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Friday, July 11, 2014

America: the Movie

Today my wife and I went to the theater and watched America narrated and directed by Dinesh D'Souza.

It's about an hour and a half long - plus the trailers of course!

It's worth seeing.  The first part of the movie explores 5 or 6 common criticisms of America including the treatment of the Native Americans, slavery, imperialism, capitalism, and the Mexican-American War.  Most of the remainder of the movie responds to these accusations.

If you are well familiar with American history you will recognize that the gist of D'Souzas arguments are well done, although short.  They would probably not convince someone on the Left because they are short answers and  the accusations against America deserve  longer, more careful responses.  Furthermore, history is more complicated than that one view of America is right and the other view is wrong.

Nevertheless, the movie is a good introduction to the answers to those accusations and hopefully the beginning of helpful dialogue.

Some important things to consider.
First, all the indictments of America are actually indictments against all of humanity.  There isn't an empire in world history that isn't guilty of all or most of the accusations made against America (maybe couched in slightly different terms).  Most world empires are far worse than we have been.

Human beings, the world over, are nasty creatures - prone to treat their fellow humans with cruelty and evil.  This sad fact is true of every society that I have heard of.  And as we saw after World War II, evil runs through every human heart.  Part of the American genius was to recognize this human weakness and write into our Constitution and laws safeguards against evil and power hungry humans.  We are forgetting this at our peril today and allowing too much power in the hands of the President at the expense of Congress.  Too much power is in Washington compared to the states.  And too much is in the hands of large businesses who are accountable to few, and certainly not the voting public.

Second, America is guilty of many sins - including some of those described in the movie.  What those critics of America forget, and the movie reminds us, is that these are not uniquely American faults.  Those who would criticize America alone for these faults are ignorant or hypocritical.  Nor should we expect that America will be a perfect nation now or in the future.  Searching for such perfect has led many people down many terrible roads.  Communism and the Nazis come to mind.

The high point of the movie for me as an American and as a Christian was in the description of Saul Alinsky's methods.

One of Alinsky's methods to help refashion America was to polarize the country and to not allow for forgiveness or reconciliation.  Sound like where we are?  People are more and more nasty to each other, the two major parties are moving further and further apart.  Yet when I talk to ordinary people who claim to be Liberals or on the Left, or who don't like Conservatives, it's amazing that we have so many things in common and so many similar goals.

Yes, there are hard core people on the Right and the Left who won't move at all.  But can I hope that those more in the middle can at least talk to each other and not see each other as evil monsters?  Perhaps we can love each other in spite of our differences and find solutions to benefit the entire country?

As Christians reconciliation is our task.  (See NT Wright's book Surprised by Hope)  We are heralds for a God who has gone to and is going to great lengths to reconcile a nasty, sinful human race to himself and then to restore and transform this world for them.

As Americans let's reconcile and forgive each other -- or at least talk to each other!  As Christians, let's do the same.  For the future of our nation and for the sake of the kingdom of God.

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