Republican Convention Religious Crusade

The rousing video from the Republican National Convention (“Believe”) played like an evangelistic crusade waiting for an altar call.

From the musical crescendos to the hyped voice to the pentecostal elation of the crowd, it was religious to the core. Here’s the definition of “religion” that leads to the claim:

“Religion is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question of a meaning of our life.”Paul Tillich

The makers of the video know how quick we are to shed a tear. Especially when at a crusade that plays all the chords of American “civil religion” as argued in the recent “Views from the Edge” post on American religion and American politics.

Tillich was the first professor dimissed from his university teaching position by the  German Third Reich. Like the Germans at the Service Club meeting in an earlier post here, he knew that religion is not confined to the four walls of a church, synagogue, or mosque. It is the state of “being grasped by….”

What “grasps those who viewed the “Believe” video?
A poor attempt to answer the quesiton appeared yesterday (“Believe in America“). The post was too obscure to make its point. Thus, this folllow-up elaboration.
The god of the “Believe” video is America iteself. It is the god of American exceptionalism. The video stirs the heart with the cunning of Kafka’s Green Dragon and the seductive voices of Kafka’s The Sirens who know they cannot deliver what we long for. Their wombs cannot give birth to any kind of future.

The following exchange followed the earlier “American Religion and American Politics” post. Both C.A. and I see the world as the theater of God’s glory but also as the Theater of the Absurd.

C.A. left this comment:

If my small experience is any guide, you may get hammered on this one, Gordon.  When someone has been brought up on American exceptionalism, especially if coupled with Caucasian exceptionalism, and one kind of Christian belief the three can be so ingrown as to be more than subconscious,  virtually unconscious.  Working together, they justify any negative behavior that the person believes, and cause outright rejection of much that he or she hears or reads about as impossible. …

I replied:

C.A., You just wrapped it all up very nicely. Willem Zuurdeeg, a Dutch philosopher of religion, linguistic philosopher and phenomenologist, concluded that our deepest “convictions” are unexamined – below the surface of conscious awareness, so obviously true to us that they are what you call “virtually unconscious.” The compelling conviction hinted at by American civil religion is what Zuurdeeg described as an Ordered Home , a world order. In this case. the world revolves around tjhe doctrines of white supremacy and national supiority. These are the spiritual and moral centers.

“Views from the Edge’s” most popular post is the one about the Germans at the Service Club.  It’s gone viral.

“Five folks from Germany recently visited central Illinois as part of a local service club program to improve international understanding.

At one point they asked me about something they did not understand:  why do Americans begin so many gatherings with a ‘”patriotic” song, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer?

Perhaps especially because they were from Germany, remembering the horrors of two world wars begun partly from excessive beliefs in the superiority of their nation and religion, they were sensitive to expressions of exceptionalism at U.S.A. sports events and service club meetings.

What Tillich, Zuurdeeg, and the Germans at the American service club meeting were seeing was a religious people hypnotized by Kafka’s Sirens and Green Dragon.

Go to yesterday’s post “Believing in America” to see the juxtaposition of the Kafka parables and the Convention video.

Leave your comment or question. And thanks again for visiting.

Words from Childhood

Personal reflection – a Visit with Red – written April 28, 2012

I walk through the door to his room…quietly. He is lying on his left side, his back to the door, his body turned toward the windows, in a fetal position.

His wife of 50 years had put him there. Couldn’t care for him anymore at home. That was a year ago.

Now he didn’t know her name or recognize her face.

The usual visits are the theater of the absurd. Becket’s’ Waiting for Godot. Blank stairs. Monologues. Boredom. Wondering why I go…except…he’s there. I could be too.

I tiptoe around the foot of the bed. I hear his voice. His eyes are closed. His lips are moving. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take” – the prayer he committed to memory as a child.

Slow - Children

Slow - Children

He finishes and seems at peace. I pause…quietly speak his name…and place my hand gently on his shoulder. He opens his eyes.

“Good morning, Red. It’s Gordon.”

Blank stare.

“Your pastor…from Knox Church.”

His eyes grow wide. He smiles. He reaches out his hand…and looks me in the eye – a memory unlocked from deep within his soul…beyond the reach of Alzheimer’s.

“The Church Choir” –  Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 28, 2012

Words sung can be remembered long

after words said.  A person with

Alzheimer’s still may sing a song

recalled from church or school.  The myth

that music is a gift for few

blessed with a perfect pitch is just

malicious:  any in a pew

who talk can sing!  Of course, they must

speak S-L-O-W-L-Y and (the hardest thing

of all) must listen to others

around them–and follow the fingers

or baton of conductors

who beg and plead, talk loud or soft

to lure folks into the choir loft

All these years later…I wish I’d sung with Red  that day. “Jesus loves me; this I know…” S-L0-W-L-Y… from the choir loft… in the nursing home.