Last month, we “celebrated” President’s Day here in the Fifty States. In January, we “celebrated” Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Fifty States. And we should not forget the non-federal, but still celebrated St. Valentine’s Day. This last week, many people (fewer than usual, it seems) honored St. Patrick’s Day. This is a whole series of festivals that lets us worship a whole slew of demigods or deified humans. Next up is Memorial Day – interrupted only by those who celebrate Good Friday and Easter, and the Christ. (Except that many people consider Easter to be a festival honoring a human proclaimed a goddess, named Ishtar – honored as well by the logo of Starbucks Coffee.)
As usual, back in January, the airwaves were filled with paeans of praise for the fallen “civil rights” hero and martyr. And of course, advertising for MLK Day special sales and memorabilia of King and the various events of the civil rights movement. And that celebration has been almost immediately followed by the “Black History Month” commemorations, in which public school (and too many private school) students are pumped full of propaganda about the deified martyr. Only the fact that King was both a Baptist and a Communist has kept him from actually being sainted by the Roman Catholic Church. (Although that second restriction would seem not to be a severe problem for the present “Bishop of Rome.” Francis is so socialist in his beliefs and pronouncements that the major difference between him and standard Communists is that Communists are atheists, not believers.)
Then, buried among all the adverts for Presidents’ Day sales, we had all the articles and surveys and the like. “Who is your favorite president?” “What were the best five presidents?” “Which president did the most for America?” We see the famous quotes, the little factoids, the fancy special magazines, and more. Except for the “very worst” of the presidents (like Nixon and perhaps Grant), the view presented is highly biased and tells us what wonderful men have led us. How indebted we are to their vision and their self-sacrifice. In other words, as with King, we are encouraged to revere – even worship – these people.
This is far from new. Back in the mid-1970s, on an evangelism trip to central Oklahoma, I saw several houses that had shrines to John F. Kennedy, the “Martyred” president (1961-63). (I wonder, given the modern Democratic Party, if loyal Democrats can continue even to acknowledge him. He espoused and supported many things that a Democrat of 2020 considers anathema. He opposed abortion and racial quotas, for example. Would he have to run as a Republican today?)
Our republic was supposed to be a polity of “laws, not men.” (Of course, it was also supposed to be a government of strictly limited powers.) But nearly from the beginning, the adulation accorded leaders has been almost religious in flavor. Not only was George Washington proposed to become king (he refused), but even today in the Capitol is a worshipful painting of the deification of General Washington. Lincoln was instantly declared a martyr and as more than merely human. Franklin Roosevelt was also revered as a savior and father figure and more – eerily similar to how Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were treated. (Again, at least we don’t have his corpse on display somewhere.)
In Trump, as in Obama before him, we see more than ever a “cult of personality” among those who are in favor of him. And as with more than a few in the past, those who hate him are incredible as well in their fanatic opposition to him. (Indeed, one of the common attacks against Trump is that he demeans the Office, by his behavior and attitude: he does not uphold the dignity of the office.)
But the real danger is not the adulation we give politicians – even living ones. Nor even how we treat movie stars. The real problem that we have in 2020 is worshiping a different kind of false gods. Foremost being the worship of government, and of the military. But too many of us worship wealth (and power). And others worship nature and the earth itself.
In all of these cases, whether we are talking dead or living “princes,” the biblical injunction to “put not your trust in princes” must be constantly remembered. Our current novel coronavirus crisis being just one such situation in which we MUST remember that honoring, let alone worshiping, these false gods is foolish, even insane.