Make America Repentant Again

Make America Repentant Again July 3, 2017

I would love to see the people of the United States work together to “make America great again.”

But in order to do that, we would need to agree on what constitutes “greatness.” And we would also need to have the humility to recognize that we have fallen short of that standard, through no one’s fault but our own.

For Christians, Jesus’ teaching about greatness is the standard: “whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” The Gospel of Mark emphasizes this saying by including it twice, in Mark 9:35 and 10:43.

That is not the outlook I detect in the new Christian worship song “Make America Great Again,” which I believe had its debut at a rally honoring President Donald Trump.

The song is now available in the CCLI database that is used by Christian churches to license songs for use in services. Here are the lyrics:

Make America Great Again

Chorus

Make America great again
Make America great again
Lift the torch of freedom all across the land
Step into the future joining hand in hand
And make America great again
Yes make America great (again)

Verse 1

Americans from ev’ry corner of this blessed land
Come together with one voice
Help us take a stand
Following the vision to make her proud and grand
And make America great again
Make America great again

Verse 2

Like the mighty eagle that is rising on the wind
Soaring t’ward our destiny
Hearts and voices blend
With a mighty melody oh let the song begin
And make America great again
Make America great again

Ending

Each and every state
Make America great again
Make America great again

You may notice the things that are missing, as well as what is there. Jesus and God are missing. Humility is missing. Repentance is missing. Service is missing. In short, anything and everything that characterizes the teaching of Jesus is absent. And in their place are pride and patriotism, and an otherwise empty slogan.

By way of contrast, Chalice Press shared this prayer by Sandhya Jha for Independence Day:
God of all nations and ours,
As we ask the long-posed question, “does that star spangled banner yet wave/
o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”,  help us make this land free
  • free from hatred of religious minorities
  • free from exploitation of laborers
  • free from damage to the land and water so long cared for by our indigenous brothers and sisters
  • free from contempt for immigrants who invest in this nation’s thriving
  • free from the new slavery of the prison system that tears apart so many Black and Brown families.
And help us be brave
  • brave in the face of religious and racial violence;
  • brave in contrast to the cowardice that would pit us against each other based on race or class;
  • brave in order to care for refugees of all sorts as our scripture calls us to
  • brave in order to do your will even when doing so is unpopular.
After all, our founding fathers were not very popular with the British.
God, even as we celebrate the blessings of this nation, help us be humble enough to know that you really are the God of all nations, and that you do not honor human-made boundaries but honor the divinity and dignity of each person whom you made in your own image. May we remember that as we live as Americans in this complex global landscape.
And in so doing, may we truly do you honor as we seek truly and earnestly to be the land where all are free and the home where your followers are brave in good doing.

Amen.

One can debate whether any sort of patriotism or nationalism is compatible with being a Christian. But if there is such a thing, it is surely closer to the prayer above than to the song.

I’m not inherently opposed to the idea of making America great again, provided that greatness is understood to involve maximizing liberty and justice for all, welcome for all, and (to the extent possible) even prosperity for all (rather than for a privileged few). To achieve that, we need to start with humble recognition of where we’ve fallen short of that greatness, and don’t seek to scapegoat others instead of accepting the blame ourselves.

 

 

 


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