Nationalist Christians often conflate scriptures referring to Christ or to the church with concepts about America or her heroes. Now, this should not surprise anyone. Christianity is socially powerful; it’s natural that politicians and others who wish to enlist Christians in their cause will cynically twist scripture to their own ends. What should shock us is how eagerly some Christians buy into this abuse of scripture. I’ve reviewed before the American Patriot’s Bible, and numerous pieces of kitschy art. But here’s a piece that takes the idolatrous cake.
This is a piece from nogreaterloveart.com, called Armed with Valor.
Ironic: The passage the site is named for is John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus is being self-referential here. He is the one who exhibits the greatest love by laying down his life. What is more, while soldiers certainly make many sacrifices for their friends, loved ones and nations, their goal is certainly not to lay down their lives but to lay down their enemies’ lives. As General Patton famously put it, “Your job isn’t to die for your country, but to make some other poor bastard die for his.”
Ironic: The soldier is armed with valor, one imagines, but is also armed with an assault rifle. I imagine it’s somewhat easier to display valor when armed with an assault rifle. I imagine it’s also much more difficult to demonstrate love while holding one.
Sad: This piece was not composed by some propaganda department vying for Christian recruits. It was composed by a sincere Christian, who feels that the U.S. soldier exemplifies the great love of Christ. He is not referring to the general sense of sacrifice/honor/camaraderie that can be developed in wartime situations, either. He sees America as distinctly embodying Christianity. Here is another piece by the same artist:
This piece is called The Difference Between Us and Them. The different manifests itself in two forms: “secular” American images like the flag and the eagle, and “religious” images like the angel wings. But it’s all religious imagery, of course, and the eagle bridges the gap by being apparently a spiritual being, perhaps a stand-in for the dove of the Holy Spirit. Doves, of course, are images of peace while eagles are predators, hunters. The difference between us and them would appear to be that God supports us, and enables us to shelter the weak through our use of force.
What do you think? Am I reading too much into these images, or do they reflect a sincere conflation of God with country?