Voices: The impossible promise of American nationalism

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One of the best episodes of “The Twilight Zone” centers around a group of giant aliens that have come to earth in an apparent effort to help humankind. Everyone is skeptical at first, but the aliens are convincing: the leader has been very nice and has been carting around a book titled “To Serve Man” everywhere he goes, which sounds pleasant enough.

Only, in true “Twilight Zone” fashion, it wasn’t pleasant at all.

The aliens were planning on eating the humans, and the book was a cookbook! The human leadership had sold themselves out to the impossible promise of having all the problems they faced fixed by the aliens.

I am not convinced that modern Christian conservatives are much different than those humans.

Voting for nationalism

Donald Trump offered to solve America’s problems by making it great again, and the majority of evangelical voters took him at his word — many with the hope he could offer in the battle for Christian values on the Supreme Court — and voted for him.

Many of these same supporters are now throwing their support behind once unthinkable candidates like Roy Moore. Despite Moore ultimately losing the race and receiving less white evangelical support than anticipated, the damage is done.

While “white evangelical” is an increasingly debated label, and despite a number of mainline Christians (most notably black women) voting for Moore’s Democrat opponent Doug Jones, it is clear that the allure of making America great again has proven to be too strong for a large portion of our country’s population.

Those individuals want to see America restored to its former glory, with its citizens given their rightful due as the free people of this Republic. While he has lost support in nearly every conceivable demographic, an overwhelming majority of white evangelicals still support Trump and his associates, including people like Roy Moore.

Is there anything America loves more than the idea of being American?

‘Our new national pastime’

Almost as soon as we finish taking our first step as infants, we are sold a golden dream that only the promised land of America can deliver.

We are told “prophetic stories of freedom,” as Chance the Rapper calls them. Stories about our freedom to grow up to be president. Our freedom to bear any kind of arms. Our freedom to say whatever we want to say, whenever we want to say it. Our freedom to do as we please.

We have been sold a golden dream that tells of an absolute freedom that only America can offer, and it is in that freedom that we find our greatness. It is a sense of freedom that is so outrageous, only the most nihilistic of individuals would think it possible to obtain.

John Steinbeck said it best when he said, “We speak of the American Way of Life as though it involved the ground rules for the governance of heaven.” It’s this thirst for freedom, for restored greatness, that has driven America into nationalism as our new national pastime.

When will it be enough?

‘We must demand more’

While the national discourse has been dominated by who is using what bathroom, who is marrying whom, and what Planned Parenthood is doing, nationalism has quietly crept in and infected the national consciousness. While we were so focused on ridding ourselves of one sin, we were making room for another.

Nationalism is a very real and present danger made all the worse by the administration’s tendency to co-opt Christian rhetoric in order to make the population feel comfortable with the state of things. Many have been so enchanted by this rhetoric that they freely admit the character of our elected officials no longer matters.

But you cannot trade one sin for another. All sins demand our repentance.

You cannot barter one for something deemed more acceptable by the collective. You can’t brush off racism, sexism or nationalism as a price worth paying. All of these sins have grave consequences; we have been warned that the wages of sin is death.

We have also been warned to remain ever vigilant and watchful for the one prowling around, seeking power at any cost to us. We must stand firm and resist the false hope promised by those seeking to compromise our moral values.

We must demand more of our leadership, yes. But ultimately, we must demand much more of each other. This is a call for reconciliation.

We must refuse to compromise our belief systems for the false assurances made by the aliens that promise they have come to serve man.

Smith Getterman lives in Waco, Texas, with his wife and two sons, where he is the director of sustainability at Baylor University. You can find him on Twitter @getterman or at sgetterman@gmail.com.

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