Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Dawn's Early Light

Every nation has its own creation myth. In ancient history, the story would go like this: The god of such and such a people engaged in a violent, bloody, cosmic battle with an adversary, the adversary was killed, and the new nation was born. This creation event served as both justification and inspiration for that nation's future military activities.

While not as obvious in our scientifically "enlightened" modern times, the deeply religious nature of our own civil cult has similar manifestations. Pagan sacrifice is alive and well as men and women are glorified for giving their lives in military service, in an endless crusade to preserve the nation's very existence. Their sacrifice is surrounded by symbols which are invoked in reverent piety by vestment and gesture. Uniforms of rank and authority demand homage in the form of salute and stature as grand ceremonies surround the deaths of the sacrificed victims. The national anthem is also played with proper, pious pose, reminding all of the unconquerable symbol of our sacred, blood drenched origin.

While it is heroic and noble for individuals to give their lives to save others, another, deeper story is being told here, one that preaches that abundant life (or freedom, as some like to call it) is not possible without the perpetual shedding of blood, without perpetual sacrifice and perpetual violence. It is a constant cycle of creation, death and regeneration, as the undying spirit of "we the people" defeat the unending challenges to perceived rights. Friends, this is a salvation story if ever there was one.

God's story, however, is different. There was no struggle, no violence. God simply spoke and it came to be. (There is good scholarship showing that the Genesis account was written primarily to subvert the Mesopotamian creation story, a culture that constantly tempted Israel with its idolatrous practices.)

Calling things into being which were not. Calling a people his own people, which were not a people. And redeeming them with a sacrifice offered once and for all, through the free gift of his only begotten son. He offers abundant life, true freedom, now, to all of us. This is not just some hope for a distant, future utopia. This is how we are called to live now, in the midst of these other competing salvation stories and demands for allegiance.