This Christmas, Where Is Our National
by Todd Huffman
"The test of our progress is not
whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much. It's
whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Americans have long been enchanted by
the story of our own magnificence. Deep in our national psyche
lies the myth of our divine exceptionalism. As children, we were
read the great American fairytale - the one about the precious
God-blessed paradise, and its shining "city upon a hill",
whose holy light leads the way in a dark and unholy world. As
adults, we're still reading this story, only now to our own children.
Viewing ourselves as the embodiment of
absolute goodness in a world of evil, and of justice in a world
unjust, we mistake our methods as entirely wholesome, and our
purpose as completely pure. We even go so far as to sing "God
Bless America" at our baseball games, and put "God Bless
America" bumper stickers on our cars, believing somehow that
America is divinely entitled, deserving of God's special favor.
God, indeed, has blessed America, abundantly,
as He has in varying ways all nations and peoples of His earth.
We live in a time of unparalleled abundance. Our nation is blessed
with riches and possibilities far beyond anything imagined by
our ancestors. That we should be so fortunate to live in America
at this time in history cannot be understated.
How is it, then, that in the midst of
all this greatness we are giving unwitting consensus to allowing
more and more of our fellow citizens, disproportionately children,
to fall into vulnerability, and into poverty? We profess to pollsters
a high regard for "moral values", and yet why isn't
poverty immoral? Why isn't lack of medical care immoral? Surely
there is no more commanding moral imperative than to "value"
the poor and the vulnerable, for whom the God of all religions
admonishes us to care? That as a people we take so little interest
in the troubles of those less fortunate demonstrates plainly that
America is failing to honor God's blessing.
We esteem ourselves an advanced society,
and technologically we are. Yet as a nation obsessed with money
and possessions, celebrity and sport, we are not advanced morally
or spiritually. As a culture that has established monetary criteria
for success or failure, we are not advanced morally or spiritually.
As a society that increasingly misuses religion as justification
for intolerance and division, we are not advanced morally or spiritually.
A moral culture is defined through tolerance
and compassion, and respect for the image of God in every person.
A moral culture has a national conscience, upon which weighs heavily
the plight of the nation's poor, and its vulnerable. In this way,
a nation honors God's blessing.
And where is our national conscience?
Do we still have one? Parading a hatred of homosexuality under
the banner of "moral values" is not the same as having
a national conscience. Pushing an aggressive agenda of sexual
morality legislation is not the same as having a national conscience.
How can one read religious texts and find justification for such
intolerance when others find inspiration for charity?
America does not have a money problem
- it has a priorities problem. We silently tolerate widespread
poverty and blatant inequalities. We give tax cuts to the wealthy,
and budget cuts to the poor. We allow forty percent of our fellow
citizens to go without health care. We demand lower levels of
government spending, thereby allowing higher levels of economic
inequality. All this, even though the provision of decent subsistence,
shelter, and health care are well within our national capacity
If, as was apparent this past election,
Americans across the political spectrum are to inject religion
into the national political conversation, it must first and foremost
be done with the common understanding that God is not partisan.
Religion is a source of wisdom, strength, and moral clarity, not
a source of words to be used to gain political advantage. Religion,
if it is to be used politically at all, must be used only to rediscover
the sense of the preciousness of every human being, our fundamental
connectedness, and the responsibility we all share towards the
Our greatest challenge if we are to remain
a great nation is not terrorism, and not Iraq. Our greatest challenge
is to recover our national conscience. Many will choose to do
this with the help of religion, and some without. But the only
way to honor God's blessing of America is to become conquerors
of poverty and ignorance, and not remain defenders of greed and
arrogance. Only in this way can we actually be as good as we already
Todd Huffman is a doctor living in Eugene,
Oregon. He can be reached at HuffmanHouse@att.net