Today I went with my girlfriend to her Unitarian Universalist Church. I was a little apprehensive at first, but I went before and it wasn’t too bad. The cars in the parking lot have a lot of “Obama/Biden” and “End this endless war” stickers, so the congregation is on the whole pretty liberal, which makes me a bit more comfortable. The trappings are church like, but with a noticeable lack of crosses anywhere in the building. The word “god” is also noticeably absent from many of the hymns and sermons. They tend to focus more on “togetherness” and stuff like that. It’s very humanistic.
I was still a little uncomfortable because everything appeared to be church like at first glance, people dressed up, pews, hymns, candles, a minister, music, the usual. I still have a lot of angry baggage with my old church, and that takes a while to get over, yet it seems the more I go to her UU church the easier it gets. The sermon today was about Facebook. It was pretty interesting, just talking about the technology, how it helps people to stay connected, and how relationships are changing. There was no angry denouncement of the site, or how kids these days are becoming more materialistic, or anything like that.
What kept bugging me the most was how the aesthetics didn’t match up with the message. My eyes kept seeing “church” and my ears kept hearing “not church.” I couldn’t help but think how a conservative christian would have felt in this setting. They probably would have thought “You un-American heretics!” And that brings me to the main topic of this post, what is it to be American?
Brainwashing really messes you up. Ask anyone who once strongly believed in something, but no longer does. I still have the problem of feeling like I’m a bad person for not being a christian , despite what my rational mind tells me. I grew up in an extremely conservative area of Virginia, and as such, I still feel the nagging voice of “you’re un-American” in my head whenever I vote democrat, or take pleasure in a liberal victory.
The problem is that the conservative right has long been on a campaign to redefine “American” to conform to their image. So, what does the conservative’s true American family look like? Well I’ve searched all over the internet, and I can’t find a picture that exactly fits everything, so let me try to describe what it would look like. In the picture would be an upper-middle class white family, a mother, father, and 2-3 children. They would be standing in front of a large, suburban home with a nice lawn, and an SUV in the driveway. The father would be dressed in business attire, holding a rifle, while the mother, dressed conservatively, would be holding a cross and bible.
Their little blond hair, blue eyed children would also be conservatively dressed and neatly arranged before their parents.
To the conservatives, this is the quintessential American family. Rich, white, christian, gun owning, SUV driving, and conservative. If you don’t fit these qualities, then you are un-American. In fact, Sarah Palin on the campaign trail even mentioned how she enjoyed visiting the “pro-American” parts of the country, and her “pro-American” supporters, implying that all the liberals who supported the “terrorist” were un-American. The clip of her making those statements is here. Later, after realizing how her statements could bring bad press, she tried to clarify, but the cat was out of the bag.
The sad thing is, this image of America is about the furthest thing from what the founding fathers had in mind, especially when it comes to religion. I could ramble on a list of Atheist/agnostic quotes by the founding fathers, but rather I’ll just provide a link to that list. Unfortunately a majority of Americans agree with the conservatives at least in regards to Atheists, as a 2006 study by the University of Minnesota shows.
So what would my idea picture of the American family be? Well, I can’t really describe it. There are too many people who would fit. I prefer to be inclusive rather than exclusive.