This nation doesn’t deserve your blind loyalty.  There is this strange troop-worship, and nationalism that has moved from a fringe redneck fantasy to a mainstream ideology.  The criticism of this country is necessary.  It is even more necessary when our people have sinned.  It is one thing to ignore the plight of the poor and oppressed.  It is another to make war on people who have no voice, and have no ability to advocate for themselves.  Blowing up poor farmers in developing nations is a far cry from turning a cold shoulder to the needs of people around the world.  We spend more money on bombs than food.  Don’t forget, we are a country that was founded on land that was taken from the indigenous people, a people that was murdered and displaced until there was a tiny fraction of them left.  We are a nation whose prosperity has much to do with our ability to extract resources from other parts of the world, a nation where we have gone to war for oil several times.  The USA has 25% of the world’s prison population.  We have one of the worst healthcare systems in the developed world, one of the worst education systems, and one of the worst political systems.  We can do better there by catching up to countries that are doing far better.  Domestically, there are ample legal, civil, and cultural protections for the rights of corporations, stockholders, and people with power.  If you are at the upper crust of our country, our poor legal, healthcare, and education systems have no effect on you – you can afford the best of all of those systems.  That’s not to mention the culture that is now normal in our country.  The social pressure to be a certain way, and the celebration when you arrive – when you are rich, famous, known, influential, a board member and a made man – is like a machine gun.  Constant, endless, relentless, ongoing pushes, messaging from every corner of society to climb up the socioeconomic ladder, and to worship the ones at the top.  That’s who we are, that’s who this nation is.  We worship money, and the people who have it are our priests and rulers.  Nevermind that this country does not work for most of the people in it, the people who matter are doing just fine, and so there will not be any change.  And certainly we worship the security provided through revenge, through violent justice, through the projection of force around the world.

Notice the pattern in our country.  If you challenge a system, take the healthcare system as an example, you will be attacked by the people for whom the system works very well – the rich and powerful.  They will ignore, mock, imprison, fire, harass, or kill you for trying to change that system.  They will say there’s no problem, they will say you have it so good, “have some perspective” they will say.  At least you don’t live in (insert another country here).  It’s not a good time for that change to be made, they will say.  The pattern is repeated for all kinds of incremental reform.  Education, the prison system, the political system.  If you are among the vast majority of the country who would benefit from reform, you will be crushed if you take steps to bring about reform, and it will always be by the same people who benefit from the way things are now.

No corporation deserves your blind loyalty.  We as a people mock the working class, unions, and anyone and anything that is supported through government funds.  As a people, we celebrate corporate identity.  There are brand name jobs that people seek out where their souls are sucked dry until they die.  Nike, a local brand, is a place where everyone in the city wants to work.  Once you get your foot in the door, you are set.  Either you work your way up for a while or you go somewhere that will be excited about seeing “Nike” on your resume’.  There are people who work for businesses like Costco, where they value their employees’ health, family and personal lives, and treat their employees with respect and honor.  Many a small business will choose the better treatment of their staff over the treatment of their shareholders.  These are often exclusive groups, and it takes a high moral conviction to treat staff better than the competition.  Yet, somehow people will blindly love companies like Apple or Nike who treat their employees like human garbage.  They and others employ child labor, prison labor, and sweatshops around the world in order to maximize profits.  There is this strange assumption that the options are higher wages or higher prices.  Almost never is it considered that stockholders can take a share of the moral weight.  The billionaire hedge funds could take a smaller share of profits in order to pay third world slave labor a little bit more.  But we worship these corporations instead.  I think a moral society would take small steps, like wide boycotts, and eventually take bigger steps – convicted and freed staff would leave these kinds of corporations.  We don’t have to bow down to the soul sucking, culture destroying systems that rule us.  We can do better.

No political party deserves your blind loyalty.  There’s just a basic fact that I have to share.  We have Democrats, Republicans, and actually as many other political parties as we choose to vote for.  It is just that the top two, Republicans and Democrats, happen to be the richest and own all of the mechanisms of publicity – debates, primaries, media outlets, and so on.  There are third, fourth, fifth party options.  Our political system lends itself to two parties in large part because we have a winner-take-all, first-around-the-post system.  We could do like Great Britain, we could do like Australia, we could do any combination of other political system.  We actually have one of the most archaic and oppressive messes of a political system in the USA.  That people are so blindly loyal to “their candidate” is absurd.  If you were against the war when Bush did it, you should be just as angry and protesting just as much when Obama expanded the war(s) in the Middle East.  If you were against rendition, imprisonment without trial, CIA and NSA surveillance when the last president did it, you should be against those things when “your guy” is doing them, too.  Do understand that Obama is Bush in 99/100 issues, he just happens to be a different political packaging than the last guy.  Outside of welfare and warfare, which is 99% of what any national-level politician does, there are only tiny adjustments in image and style that are left to decide who we vote for.  What ends up happening is people will rally behind political parties because of style and cultural points of difference, but their policies are almost the same.  Their ideas may be different, their political slogans and promises may be dynamically different, but ultimately you are looking at two sides of the same coin.  Anyone who is loyal to a specific political party is just not paying attention.

There are volumes written on the necessity of questioning God.  When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, there are a lot of reactions that may come.  Shock has to be on the list.  What God would tell a man to bind his son, slit his throat, and burn him on an altar of stone?  The story is completely insane.  The whitewashing idea that it is a test of his faith is wholly unsatisfactory.  What exactly is happening in that story?  What God, anywhere at any time, would do such a thing?  I just don’t get why God would do this.  I get the standard theological reasoning.  I get the apologetic.  But beneath that veneer, I don’t get it.   There is a blind loyalty that Abraham possesses that I do not.  I don’t know many in the world who would do something so horrifying because they were told, even by God.  Imagine the damage done to Abraham’s relationship with his son.  That damage seems to be in place of what would have been damage to his relationship with God.  And imagine the mistrust that his son must have had with his father, and with God thereafter.  If my dad had done that to me, we would have been done.  I can’t imagine talking to him after that kind of abuse, that trauma would have been unforgivable.  Did they glass over it?  Did Abraham blame God for the incident, where Abraham was moments away from taking his son’s life?  Did God get thrown under the bus, or did Abraham take some responsibility for that dark moment?  Did Isaac carry over his father’s faith even though it almost cost him his life?

I just don’t know what to do with our God.  I don’t know what to say about him, whether his actions make sense.  Whether he is worthy of worship.  It’s not just the Abraham and Isaac incident.  Remember when he wiped out the whole earth, minus Noah’s family?  There’s more.  The Assyrians.  The Egyptian firstborn, then later their whole army.  Sodom and Gomorrah.  Who is your God? What do you think about him?

Faith is loyalty, isn’t it?  Believing in something you can’t see.  I am trying to step into the darkness of faith, that place where I don’t know everything but I believe anyway.  But what I do know scares me, and I don’t know how far I can go in this faith to this God.