rival to top! And in telling his story, he summarized his conversion from selfishness to service with the words that stick with me: “My country saved me.”

Given what we know about McCain's record and the way he consistently talks about serving our country, I don't think it’s stretching things to hear the statement “My country saved me” as an essentially religious statement. Because for McCain, there is no object worthy of higher loyalty than the nation.

“My country saved me.” This is a good example of what Reformed theologian H. Richard Niebuhr called “henotheism.” Lonnie Kliever (drawing on Niebuhr) describes henotheism as a form of faith in which “some social unit (family, nation, church, civilization, or even humanity) fulfills the function of god by conveying value to and requiring service of its members” [H. Richard Niebuhr (Hendrickson Publishers, 1977), p. 88]. In McCain’s case, that social unit is the United States of America.

Read the rest HERE.

1 comment:

Lauralew said...

Thanks for linking to this thoughtful post. Since reading and reflecting upon Diana Butler Bass in 2004, I've struggled with the theology of singing "God Bless America" in church on July 4th as well as displaying an American flag at the altar as I've seen in many Episcopal churches. I've backed away as well from my involvement with the US military (I'm a veteran and my spouse is retired from the USAF). I'm still a proud American but my rock is my faith in Christ. That is first before all else.

Remember the scene in Chariots of Fire, in which Eric Lidell would not run on Sunday. There was an exchange between two British higher ups that spoke of the tension between honoring God and honoring country, with one fellow saying, "For his country's sake, yes," and the other saying, "No sake is worth that, especially a guilty national pride" (or something like that).

Definitely God first, all else second.