So I completely forgot about the all consuming back-to-school weekend and now I’m behind in my blogging… again. I’ll get up and running again tonight while my wife watches Olympic gymnastics. But to help buy another day or two to complete the next review, and in honor of all the athletes competing in the name of the United States over in Beijing, here’s a short clip from the documentary Screaming Men featuring Mieskuoro Huutajat, the Finnish screaming men’s choir, belting out their rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Okay, maybe it’s an odd choice for a tribute to the Olympians as there’s obviously some attempt at subversive political commentary going on here. It’s not really enough to get offended over,though, as Mieskuoro Huutajat hardly singles out the U. S. for satire. Their concert set list normally consists of screamed versions of traditional poems, old children’s songs and national anthems from countries all around the globe. And in the end, the jab at American jingoism falls a little flat when considered in that global context. Why? Well, it was actually the enlightened French and Finnish governments who gave Mieskuoro Huutajat tons of grief over the singing of their anthems while the Icelandic government flat out forbade their anthem from being sang in any altered form on Icelandic soil. Here in the States, however, Mieskuoro Huutajat are free to make fun of us just about any old way they see fit. I kind of appreciate that.
And let’s be honest here, we Americans are kind of gung-ho. I’ll admit that after decades of watching every over-the-top sports movie from Rollerball to The Blood of Heroes, the testosterone drenched ugly American in me really likes the cinematic image of hundreds of American athletes marching into a stadium in a Right Stuff slo-mo style while this performance blares on the soundtrack. Sorry Finnish screaming men's choir, probably not the reaction you wanted, but it’s true. Just my innate patriotic side kicking in, I suppose.
You know, the Catechism is okay with patriotism, noting that “the love and service of one's country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity.” In fact both St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa and Pope Leo XIII in the Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae go so far as to imply that a patriotic love of country is a moral obligation based on natural law. Fr. Stephen A. Brown, S. J. is quick to remind us, however, that the "country" towards which the love of patriots is directed consists of three elements. “We love our country” he says, “because it is the land of our birth, because it is the land of our forefathers, and because it will be the land of those who shall come after us, perhaps of our sons and daughters.” With that understanding, it’s then easy to see that the “country” which a patriot loves is a distinctly separate notion from the political collectives of states, nations, and societies. Or simply put, governments aren’t the country. You can be genuinely devoted to the “country” while abhorring the condition of the “state” which occupies it.
And the reason that distinction is so important from a Christian perspective is that, like so many other things, true patriotism can teach us something about our relationship with God and his Church. As Pope Leo XIII noted, "If the natural law bids us give the best of our affection and of our devotedness to our native land so that the good citizen does not hesitate to brave death for his country, much more is it the duty of Christians to be similarly affected to the Church." We may gripe and grumble over those in charge, but when all is said and done, they will pass and the Church itself will abide, if for no other reason than Christ said it would. It is the Church which is the Christian’s native country, the land of his spiritual birth, the place which his heart calls him home too. Maybe there’s a better word for it, but we SHOULD feel a natural “patriotism” towards the Church.
Well, that wasn’t really that short of a short feature was it? But at least now I can comfortably sit in my chair and chant USA, USA, USA after Phelps cleans house tonight. It’s just a natural reflection of my spiritual state after all. Right?
Oh, just go watch the Finns scream some more; they’re funny.