11.7.09






“Despite its protests to the contrary, modern Christianity has become willy-nilly the religion of the state and the economic status quo. Because it has been so exclusively dedicated to incanting anemic souls into heaven, it has, by a kind of ignorance, been made the tool of much earthly villainy. It has, for the most part, stood silently by, while a predatory economy has ravaged the world, destroyed its natural beauty and health, divided and plundered its human communities and households. It has flown the flag and chanted the slogans of empire. It has assumed with the economists that “economic forces” automatically work for good, and has assumed with the industrialists and militarists that technology determines history. It has assumed with almost everybody that “progress” is good, that it is good to be modern and up with the times. It has admired Caesar and comforted him in his depredations and defaults. But in its de facto alliance with Caesar, Christianity connives directly in the murder of Creation. For, in these days, Caesar is no longer a mere destroyer of armies, cities, and nations. He is a contradictor of the fundamental miracle of life. A part of the normal practice of his power is his willingness to destroy the world. He prays, he says, and churches everywhere compliantly pray with him. But he is praying to a God whose works he is prepared at any moment to destroy. What could be more wicked than that, or more mad?" — Wendell Berry

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I was in Fort Benning, Georgia this past week where I attended the basic training graduation ceremony for the 1/330th National Guard Unit out of La Grande. Oregon's guard unit has had one of the highest casuality rates in the nation, second to Louisiana, last time I checked. Recruitment was never an issue, even prior to 9-11. When an economy is depressed, more people volunteer. Oregon's unemployment rate was one of the nation's highest prior to the recession. In a report provided to the General Assembly the Guard folks said that their educational benefits made recruiting easy.

At this particular graduation there were men as old as 39 going through basic training. That may not seem old until you try humping a 60-plus pound ruck for hours on end in 90 degrees heat with 90 percent humidity.

The new $100 million National Infantry Museum opened two weeks ago. The graduation was held on the parade grounds. That church and those buildings in the background? That's from the World War II era and was moved to that site because these are the buildings where General MacArthur once resided.

Part of the ceremony included a very surreal reenactment by one of Benning's elite rifle teams. I was so busy taking the photos that I didn't notice until I downloaded the shot that the chapel was dead center in the production and that the rifle team had moved out in formation as if they were protecting the church.

Wondering what your thoughts, if any, are on this sort of pageantry? What does the symbolism say to you?

3 comments:

  1. The Byzantine Empire did the same thing for the church in their time, as long as the church identified with the causes of the Empire.

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  2. I appreciate the Wendell Berry quote especially! The key to what he is saying (and I assume what you are commenting on) is that the church in the U.S. has stopped questioning the culture in which we live. The beliefe in the good of progress and mans' command of the earth are built into our very worldview, a worldview we have largely stopped questioning because we assume it is correct. One of the things I most admire about Berry is that he actually changed his worldview and because of that he is able to speak into the insanity that we have created.
    It is more than just identifing with the empire, it is accepting without question the foundational (and largely renessance) ideals that have become the basis of our culture.

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  3. GK Chesterton puts it well when he illustrates the difference between the 'progress' we live in and the progress we should be living. Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to meet or suit our vision of it. Instead progress does mean today that we are always changing the vision. It should mean we are bringing justice and mercy to men. Instead it means we doubt the desirability of justice and mercy. We are not changing the real to suit the ideal, we are altering the ideal, because its easier. (As a Christian the ideal never changes). You can not change the place you have come from, only the place you are going. We should be questioning our culture and looking over it with careful precision, else we fall even further from Eden.

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