Flags and Faith

Fondly I remember the July 4th holidays at the lake in Hamilton, IN, where I grew up throughout  most of the 60s. 

While it was hard to accomplish, we somehow executed a parade in a two-street town that would then loop around parts of the shoreline of the 800 acre lake, the 4th largest in the state. 

Flags flew and were waved everywhere. No one was a Republican or a Democrat: they were just your town or lakeside neighbor, celebrating the country we all held dear. 

We even had a water ski demonstration put on by the Hamilton Lake Ski Club. My neighbor, Tom, would borrow my crayons to make signs for the event. This was long before the era of glitter and glue that has now given way to slick posters you can design on your home computer. 

Of course there were barbecues and pontoon rides and sparklers at night. The kids from Ohio would sneak cherry bombs and firecrackers over the state line only 12 miles away. The Indiana kids would cross over the line and back to smuggle the 3.2 beer you could then buy in Ohio at age 18.  

We little kids drank root beer floats and captured fireflies in mason jars.

It all worked in a very old-fashioned, piece of Americana kind of way.

I am afraid it is an America that no longer exists, perhaps won’t exist ever again, because of the damage caused our democratic Republic these past five years.

Now, instead, you have Trump supporters gathered in super-spreader coronavirus events that are more about idolatry than ideology. 

Like the Jews in the desert, they have built themselves a golden calf to worship. And they claim they are the true patriots and defenders of religion.

As a former GOP voter, I kind of get it. I began voting GOP in the Reagan years when the good cheer of The Gipper meant Republicans could “do no harm,” even in the midst of an Iran-Contra scandal.  We were, after all, the Family Values party: God, Guns, and Country (not necessarily in that order.)

Democrats ceded faith and freedom as themes back then, and they have never fully reclaimed them.  Perhaps it is about time they do. 

Certain segments of the Democrat party will howl that they are atheists and  that they do not want religion mixed with their politics. But others might feel liberated to say they, too, are making decisions that are informed in part by their faith, that they pray over them, that they repent of them when they turn out to have unintended consequences. 

Repentance. Now that is one part of the faith tradition the Republican Party shuns. The part Donald Trump says he has never sought. 

This part of the faith: Democrats have it down cold. Even the non-Christians (although they prefer the terms like “accountability” and “transparency.”) They are all always asking for contrition by someone in the party somewhere for a decision made decades ago, when the public sentiment was different and the party seers didn’t see far enough ahead for how the stars might one day align in a constellation that would cause consternation. 

But doesn’t admitting your mistakes and saying “mea culpa” for them, then taking action to correct them, however long ago they occurred, reflect a more pure version of the Christianity of the Gospels, even when those making such atonement do not necessarily think of themselves as Christians?  Isn’t this the more moral and ethical path, if you consider yourself religious or just principled? 

Yet the Republicans claim they are the party of eternal truths, when they never look back to see to what their policies have laid waste. Like Pharaoh’s charioteers, Republicans drive their horses relentlessly forward, even if it might mean one day they drown the party in its entirety. 

What good, pray tell, will its judges do them then? When they have become flotsam and jetsam on the political sea?

So this is the challenge we Democrats face: not only to save our democratic Republic from the authoritarian challenge to power it currently faces, but to reclaim the narrative we have let Republicans assert for far too long: 

We ARE also a party of flags and faith. 

Of hope, charity and love, as well.