What does it mean to be an “American?” What brings all Americans together, as one?
Apparently, that question lacks an enforceable answer today.
American schools – from government-backed preschools to exclusive private universities – are too-often graduating students who are derisive of all-things American (except for their freedom to dis their country). Revulsion toward the foundations of the country, the price paid by generations who came before them to create the country that the rest of the world envies, and the privileges that their parents have provided to them that create the infection of entitlement: all of that seems to be swirling under the caps-and-gowns that mark the passage into adulthood in America today. What is the next generation’s attitude toward the country that we are preparing to entrust to them, in the coming hand-off of national succession?
To be an American today means that you can enjoy the prosperity and prominence made possible by this incredible, protected environment – in the entrepreneurial marketplace, in sports, in entertainment, even in hired or elected government – and, once achieving the self-elevation made possible by “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” the lewd denunciation of the culture that make one’s success possible begins. The flag – from historic versions to the most contemporary – is abused. The Pledge of Allegiance – most especially the line “…one nation, under God…” – draws silence. The National Anthem is now the National Embarrassment, with rejection as likely as respect by the last line: “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave…”
Political leaders – both current and aspirational – are seeking the votes of the disgruntled; to get their support, they pander the populace by echoing their disenchantment with America. Who would have imagined that the ideologies against which America fought World Wars would now be elevated by prospective presidents? What does it mean to be an “American?”
What does it mean to be a “Christian?”
Within a few hundred years of the launch of the Christian movement, the emergence of heretical teaching – under the simple banner of “Christian” – was affecting the integrity of the Faith. Self-proclaimed “leaders” were re-inventing the movement’s history – and, reframing the theology that is at the core of the faith-that-saves, differentiating it from all religions before or since.
To guard against the creeping counterfeiting that threatened to erode the integrity of the Christian message, the leaders of the movement (in the late 300s) created this concise restatement of what it means to bear the name “Christian” (the Apostles Creed):I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic* Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. (*In the Creed, “catholic” means all-inclusive; it does not validate the exclusivity of the church system of the same name.)
If you don’t wholeheartedly embrace every element of that description, don’t wear the label. Would that we had a similar Creed to define our national identity. I wonder how many “leaders” would have to turn in their campaign paraphernalia and find a real job?