Thoughts on Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S.  It is a day that we are to reflect on all of the fallen soldiers that have served this country.  There are many of them.  I find this holiday interesting.  I am 37 years old.  People of my generation, in the U.S., have not really known war.  Although this country has been embroiled in two wars for the past decade, it has not touched our daily lives in the same way that wars affected previous generations.  We do not have to worry about being drafted.  We do not have to ask ourselves if we could kill someone when called to do so.  We do not have to sacrifice so much of our lives the way citizens did during previous wars.  Most of us do not personally know someone who has died in Iraq or Afghanistan.  This is new.  My parents had Vietnam, their parents had WWII, their parents had WWI, their grandparents had the civil war…  At this point you are probably asking why I am discussing this.  The reason is simple.  Memorial Day matters.  It is also a holiday whose values have been being hijacked by religion.

Memorial Day matters for many reasons.  The one I want to touch upon here is the old cliché “freedom isn’t free”.  Cliché’s become cliché’s often because there is some truth to them.  Many have died to defend or protect the values that this country stands for.  That is worth taking a few moments to reflect on.

It is also worth reflecting on what those values are.  This is where the hijacking by religion comes in.  Today is a day that is full of prayer in public life.  Both Romney and Obama will be at prayer events.  What about all of the fallen soldiers who did not value prayer?  Did they die to uphold a Christian America?  I would think not.  Somehow, the Christian right has managed to create a powerful form of Christian Nationalism.  Being Christian today often comes with the idea of extreme patriotism.  We need look no further than the actions, comments, and supporters of G. W. Bush to see this.  I mean hell, after Sept. 11 Lee Greenwood briefly became popular again!

There are, without a doubt, many fallen soldiers who did not identify with Christianity.  It is disrespectful to their memory and their sacrifice to imply today that we are a Christian Nation.  It is disrespectful to fill the many memorial services with Christian prayer.  Lastly, it is disrespectful to imply they died to uphold the idea that the U.S. is in any way a Christian nation.  We are not a Christian nation.  Our armed forces are not a Christian military.

I will take some time today to reflect on those who have given their lives for this country.  I will take some time to reflect on the values that they died to protect–values such as reason, pluralism, and equality for all—three core values of this country that today’s Christian Right does not recognize.

Thanks for Reading.  I look forward to your comments.


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6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Memorial Day

  1. Maria from Traverse City, MI, United States

    Great post. Most importantly, the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War did so to establish freedom from religion, on the idea that 'the church' would not be in bed with the government. We have strayed so far from our deist roots of patriotism into harmful theocracy.

  2. Grundy from Duluth, GA, United States

    I feel like patriotism has gone Christian because we have branded our war efforts in an us vs. them mentality. The "them" is usually non-Christian. We doubled down on Christianity and linked it to democracy in the Cold War against the evil/communist/secular soviets. That carried over to the Christian nation vs. Muslim nation of our more modern wars. They have stereotyped our country and our military as Christian because it fit the war-time story, but like all stereotypes, it isn't true for a large percent of both civilians and soldiers.

  3. matt greenberg from Norristown, PA, United States

    speaking of patriotism, i was watching Braveheart this weekend and came up with an idea for a blog post. since i don't have a regular blog i thought i'd share it with you here in case you'd like to read it:

    thanks for you great post, as usual. let me know what you think about my ideas.


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