GOD BLESS AMERICA

Growing up, I loved our country. I had pride in being an American and genuinely thought that we lived in the best country in the world. This was largely the result of what I was taught in school and in the home, and it was done in good intention. But what I came to learn over the course of growing up into adulthood was that much of this pride in America was built on comparison with other countries, and some less than Christian ideals. 

I still love our country, and I still think the argument can be made that we live in the best country in the world (though I am open to other arguments). However, I think the competitive American spirit (which I suspect is largely supplied in today’s day by capitalism) can violate Christian principles such as love of neighbor, care for the poor, and even putting God first in our lives. 

American Pride in some cases has evolved into an ‘us vs them’ mentality. We see other countries and are disdainfully thankful that we are not one of them, touting our wealth or democratic freedom (which are good things when used correctly). Yet, this can lead to an attitude of superiority and what Rene Girard calls “scapegoating.” We unite ourselves as Americans, not because of what we are proud of as a country, but because we are not ‘them’ who do not have the political or economic system that we have. These types of attitudes can often lead to or be a result of war, either cold or physical. After many years of this attitude, a nation could take on an attitude of xenophobia, distrusting immigrants regardless of the reason and means taken for them to enter the country. 

This fear of strangers has the ability to affect not only the way we treat non-Americans, but even our fellow Americans. If we train our brains to look on those in different parts of the world as ‘other,’ we certainly can do it with those within our country. With such a diverse country, it would be easy to fall into this trap. Thus the scapegoat becomes not the non-Americans, but rather Americans who do not think, act, or look like us based on their race, gender, religion, political leaning, etc. As a result, those who do not act up to our standards because of things like culture or lack of income are seen as ‘un-American’ and steps are made to either force those ‘others’ to change or to be isolated completely.

Finally, because America rightly focuses on the freedom of the individual, sometimes this love of freedom can be taken too far resulting in worshiping of self. In America, ideally we have all been given the ability to make something of ourselves without an oppressive government. However, in the last century or so, the focus of American freedom generally has been oriented towards amassing as much money, power, popularity, or entertainment/pleasure that one can. As a result, a competition is yet again created between those jockeying for one or more of these worldly goods which pits ‘us against them.’ Yet, this is a trap of dissatisfaction. Not only are those who fail to achieve their worldly goal unhappy because they were beaten out, those who do achieve their goal are often just as unhappy, if not more so because they have succeeded but are unfulfilled or are now enslaved to a certain way of life in order not to lose what they have gained. 

If we pay any attention to the news or social media, we can see that much of what I described is occurring in our great nation. In all three of these examples listed above, we see the wisdom of Jesus and His Church have been generally ignored on a large scale by the American people. Love of neighbor, care of the poor, and especially putting God first in our lives are the key to happiness. Yet, a hypernationalism or over emphasis on American freedom can result in the desecration of the foundation that our country was founded upon: All men are created equal. Equality cannot exist as long as our egotism results in us creating ‘others’ in order to elevate ourselves. 

The solution? A reevaluation of what freedom means. We often think that freedom is the ability to choose whatever we want. This is a form of freedom that Sevais Pinkears would call a freedom of indifference because if we can choose whatever we want, the choices we make are indifferent toward a higher good. However, we do have a Creator who has ordered the world well and for the greater good of love. This means that we fit into the world as with the purpose of being advocates of love. Thus our freedom should not be the ability to do whatever we want. Rather, it should be the ability to choose to do what we ought or what we were created to do, which is love. In this way we find true freedom (or what Servais Pinkaers calls a freedom of excellence) because we are fulfilling God’s plan for humanity. 

So as we celebrate this great nation that allows us to have many freedoms that other nations would literally die for, we must remember to use the responsibility that comes with freedom. We must use our time, gifts, and talents to focus on the love of neighbor, care for the poor, and putting God first in our lives. In this way, division will cease and unity amidst celebrating various ways of life will be able to flourish. Equality will be restored and a correctly ordered society will be oriented towards the common good rather than elevation of  individuals. Freedom of excellence is what all people are called to, and we have a unique opportunity in America to bring to fruition. If we are able to, we will be seeking first the kingdom of God which means that God will provide the rest of what we need and will truly bless America.

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INSIGHT & OPINION

At the National Eucharistic Congress, Decided Excellence Catholic Media - with the help of Bishop William Waltersheid - will be presenting "Beautiful Revelation: The Eucharistic Timeline". Throughout human history, God has left repeated proof of His presence in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Salvation. God has given us the wisdom. Have you taken the time to understand? Read this spiritual journey through time to examine critical moments that God uses to reveal the truth of the Body of Christ.

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