I am a Christian, and I love my country dearly.
(Certain people are nodding their heads in approval, and others distancing themselves from me, just based on that statement. But wait, I’m waving my white flag. Don’t you want to know to whom I’m surrendering? Read on.)
Never before have I uttered either of those statements with such timidity, ducking, then looking around after saying them. But these days, such assertions require more explanation. I must position my statement, explaining "which" type of Christian and "which" type of patriot I am.
Specifically, I’m the type of Christian patriot who believes those two terms are unrelated.
(Ah, the approvals are shifting.)
I’m the type of Christian patriot who is perfectly at peace pledging that we are “one nation, indivisible…”
(I’m ducking, now.)
Because I know that my Buddhist, my Muslim, my atheist neighbors are just as American as I am. Do you know who else knew that? The socialist minister, Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892. He did not include, “under God” in the pledge.
Sometime in early 2016, before his dementia had really set in, and during the tumultuous presidential elections, my dad informed me that he was very worried about this country.
He said the country had never been in such terrible shape, and he was worried for the future of his grandchildren. At the time, I thought things were going along pretty well, and despite whatever points he tried to make, I couldn’t quite see what he was saying. I did see that he was very fearful of outsiders who were trying to take over.
It’s as if Uncle Sam overheard our conversation, and said, “Hold my beer, I’m gonna show you what it looks like for America to be in bad shape.”
I was witnessing the opening lines of a fable. Not “The Little Boy who Cried Wolf,” but a new, modern fable entitled, “The Sheep who Mistook the Wolf for their Shepherd.”
Of course, as with children’s tales, that’s over-simplified. The expanded, adult version tells of a band of cunning wolves who impersonated shepherds, then collected many flocks of sheep and tricked them into joining a cult, which was actually a faction of the shepherd’s union (certain brands of Christianity) who had bizarrely pledged allegiance to the extremist wolf alliance.
The fable, I fear, won’t end well for some.
You may be thinking, “Can’t you just let it be?” You could be one of my Facebook friends who says, “Can’t you just stop posting this stuff?” Maybe you urge people to be silent and respectful of our government, and let the current administration do its thing.
My response? OK, fine. I’ll be quiet. I’ll sit back and let the supposed majority do their thing until my vote can count toward a better administration.
But a couple of little things have to happen before I can agree to that. I will be silent after our government stops threatening our freedom of speech, and after the band of wolves stop raiding our churches, terrifying the sheep and promising protection for allegiance.
I’ll be silent when the rogue shepherds stop twisting the Christian message into one compassionless exclusion. I will not be silent while the two things I believe most in — my faith and my country — are spliced by spin doctors into a monstrous cult.
I am a Christian, and I love my country. Those are two very different things.
Emily Parnell lives in Overland Park, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org