City On A Hill, Or Nation On A Dung Heap?

People often ask me why I never have anything good to say about America, despite living here for six years.

My answer is, “I keep looking,” but with the exception of a relatively few human beings whom I’ve found to be charming, witty, intelligent, and caring of others who aren’t necessarily of their nationality, little arises that causes me to wax lyrical over this wondrous, “city on a hill,” destined, “to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.”

John Winthrop’s sermon, aboard the Arbella, before landing in Massachusetts in 1630, regaled the new colonists on how they and their descendants must behave to win over the rest of the world. He, at least, realized how important that was. One has only to read his words to comprehend how gloriously America has failed to live up to Winthrop’s vision:

We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”

Winthrop closed his sermon to the Puritans with a reference to Deuteronomy, Chapter 30:

…if our hearts shall turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship other Gods, our pleasure and profits, and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it.”

While accepting the prophecy may be somewhat dated, there is no doubt Americans, of whatever creed, have chosen to worship the “other gods of pleasure and profits” (and power).

It may seem strange to readers that a self-confessed skeptic of anything religious should quote a rebel English Puritan in order to make a point, but when over ninety percent of the country professes a belief in a worshipful God, and seventy-six percent accept Jesus of Nazareth as their divine savior, is it not reasonable to expect some semblance of the basic tenets of Christian teaching to shine through?

There is a woman in this country, called Ann Coulter. She has yet another book about to assault the bookstores. Who is this woman? Anywhere in the civilized world she would be, at best, a nobody; at worst, an object of ridicule. Her insane agenda, her distorted viewpoint and fractious manner, would be laughed off as immature and irrelevant.

Coulter has written six books (not including her latest, as yet unpublished, epic). All have made the New York Times Best Seller list.

What does that say about America and its citizens?

Coulter calls herself a Christian, but in one column (oh, yes, this person actually writes a column!)[1] she described “being nice to people” as “one of the incidental tenets of Christianity.”

The Christian religion, she says, is based around a belief that Jesus’ message was:

People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this is your lucky day because I’m here to redeem you even though you don’t deserve it, and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it.”

Roughly translated that means, “Hell, I’ve been redeemed. That means I can be as nasty as I like to anyone and everybody. I can kill, maim, torture, and generally behave like a cruel and insane bastard to the rest of the world, and I’ll still go to Heaven.”

It’s a message Americans want to hear. Or, at least, enough to put her new book up with the top sellers in the US.

There’s little of Winthrop’s “brotherly affection”, or, “meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality” about Coulter, which would be fine if a large percentage of this nation’s populace didn’t consider her malevolent utterances sufficiently important to make her one of the most widely read authors on the continent.

When Americans mature sufficiently to send Coulter and her ilk to the Unemployment Benefits Office, I may actually begin to like them, and their nation, a little more.

[1] “The passion of the liberal” TownHall.Com, March 4th 2004

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4 Replies to “City On A Hill, Or Nation On A Dung Heap?”

  1. What that boils down to, RJ, is that around half the population of the US is conservative, many in “the worst way”. They are the ones who give people like Coulter a voice. I am as disenchanted with that faction as you are. I am as baffled by the religious nuts too, most of whom are also part of that same conservative group.

    It was the same in the UK, but on a much much smaller scale, so it didn’t seem quite as bad – also the religious side of things is much less to the fore over there. I was equally disenchanted with the UK Tory faction, and the conservative journalists and news rags as I am with their equivalent in the USA.

    In the end it’s the age-old left v. right problem isn’t it? But much intensified in the US due to the vastness of the nation and the tendency for exaggeration most Americans have.

    I have to say that I’m even becoming disenchanted with many so called liberals inthe US these days though. They get a president-to-be who is on their side, then proceed to try to drag him down before he’s even inaugurated. 🙁

  2. This is a truly interesting blog, which, incidentally I found through your comment at This Old Brit (who is on my blogroll). I will visit here regularly.

    An inside perspective on the good ole’ US of A is always refreshing to read. The US is a country that fascinates and baffles me in equal amounts. The ‘Land of the Free, Home of the Brave’ is really neither all that free nor all that brave. Its population’s complicity with numerous murdering sprees in the ME (not just I/P) shows exactly how a people can be mollified into believing the most obvious of lies and accept the clearest of moral inversions. Power really does corrupt.

    I regularly get Far Right Conservative commenters commenting on the I/P conflict and despite (or perhaps due to?) their apparent belief that US support for Israel is as old as the Old Testament itself they display a lack of knowledge about the whole thing that’s seriously depressing.

    Regards Ann Coulter, what to say but ‘only in America’? Some of these people, like Horn Shammity and Bill Cunningham are actually quite funny in that ‘law of unintended consequences’ sort of way. Anyroads, good luck and pop by sometime!

  3. Ann Coulter having best sellers comes to me as no surprise in a country where Sarah Palin can be a star overnight.
    Why is it that religion and ignorance go hand in hand in so many cases?

  4. Twilight – disillusionment and disenchantment? Careful, you’re becoming as curmudgeonly as me. 😉

    I’m not sure it is the same, but on a smaller scale, in the UK. Certainly, there are some nutters over there, both religious and political, but they never assaulted the media with the success their counterparts have over here.

    Gert – welcome to Sparrow Chat. I’m pleased you find it of interest. This Old Brit has become a great blogging pal to many, including yours truly. And, rest assured, your appraisal of the USA is, in my opinion, exceedingly accurate.

    Gaye – I think your comparison of Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin is a good one. While I have respect for everyone’s personal beliefs, provided they’re not used against others, religion and ignorance are highly compatible bed-fellows. An ignorance of life and its meanings, allows religion to slip into the empty mindspace as easily as a glove slides onto the hand. It’s very convenience lulls the wearer to mental idleness. Even on the coldest winter days, when the glove fails to insulate fully, the wearer is unlikely to seek a more effective form of warmth, frequently denying one might even exist.

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