Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glen Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally

8/29/2010—“I love my country and I love the Lord and that’s why I’m here.” These are the words of a participant in yesterday’s Restoring Honor rally in Washington D.C., as reported by NPR (not the most reliable source to report on a Glen Beck rally, I admit, but in this case, there is no reason to doubt either the sound bite or the representative quality of the sentiment.)

These ideas should be considered in two lights—from the point of view of Christian theology and from the point of view of the Constitution. From the point of view of Christian theology, Jesus does not love America. Jesus loves the people of America, of course, as he loves all people; but there are no Christian countries. As far as Jesus is concerned, all countries are Rome.

But it is even worse than that. There really aren’t any Christian people either. That of course is an exaggeration. But as Karl Barth once said, we are all enemies of God. The kind of self-satisfaction evidenced in the sound bite above has no place in Christian theology. Certainly no one can say with confidence, I am a Christian and you are not.

From the point of view of the Constitution, there were two different rallies. In one, represented in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story by tea party organizer Patti Weaver, the rally was about “free markets, fiscal responsibility and a constitutionally limited government”. (I wish she had added no standing army). The only constitutional issue here is the size and responsibilities of the federal government.

But there was another rally, represented in the PG by Ilene Hightower, who was there to promote “more Christianity in the public square.” Obviously this does raise Establishment Clause issues, but she may have meant the adoption of certain policies rather than religion per se. Adopting policies rarely raises any constitutional issue, even if motivations are religious.

The irony of all this is that Martin Luther King Jr., whose memory was evoked both by demonstrators and critics yesterday, was the embodiment of Christianity in the public square, though he is praised by critics of religion, and had no interest at all in free markets—he stood with unions.

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