Love It Or Leave It

Today I was thinking about a phrase that was once more popular than it is now: "America, love it or leave it!" It was once common for conservative patriots to sort of hurl that phrase toward folks who showed opposition to American policies, namely military and economic policies. Those were the days when violent nationalism was having its way with the American mindset, before the glamor of war in Iraq had faded and before American policies began to at least look like they might be moving in favor of the oppressed (think of health care reform... although it may not have yet been practically implemented). Back then opposition to the direction of American policy was seen as unpatriotic and even treasonous.

Now, however, it appears that the tables have turned. It seems that "like it or leave it" really only applied to those who opposed American military action. The same people who were saying "like America or leave it" are now the people who stand in its opposition. Think of the Tea Partyers. Their open and direct opposition to American policy is no longer viewed as unpatriotic. Indeed, to them, it has become the true sign of patriotism (just listen to the way Sarah Palin talks about "standing up to" the president). Opposition to health-care reform, opposition to immigration reform, opposition to the president, etc., etc.... indeed opposition itself is now viewed as patriotism. The American flag is proudly flown along side Anti-Obama bumper stickers.

I think we all have something to learn from this, no matter on what side of the spectrum you might find yourself. The fact is, opposition is traditionally patriotic. It's what made this country what it is; opposition to religious oppression, opposition to economic oppression, opposition to racial segregation, ...and the list goes on as you examine history. Bad laws are, and always have been, changed by opposition, even by being broken (think now of the civil rights movement... translate that into illegal immigration... Is not, then, illegal immigration potentially patriotic?). Perhaps "like it or leave it" should be changed to "if you like it, you might not fit in." If you're satisfied with the way things are--with the status quo--then you're not really moving with history, indeed such complacency is not traditionally American.

However, I should clarify, being American is and never has been my ambition. My ambition is to be a faithful follower of Jesus and to find my sole identity in Christ. It just so happens that opposition is part of being a Christian as well. The large difference, however, between being a Christian and being American is that such opposition is not aimed at nationalistic progress. The unsettledness of the Christian spirit is not out of hope for a better America, it is out of a greater vision that God is redeeming everything and thus anything short of redemption, anything short of God's Kingdom, is simply unacceptable... America included.