Saturday, July 01, 2006

John Wayne and Jesus

I met John Wayne and Jesus when I was just a kid
They both had on their cowboy hats just like I pictured them
I stood up at the front of the class waving my American flag
Saying the pledge sang amber waves of grain.
-Pat Green

It is an interesting picture –Jesus in a cowboy hat standing next to John Wayne with all the school kids waving their flags and saying the pledge. That would be the “one nation under God” pledge. Yet on this upcoming Fourth of July (or is it Independence Day?) the picture of John Wayne and Jesus will be acted out all across the country.

We Americans love the idea of a hero that sweeps in and saves us all from ruin. Like John Wayne often did. In the Searchers he looked for his abducted niece for years and prevailed in the end. What a man!

John Wayne was adopted by the establishment of our country and willingly painted an optimistic picture. Consider the Green Berets, released during the Vietnam War. This movie was released to illustrate support for a war that seemed to tear the country apart. It was the last chance to unite the people in the war effort led by the most respected man ever to wear a cowboy hat.

Jesus on the other hand was not adopted by the Jewish establishment. The messiah was supposed to free the first century Jewish population from the domination of the Roman Empire. He was expected to sweep down and lead the masses in an over throw of the evil empire like John Wayne in a cowboy hat. Instead he stirred up trouble for the temple and ultimately the empire.

His message was about loving God and your neighbor. He even said all those other temple rules were okay, but the only rule that mattered was to love God and your neighbor. Why, at one point he even said give Rome what is Rome’s!

He did create a lot of trouble for the Romans. Of course he had Jewish leaders who were in cahoots with the Romans riled up too. His way became the Christian church of today, although sometimes the two do not look the same.

The U.S. government has even adopted Jesus, God and the Bible, in spite of all our claims about freedom of religion. Our government takes Jesus and the Bible and stands them beside John Wayne and proclaims it the American Way. If we fight a war in Iraq we know that John Wayne is on our side along with God. Oh just forget about that love your neighbor stuff. After all John Wayne did not say that and the Old Testament has enough blood and gore to justify about anything we want to try.

The Republican Party was John Wayne’s political affiliation. The Republican Party has coupled the Bible and Jesus with John Wayne and labeled it patriotism. Anyone who does not agree with their platform is considered unpatriotic. In this manner the church has become a part of the denomination system rather than an alternative system of wisdom and together the two can weave a myth that lasts forever.

Consider Universal Health Care. In the seventies there was some discussion of a single pay system similar to Canada and Sweden. This was labeled socialized medicine, a very demonistic term that anyone who considered themselves a patriot must oppose. It was said that the quality of health care would degenerate because doctors would not be able to make money –like doctors are making money at the hands of the insurance companies in these modern times. Then in the eighties Health Care became a concern again and we lived through similar accusations. Now in the 21st Century the Steel Workers Union says that the United States is at a competitive disadvantage because other countries have Universal Health Care. States are even giving up on our federal government and looking for ways to provide universal access to health care (Vermont, Tennessee, etc.) But, good ole George and the GOP hold fast to their position and once again they will parade John Wayne and Jesus to support they claim of what is patriotic.

John Wayne might agree with them, but Jesus with or without a cowboy hat would not go along with it. There is nothing about grace and love for your neighbor in preventing universal access to health care.

Instead of making the Fourth of July a celebration of patriotism with John Wayne and Jesus waiving the flag to support the well established domination system of the 21st Century perhaps we should remember the origin of the holiday. It IS Independence Day. It is the day our country declared independence from England, the domination system of the 1700’s.

Perhaps those states that are growing impatient with the slow progress of the federal government in regards to Universal Access to Health Care are adopting some patriotism of their own. Perhaps the rest of us should look more at the message of Jesus rather than the patriotism of John Wayne. Maybe we should adopt New Hampshire’s state slogan, “Live free or die.” We could declare an end to the war, create Universal Access to Health Care, slap a cowboy hat on Jesus and listen to his song of grace.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This posting is a very timely offering. That big day is coming up on Tuesday. While, it is not universal health care, the passing out of good cold water along Broadway is kind of a Jesus thing. (People are about 70 % water by mass.)

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We Americans tend to get carried away with images. To many people, John Wayne did represent the image of the American superhero of patriotism. At the time of Viet Nam, we heard phrases like "America love or leave it." In wartime, these sentiments for all of us to agree with the actions of our leaders are pervasive. Some conservatives in our country seem to forget the fundamental precept that we live in a nation where disagreement is not only allowed but encouraged.

Knowing exactly what Jesus did say or do is impossible; however, I am sure that Jesus did mean the part about love your neighbor. Loving your neighbor can take many forms. Providing universal health care is one method in today’s world.

When all is said and done, I know a hero that wears a cowboy hat, drives a red truck, and promotes affordable health care for all.

6:35 PM  
Blogger The Deanster said...

Yes, I agree with the idea of us selecting Jesus as our Ultimate Leader and Example. Hey, if Haiti has declared Satan their official god (no wonder they are so poor) why can't we officially declare Jesus our Lord and Ultimate King? Who else is better? Cultures have to be built around a commonly shared "cult", meaning basic core philosophical belief--that's where the word "culture" comes from. This country began around the image of Jesus ("No King but King Jesus" was the cry of many during the Revolutionary War) and we need to hold true to that. It is our only hope, and we haven't done a very good job of it so far, but we can learn and do better. The key is looking back to Him and taking Him more seriously and learning from His wisdom. And I said nothing about having an official church, but we do need a central philosophical core. Why not Jesus, the pure and simple one.

9:27 AM  

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