By Patti Morey: I believe our concept of God is inevitably reflected by the concept of our country.
I believe our concept of God is inevitably reflected by the concept of our country. Perhaps it is simply that our concept of country is something higher, like our concept of God is. But also, our country was built upon the traditional Protestant idea that everyone is equally capable of entering heaven — as it was that any and every American had an equal capability of achieving financial success. America, one nation under God, was like the Garden of Eden, with what appeared infinite resources.
Back when American citizens regarded our country as the No. 1 world power — strong, undefeatable and just — preachers spoke with a high and mighty voice. Many histrionic styles of the "voice" evolved from this reflective concept of almighty God and almighty country, from bombastic hellfire shouts and devil dancing to nap-startling bass, from falsetto modulations of indignant hauteur to frighteningly soft and measured affectations of supremely benign humility. Such manners of presenting God were accepted absolutely without question and to the point that anyone who spoke in such a manner was regarded by somebody somewhere in this country as an authority.
I remember, from my childhood in the pews (my mother wished for us to experience many different religions and choose for ourselves), a preacher stood screaming, "Un-less ye get saved, ye shall die, in e-ter-nal HELL-FIRE!" My sister, brother and I didn't know what being "saved" meant, but we tearfully "got saved" that very Sunday. It wasn't so much what was said as HOW it was being said. We were scared; we didn't want to die. And the same went for genuflecting elsewhere, as sternly instructed to do so with the manner of uncompromising holy solemnity.
Superimposed now upon our concept of our own country is a concept of the whole world in regard to resources that are portrayed as — and assuredly are for the most extent — no longer eternal and infinite but direly limited. We, who should be given enough concern for our own country, get repeated wake-up calls from our American dream by outlandish regions far beyond our most godly and or American ideals. We must somehow, now, incorporate hitherto explored regions of the entire planet into our concept of self, country and God. But now that our own country is displayed as vulnerable, brought low financially, I think America has lost its "immortal" quality. We are no longer the authority but now must equate ourselves with all other countries in regard to conservation and sustenance and, unthinkable as it ever was, we can die. Certainly, the capability of any and every American to attain financial success has been utterly diminished. How does this affect the concept of heaven? Are there enough clouds and harps for everyone? Might we run out? Do we just hope to rest in peace? Mommy, what was a kingdom?
Some American religions portray God as having once been but a mere mortal as ourselves. But this, too, is the Protestant/capitalist, God/America concept of every mortal having an equal capability of attaining heaven or riches. However, it appears the only way we Americans can possibly incorporate the whole world into our concept of God and environs is if America and God both are dethroned and reconceptualized as mere mortals. Not No. 1 all-powerful and No. 1 everlasting, whom we may salute or kneel before, respectively, in patriotism and worship, but one of many that make up some other farfetched greater whole whose survival is ultimately in peril. I have outlived my nervous system with all this tremendous heinous change.
Meanwhile, many American religious leaders continue to speak in their various manners of the almighty "voice," as if they haven't heard. The God/America concept is shifting beneath us as surely as if our house were built upon sand — or as if it were built upon rock, yes, but alas, rock too is finite, subject to rapid erosion by mere water droplets, many billions of water droplets overseas. Now, all of a sudden, religious manners stand out starkly at odds with the truth of what is. So, I think there might have to be a new religion created to accommodate the changing concept of God and environs (if religion is to be allowed). The old Protestant/America concept is eroding as quickly as the world's glaciers are melting. And, the atheist/communist ideal is unfortunately taking hold, as those with wealth are scornfully brought low by the restless masses of hardworking workers.
There is nothing we can do about it, unless we could become strictly America again, with no American companies allowed to operate in any manner from overseas. Otherwise, I think all we can really do about it, like the extinguished Tibetans, is to meditate or pray. Or maybe to eat, drink and be merry.
Patti Morey has lived in Ashland for 19 years.