They want to take our God!

Our neighborhood has a Facebook page, and when I saw Republican politics shaping its posts during the 2020 presidential election, I could have ignored it. Instead, I shared this comment about a sign in my neighbor’s yard that I found especially disturbing.


“One of the things I love about our neighborhood is the presence of our children and youth. We see them playing in the streets, riding bikes, walking to catch the bus. Now they encounter this message: ‘God, Guns & Country.’ Three words strung together as if they make perfect, harmonious sense. I respect freedom of speech, but I keep wondering. What does this teach our youth about the state of our nation? What does it teach them about faith? Powerful words of Jesus come to mind, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’”

As expected, I got a flurry of comments. They are familiar but nonetheless chilling.

  • It was Christians that miraculously founded our country, and the Democrats want to cancel that history.
  • What about abortion? The thought of a baby’s neck snapping at nearly nine months makes me sick to my stomach.
  • We have the right to bear arms, especially to defend ourselves against a government that wants to force socialism on us. Leftists will take our guns!
  • The ungodly protests in our country are happening in cities controlled by the Left.

One woman requested a session of private messaging. She asked me to explain what I meant by my post. I told her it would require a longer conversation, but here was the gist:

“There is a brand of American Christianity that believes their god favors our nation more than others. It allies itself with gun lobbyists, calls for increased expenditures on military and police, and turns a blind eye to the nonviolent message of Jesus. 2,000 years ago, Jesus himself challenged the nationalism and violence of his people. These yard signs teach children that God is partial, and that God protects certain Americans by any means necessary, including violence. I believe in a Creator of all peoples, all nations, who ultimately desires unity and peace.”

She responded with a host of internet links cited out of context, including a ranting letter-to-the-editor published online in The Intelligencer: Wheeling News Register. I have to hand it to the author. His words remain a masterpiece of religious bigotry. At his frothing crescendo, he blamed Democrats for divorce, school shootings, riots, rape, unwed mothers, gangs, and the “Sodom and Gomorrah” abomination of same sex marriage.

The woman summed up her position by saying: “The Left is trying to take our God!”

Her abject fear struck me, and I understand the lamentable psychology behind it.

In his Stages of Faith, James Fowler called Stage Three a “Synthetic-Conventional Faith.” It is often enculturated into children and becomes part of their tribal identity. This can be religious faith, adherence to a philosophy, or alignment with a particular political party. People find comfort in belonging to their tribe. When its precepts are challenged, they often lash out in anger and fear. They hunker down and become defenders of the faith, as if their god, their truth, their party needs a champion to protect its fidelity.

Where does this fear come from? Fowler put it this way:

When we are grasped by the vision of a center of value and power more luminous, more inclusive and more true than that to which we are devoted, we initially experience the new as the enemy or the slayer – that which destroys our “god.”

I believe that for a moment, many true believers get a scary, vertiginous view of something grander, something that tugs at the threads of their conviction. Rather than moving forward, mustering the courage to explore and understand, they patently reject this new knowledge and retreat to militant orthodoxy.

If this woman and I had a longer conversation, I would say, “No, we are not trying to take your god. The sanctity of each person’s faith and conscience is sacred. But if you mean that we are lifting up a vision more powerful, more luminous, more inclusive than your tribal deity, I can tell you this:

We will not stop!”

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