I got an e-mail not too long ago which purported to have been a television address by a name-brand conservative. I won’t give the name because I suspect the named was innocent of this particular pontification. It was the “God is a gentleman” routine about how we asked God to get out of our schools, so He left and then we got school shootings, etc. And after each proof of how we have damned ourselves by being rude to God it said something like “Are you laughing yet?”
And then it finished it off by saying, “If you don’t forward this e-mail on to everyone you know, it’s all your fault! You’re responsible for every bad thing that happens in America!”
Wait a minute, I thought. That sounds familiar. No, not just the spam we’ve all seen before. The hook at the end. I remember trying that on some of my siblings. Certainly I’ve overheard younger siblings employing this time-honored rhetoric: “Oh yeah, well in my game [that is, imaginary universe], you are loosing! Monsters are tearing you limb from limb! You are crying and bawling like a pathetic loser!”
Or the classic “Last one there is a rotten egg!” This is traditionally called when one has a substantial head start. Quite without regard for whether those in the rear ever accepted the challenge, vigorous jeering is piled upon the latecomers.
So the trick in all of these cases is to hold someone at fault or at a loss in a system they never endorsed nor accepted. It’s easy to laugh at kids or spammers when they do this, but really most people never give up the habit; the just sustain a naivete about their current presumption. Global Warming. Civil Rights. Community Service. Church.
Voting. “If you didn’t vote, you can’t complain!” Ever heard that? This requires one to accept that all problems, or at least all problems thus indicated, can be fixed and are best fixed through the political process as currently practiced within the speaker’s own country. There are many kinds of problems in the world, many causes, and many philosophies about their solution, but “in my game” you have to vote or you are worse than a loser!
The Christian Governmentalist will chide that one cannot pick and choose all responsibilities by one’s own preference. There are responsibilities we have toward God that we cannot choose to abdicate. But again, the Christian Governmentalist is presuming that this neatly and simply includes American Democracy. And it is at minimum anachronistic, if it is nothing else, to presume all of that into the canon, the Bible.
The first Christians had no vote. They had taxation without representation. They had beatings. They had imprisonment and conviction without due process. They had conscription. They had slavery. Come on, name one thing the founders of this country fought to obtain and preserve. Then read Roman history–real history, translated source documents, not Christianized historical reconstruction–and tell me which of those things the first Christians had.
Now sometimes they did not have bread, either. I am not arguing that it was wonderful for those people to lack the things that we have, or bad for us to have them. There are lots of nice things these days including cars and computers. But when you are going to talk about moral imperatives, consider that Christian moral and political imperatives have survived within all kinds of governments, and while those governments waxed and waned in their justice and good stewarship. You need to come to grips with this before you can have my attention about the political moral imperatives of an American.