American Mythology

I came across this term recently in a post at http://www.jesusmanifesto.com. In this post, the author makes the point that Christians should consider whether or not it is appropriate, as believers in Christ and His Kingdom, to celebrate American holidays. He actually calls them America’s “holy days.” He is trying to make the point that America has a religion all it’s own. I agree with the point that there is a very strong civil religion in America and it blurs the lines too often with true Christianity. The lie that this nation was “founded on Christianity” pervades the understanding of even the skeptic.

This post goes as far as to claim that this American mythology attempts to offer a new soteriology, one where soldiers have brought us freedom with the “ultimate sacrifice.” These words were used by his priest before concluding mass with America the Beautiful.

This is my attempt to take up this challenge. I will consider this option and see if his argument is worthwhile or not. My initial reaction to this was that celebrating American holidays are not the same a celebrating religious holidays. There is a different motivation and a different reason for each.

Have the lines been blurred between American holidays and our Christian Holy days?

Many days that are significant or recognized in Christianity are now either National Holidays, or days celebrated in ways that are void of it’s religious meaning. For example, Christmas, Easter, Mardi Gras, St. Patricks day, St. Valentines day, etc. Many people in America celebrate these days with no knowledge or even concern for their meaning or purpose. The same goes for days like Memorial day. The media does a good job of trying to force it down our throats why we celebrate these American holidays, but unfortunately the message doesn’t get communicated to many. So for these people who don’t understand or care why, there is no difference between the two categories. Unfortunately this group is a group that I believe is growing exponentially.

So for the common person in this growing group of indifferent people, there is no difference and the lines are clearly blurred. In some ways, by making Significant religious days National holidays, America itself is blurring the lines.

With more thought I can see why the author has some more issues. On the so-called “secular” side it is pretty hard to distinguish which holiday is which and why. What about the religious side?

The author of the post points out that his priest blurred the lines by ending Mass not with a Doxology or a Blessing, but with an American patriotic hymn. In many Protestant and a growing number of Roman Catholic churches you will find the American flag on the platform behind where the pastor or priest stands to deliver the the homily. This seems pretty Innocent, but it’s not. There are a lot of churches now that you would be hard pressed to find a cross in the “sanctuary,” but you can’t move the freaking American flag or the pastor will get fired.

When we have songs in our hymnals like “America the Beautiful.” We are equating that with all of our Hymns about God. Is that right? Is there something wrong with putting equal importance on America or our government as we do God within the walls of the Sanctuary? The lines are clearly being blurred on the religious side as well.

So What?

Is this a problem? If so what do we do? Do we abstain from celebrating non religious holidays so that the days that are special on the Christian calendar stand out as something more significant in our lives? Do we inform others? Do we simply take time to educate others on the days and their meanings? Do we do nothing at all?

I’m leaving this open. I have considered. I think there is something here, but I’m not sure that the answer offered is the one that we should take. More than anything else I want to spark thought and dialogue. Please respond to this. This is important. Please think about it and think about what should be done, if anything.

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