There are maps of the USA that break down the religious denominations: Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Mormon, and a scattering of "others." But the real religion of America is "America" itself. Americans actually worship the country as if it had fallen right down out of the sky, or was created specially by the hand of a divine God.
Politicians, clergy, athletes, and even common worker bees, all chant the same mantra: "America is the greatest nation on earth!" No, beyond that – it is the greatest nation in the whole history of the earth!
Who says so? Woe unto anyone who would have the courage to say otherwise. During the mid-1970s, when I was living in the Philippines, I marveled every time I drove past the American Embassy on Roxas Boulevard. Standing in a seemingly endless line to enter, rain or shine, were hundreds of would-be Filipino immigrants. Their common goal was to get to "The States." I have seen that phenomenon all over the world. The nationalities and faces change, but the goal is the same. Have these people bought some gigantic lie, or is there something to this insatiable desire by millions to become Americans?
During those days, I had a neighbor from Japan. He was married to a Hawaiian-Japanese, and was a naturalized American himself. He had come to the US penniless after the Second World War, and had lived through the devastation of Japan and the humiliation that followed. He was the first person I heard use the term "national myth" when referring to national madness. He had seen it firsthand. Japan, as an entire culture and people, had gone insane and – based on a myth – had brought the nation to complete ruin.
The entire Japanese population had bought into the lie so completely that Emperor worship was the only show in town. Everyone became a fanatic, and often soldiers would sacrifice themselves needlessly because "dying for the Emperor" was more important and glorious than winning battles.
The Germans en masse bought into the Hitler myth. Having lived in Germany long after the War, I heard endless conversations even then about the hysteria of the time, the absolute belief in the infallibility of the Führer, and the worship of the Fatherland. It only led to ruin.
It seems that we rarely learn from history. All the great empires have been brought down by such hubris. The Romans indulged themselves in unbridled conquest until they bankrupted the empire, and opened up the door for the dark ages that followed. The Spanish conquistadors annihilated all the preexisting cultures of Central and South America with their military, missionaries, and merchants.
Napoleon led the French down the same path ... and on it goes. Since the founding of the American nation, there has been built into the American psyche a certain bravado. All American school children know about Manifest Destiny, the cosmic call to conquer and dominate the huge continent of North America. And with guns and Bibles, the land and native peoples were subdued.
From the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers, America has been an extraordinarily religious place. Everything was founded on religion – and strict fundamentalist Protestantism at that. All the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were white male Protestant landowners. They have been at the top of the food chain ever since. Catholics were finally allowed to enter in limited numbers at first, as were Jews; and later such home grown oddities as the Mormons made the scene. Yes, they became Americans, but not all were equal – including millions of black slaves. To this day, all Americans are still not equal financially, socially, or culturally.
Yet, despite the inequality, nobody ever just stands up and says: "This place is screwed up." No matter how high or low one's station in life, economic condition, or social position, no one dares speak up lest they appear unpatriotic. It is not that they want to speak out and are reluctant; they genuinely think this place is the best on the planet, and nothing else could be better; so, why not just yell and scream and chant USA USA USA?
It is an irrational religion, a mindless worship of Old Glory – The stars and stripes forever. But as we follow the Romans, the French, the Spanish, the Germans, and the Japanese into empire-building, endless warfare, and ultimate demise … I just wonder why Americans can't see it coming. But they can't.
Jesus is really a straight white American male
Superman, Batman, The Hulk and myriad other superheroes fill the American media, comics, and films. They all have really cool outfits. Most have capes, big muscles, and tight crotches. They have super weapons like magic swords, spears, hammers, and far more high-tech accouterments as well. They throw lightning bolts, control thunder, and raise the mighty seas. They are a true American creation.
When I was small, I watched Superman, Wonder Dog, and Mighty Mouse. Things have changed a lot since then. For one thing, the technology is way better. The graphics are outstanding, as are the sound effects. Young boys especially are bombarded with hyper-masculine images of heroes in a constant battle against the forces of darkness – and for truth, justice, and the American way.
But one superhero who really beats them all is the Lord Almighty, Jesus Christ. Unlike the wimpy skinny Jesus who hangs on crosses in cathedrals through Europe, the Americans have reinvented the savior of mankind. He is strong, powerful, and totally masculine. He has big muscles and has a flowing cape which is an American flag. He fights with fists, guns, and a magic book called the Bible.
A cult of Jesus has emerged in the United States in the last thirty years or so, with the rise of Christian television. Gradually, he has grown into an invincible national obsession. He does not preach a Gospel of humility and long-suffering. He preaches war. Not unlike the knights of the Crusades, he leads a mighty army of the righteous. No preaching about the poor inheriting the earth. No, he preaches a prosperity doctrine. Poverty is for chumps. Accept Jesus and get rich!
I never bought into the prosperity doctrine, but millions of Americans have over the years. It is an entitlement. The preaching about our strong military, supporting the troops, and bombing hell out of brown people, is a constant refrain. In fact, Jesus just keeps getting blonder and stronger all the time as fundamentalist illustrators continue to remake his image.
The white supremacists love to claim Jesus as their own property too. The message: Jesus is the savior of the white race. Dark-skinned people need not apply. While the rest of the world may view this in horror, it is ever so real, and always bubbling beneath the surface of American culture. Although racism is certainly not a purely American notion, our history on the subject is dismal.
The images of Jesus continue to evolve, and so does the music.
Like the Nazis who used spectacle to wow the masses with their notions of Aryan superiority, there is nothing quite as chilling today as hearing 30,000 fundamentalist American Christians in a megachurch somewhere in Texas, singing:
Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus going on before
Like a mighty army moves against the foe
Forward into battle, see his banners glow
I got off the militant Christian band wagon years ago, and never looked back. I can't get in line to worship Super Jesus. The carpenter from Galilee still appeals more to me, after all.