Friday, July 06, 2007

Mindless, Anti-Christian Jingoism

Okay, so it took me a little time, but I've decided to come 'round and write a couple of my obligatory "patriotic holiday" posts. It's just that whenever people burn incense before Caesar, my nose begins to get really itchy, and I gotta scratch it.

Because Roger likes to see me vexed in my righteous soul, he will sometimes send along to me the worst of the e-mail forwards he gets from patriots. Here's a recent schtick:
A United States Marine was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the courses had a professor who was a vowed atheist and a member of the ACLU.

One day the professor shocked the class when he came in. He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, "God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I'll give! you exactly 15 minutes."

The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, "Here I am God. I'm still waiting." It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his Chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold.

The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned and sat there looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, "What the hell is the matter with you? Why did you do that?" The Marine calmly replied, "God was too busy today protecting America 's soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid sh_t and act like an a__hole. So, He sent me."
This is verbatim. Let's take it apart; feel free to chime in.

A marine in class, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan? Clearly the man is meant to be a badass - I wonder if the people who pass this stuff on stop to question what use he had for book larnin' anyway? And what, boys and girls, is the antithesis of a patriotic American badass? A smarmy, simpering atheist academic who has an ACLU card in his manbag. I think, as a public service, I'm going to start blogging new stories I find in which the ACLU defends Christians' first amendment rights against the encroachment of government entities. They really are out there, kids.

How interesting that atheism should be shocking! The founding fathers of the US were deists (what do you expect from Episcopalians, wink wink), so at least atheism is honest. Clearly this took place in the South, but I'm surprised that nobody included the detail that the prof was a Yankee. Furthermore - and let's move now from the cultural aspects to the theological ones: it must be noted that the "God" supposed in this story has nothing in common with the Christian god.

The story assumes that the existence of a god could or should be confirmed or denied by that god's "intervention" into the Laws of Nature, and further, that this god would find this at all a desirable activity.

In the assault, we see a version of the myth of redemptive violence - that the right kind of coercive violence, exercised by the right people in the right ways, is going to yield a good result. In addition, it is supposed that there is a "god" who tells this story right along with the Empire's good citizens. This is a strange take on that bit in 1 Kings when Elijah faces down the prophets of Baal - when Baal cannot show himself to be a player in space/time, he teases them that their god is sleeping, while Yahweh is living and active. Strangely enough, when the professor challenges the class that their god is not a player in space/time, the Marine responds that his god is sleeping indeed, and that he will defend that god's honor by enacting the story of redemptive violence.

And of course in the closing remarks, we read the argument that an imperialist war halfway across the world is protecting the profs freedom of dissent even while the imperialist warrior has physically abused the prof for exercising it. One wonders if in a sequel, the Marine won't burn down the professor's house and perhaps rape his wife in order to encourage gratitude for the Marine's protection. It's just that kind of passionately vicious activity that this parable glorifies.


peregrinator said...

Kinda like fishing in a barrel for a Hauerwasian.

Dave said...

Baffling. Really. But come on, they're just sore 'cause they lost the War of Northern Aggression.

Garrett said...

Prof wasn't a Yankee, probably from Berkeley, Madison, or Ann Arbor. Maybe Portland, but "atheist" probably isn't hipster enough anymore.

Will said...

I agree with pretty much every thing you have on this. I hate getting these in my inbox, and I get quite a lot just because of my context. They are generally meant as propaganda for a perceived culture war that, likely due to the current war, replaces a young Christian with a service-member to further alienate the "opposing side". So you are right on with that. Please be careful though, as one sentence that seemed directed at the propagandist--"I wonder if the people who pass this stuff on stop to question what use he had for book larnin' anyway?"--quite directly insulted me and, in my opinion, is a poor understanding that service-members are generally more educated than the overall US populace. It was a back-handed insult, and while I believe you meant to mock the writer rather than the fictional Marine, it did more of the latter and only detracted from the spot on deconstruction.

Garrett said...

Will, Kyle's addition about book larnin' was clearly a shot at the misconceptions of the intended forwarding audience (syntactically and contextually), and not at service members themselves.

Imagine my grumpy FoxNews watching grandfather ranting at me about how my 5 years of graduate education hasn't taught me anything he didn't learn at the steel mill, and that's the context that produces the joke, not a potshot at capable, competent servicement.

Will said...

The intent is clear, as you said, both from the context following and the construction of the phrase itself. I meant to be a little more firm that "it seems" in my first comment. I know what Kyle is trying to accomplish, and he does so successfully.
My contention is based on my gut reaction to the phrase; that in mocking the propagandists he unintentionally the educational status of the Marine-something I think the story does to a much greater extent by having the Marine invoke violence. I am probably more sensitive than most of Kyle's readers to that particular slant, and wanted him to know that it came across, even if he attempted not to convey it. Sitting here, attuned as I am, I see many well-meaning attempts to both defend and decry the war that insult service-members in an attempt to promote a point (John Kerry's education gaffe a prime example). I think Kyle has some really good things to say about living as a Christian in a America; I think it appropriate that he know when his thoughts incur "collateral damage." It doesn't invalidate his point, but it does weaken his position and he needs to know that that happened.

Kyle said...

Thanks, Will. You and Garrett teased this out pretty well, so I'll just make a couple of points.

The author of the "culture war propaganda piece" implicitly devalues education, and enlists (ahem) the figure of the American serviceman as an accomplice in this; I would expect (and hope) that any soldier would find this insulting. I don't expect servicemen to be threatened by education or educated people, but did bring out this implication by the promoters of things like this. I understand that I might have made this plainer, but when it gets right down to it, I didn't write this bigoted, insulting little story - I just explicated it.

Also, while I only know a handful of servicemen or former servicemen, all of those folks earned degrees from my alma mater, and they certainly ought to be insulted to receive such propaganda pieces in their inboxes.

Will said...

Amen. And I shall slink back into the shadows until I can contribute (hopefully constructively) again.

Kyle said...

No worries, Will. :0)