The title of Sarah Palin’s forthcoming book, “America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag” employs a clever use of alliteration to spell out a set of priorities that seems to capture the standard trio of allegiances of the religious right. Faith is trumped by family, and the flag is not far behind. Each member of this trio has become a code word.
“Family” is short for family values which refers to a dedication to the preservation of U.S. culture as defined by a romantic view of our country from the heyday of what Tom Brokaw dubbed the “greatest generation.” It reflects a longing for a simpler time when men were men, women were women, and all things were right in this country.
“Flag” is code for a special brand of patriotism. It is is both jingoistic and hawkish. It holds in tension two disparate ideas. It is eager to send U.S. troops to fight foreigners who threaten us but resentful of having to financially support the U.S. government through tax dollars. It sees no irony in a profession of love for this country while despising the government elected by the people of this country. It fights tooth and nail through the political process to elect like-minded people, but then imagines that it has no connection to those who run our government.
“Faith” is caught in between these two. It is meant to signal “Christianity” to her clan of like-minded people. Christian faith is proudly worn like a medal of honor on the breast. It is a stamp of approval that blesses every feeling and emotion as right and righteous. Faith is in service to the individual. Scriptures are cherry-picked and their meanings prepackaged to prop up the preferred cultural and political points of view.
A recent flame war erupted on Facebook that gives us a glimpse into Sarah Palin’s family. Much has been made about the tit-for-tat battle between Sarah’s daughters, Bristol and Willow with some of their Facebook friends. It started with rude attacks from friends about their mom’s new reality show. Because family loyalty comes first, these attacks could not go unanswered. The Palin girls showed that they could hurl insults as well as the next person. Their faith did not reign in their anger. They responded using the template of an angry patriot rather than the example of the Prince of Peace. So we were all subjected to the spectacle of two Christians hurling the following insults to strangers:
(Willow): “Haha your so gay. I have no idea who you are, But what I’ve seen pictures of, your disgusting … My sister had a kid and is still hot.”
(Willow): “Tre stfu. Your such a f**got.”
(Willow): “Sorry that you guys are all jealous of my families success and you guys aren’t goin to go anywhere with your lives.”
(Bristol): “You’re running your mouth just to talk sh*t.”
I don’t think it’s necessary to argue that these words do not reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ. These words do not even reflect the romantic view of the good old days in America. These words, for me, add to the many other trashy and rude examples from Sarah Palin’s family that unmask the hollowness of Palin’s claims about her faith.
But that’s not my biggest problem. I am much less concerned about the authenticity of this particular politician than I am about the impression she gives about Christianity to those who are not Christians. I am pained by the number of people who have built a wall against Jesus and Christianity because they are so turned off by this sort of behavior from those who claim to be followers of Christ. Christians are called to make Christ their top priority. Until we allow our faith to shape us rather than our focus on family, culture or patriotism, no one will see the love of Christ in us.