Friday, December 13, 2013

City Upon A Hill

The City of St. George separatist movement takes on a religious dimension.
Proponents of incorporating a new city of St. George provided a church, a pulpit and a traveling minister to make their pitch to area residents Thursday night. From the pulpit at Woodlawn Baptist Church, Rev. C.L. Bryant—a conservative backer of the tea party movement from Shreveport—delivered a passionate message about how the people of southeast East Baton Rouge Parish had to form a city to protect themselves from "the titans—the people who run the show" in Baton Rouge and to thwart the "totalitarian tyrannical hand coming down on this country."

Signing the incorporation petition and then voting in favor of a new city will "send a message" to "the titans," he said. Amid outcries from the audience of, "That's right!" and "Yes!" and outbursts of applause, Bryant said the choice of how one is governed is "the essence of American liberty," adding, "This is a uniquely American thing you are doing." In one of several references to the founding of the republic, Bryant noted that "it is they who are using your tax dollars while you are being under-served by them." He urged residents to "stand up for God and country" by signing the petition.
So the obvious temptation is to draw comparison with Jonathan Winthrop's famous "Model of Christian Charity" sermon.  As every fourth grader should know, the sermon  from which we get the following,
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
has, in later centuries, become a touchstone of the rhetoric of American Exceptionalism.  It's also sometimes used as a shorthand dogwhistle code for fundamentalists concerned with putting God back in the Gubmint.

But there are problems with this sort of appropriation. 

The residents of the Breakaway Republic Of St. George are rushing  to secede from Baton Rouge not so much out of a desire to demonstrate their Christian Charity but instead to ensure that they don't have to pay for other people's children to go to school anymore. 

If the St. Georgians had hired (curious about Bryant's speaker's fee, btw) Winthrop to speak to their meeting, one wonders what they would have made of this.
Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end, we must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

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