American patriotism and the evangelical leftPosted: July 4, 2012
Progressive evangelicals have ambivalent feelings about the fourth of July. On one hand, they appreciate the prosperity and freedoms of the nation. On the other hand, they realize the dangers of prosperity and the historic role of the United States in perpetuating inequalities toward people within and outside its borders. I discuss this more fully in Moral Minority’s chapter on Senator Mark Hatfield. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Hatfield’s resonance with the New Left, disgust with the Vietnam War, and distaste for civil religion, however, did not mean that he went all the way with his most radical evangelical comrades. Unlike the Post-Americans, Hatfield never corrupted patriotic phrases—such as “Amerika” or “the American Way of Death”—to express contempt toward the nation. He still saw redemptive potential in the nation and sought to engage American political culture constructively. This impulse, even as he criticized the nation, made Hatfield significant and representative of growing evangelical trends. He sought to repair the nation, to invest it with spiritual resources. He worked his way up state and national political structures, seeking justice from within a corrupt system. Like the religious right that would follow, Hatfield balanced revulsion toward a fallen nation and a compulsion to reshape it.
For a sample of contemporary progressive thoughts on patriotism, check out some of these links:
- Carson T. Clark on “Debunking the Fourth”
- Richard Kauffman on “Selective Memory”
- Kurt Willems on “Why I Don’t Celebrate Independence Day” (Annual Unpopular Post)