Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Nostrum Encountered

One of my "friends" in a social networking site that shall go unnamed* has a profile blurb stating the following:

Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:
1. Jesus Christ
2. The American GI.
One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.
Upon reading this, it carried a slight patina of credibility: the members of the US military are rightly renowned for their willingness to die for the sake of the US national defense, and the Jesus character from the New Testament did withhold his putative omnipotence long enough to endure a torturous execution, and did so, we are told, for the expiation of our sins.

On a few seconds' more reflection, it turns out this kind of willing sacrifice is not so rare after all: martyrdom is hardly unheard of above and beyond the case of Jesus, and mortal risk comes attached to many occupations, a few obvious examples being police officers, firefighters, and prison guards. And there are many more -- they don't mean Deadliest Catch from the crabs' perspective.

What's worse about the right-wing nostrum is how the two sacrifices it's willing to consider are wholly at odds with each other. Jesus sacrificed himself because we're incorrigible sinners without any hope of meriting god's favor on our own, whereas US soldiers routinely die to preserve our "way of life," which consists of large doses of greed, gluttony, lust, envy, sloth, pride, and assorted varieties of wrath. Jesus died to whisk away our sin; soldiers die to keep us neck-deep in it. Some fanatical Christians, perhaps most famously the knuckle-draggers of Fred Phelps's church, not only notice but loudly and rudely deplore this disparity.

In short, this nostrum my "friend" so proudly displays is, at best, a gross oversimplification. Soldiers do place their lives at peril, and we should acknowledge and thank them for that. But they're not the only ones worthy to be so acknowledged.

* Unnamed except to say that it is not MySpace, which is garbage.

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