Take me to church, I’ll worship your country like it’s got more nationalism and fireworks than mine has, eh

[Saturday, in the park, I think it was the Fifth of July, to be precise, so actually Sunday, but ain’t no use in complainin’ about the details when you got a job to do stuffing a gratuitous Bryan Adams reference into the first sentence on top of equally gratuitous references to Hozier and Chicago, because the last two acts aren’t Canadian but the priest was.]

Mercy. If you’re familiar with Catholic traditions in punctuating the liturgical readings, you’ll understand the brackets. The idea is that the priest decides whether the rest of it is worth reading, too, or is just a bunch of extraneous blather that the individual parishioner is free to read on his own if he finds it that fascinating.

Why did I just watch a Canadian priest preside over the singing of “America the Beautiful” as a recessional hymn not 96 hours after the last Canada Day fireworks faded to black? Because MURICAFUCKYEAH, if I’m not mistaken. The priest devoted several minutes of his lengthy but quite interesting and well-presented homily tonight to, I’m not making this up, how there are fireworks in Canada but not nearly as many “as in your country.” He was impressed to see so many fireworks displays in private yards in Salem, so it’s a good thing that he was in Salem, not Portland, where the fire chief banned them all. We’ve been having quite a heat wave lately; it should be in the upper eighties in the Willamette Valley, and it’s pushing 100, so, yeah, maybe the unregulated private use of explosives isn’t the smartest thing you ever thought up, junior. As a question of nationalism, just because Canadians like to eat the poutine until there ain’t no more space for the poutine in the coronary arteries, Mr. Ford, or get stupid with a two-four of Molson and some hockey sticks doesn’t mean that Americans don’t have the constitutional right to burn their arms off with fireworks that are legal in Washington State and they figured they might as well smuggle into Oregon for good measure. I’m not sure if this is a smaller fractal of the stupid federalism fetish that gave us the FBI and the DEA instead of the RCMP, but it might be. You see, your idea of federalism is that the Quebeckers are allowed to be passive-aggressive about speaking French; ours is that it’s totally cool to buy fireworks that would burn the prairie by the quarter-section on the Alberta side of Lloydminster, but not on the Saskatchewan side, and that instead of having the federal police agency responsible for explosives try to stop people from smuggling fireworks into jurisdictions where they’re prohibited, we allow it to kill a bunch of kids by burning down a church compound.

I’d never paid close attention to the lyrics of “America the Beautiful.” Captain Ho Lee Fuk that is some crazy jingoistic bullshit. The first verse, the one everyone knows, is all right, but the next three go through a wormhole into an unexplored frontier of national embarrassment. The birth years of the authors were listed in the hymnal, and the first thing I noticed was that, for all their carrying-on about the grooviness of all shit that is American, the peace train of Good Feeling had left the station decades before they were even born. Instead, they joined us with just a few years to spare before Gettysburg. I kept thinking, these fuckers must have started hollering their word in the thick of the Gilded Age, which was anything but gilded for the kinds Jacob Riis liked photographing without their consent. Sure enough, Wikipedia shows versions from 1893 (the Cleveland Depression), 1904 (two years before The Jungle, when beef, unfortunately, was what was for dinner), and 1913 (finally, some respectable trustbusting, but still). Alabaster cities, unstained by human tears? Well, hello there, good sir, my name is Cornelius Vanderbilt. May I interest you in some discount railroad tickets?

It’s just as well that the country has basically been ignoring all but the first verse. Realtalk, singing the rest of it at mass is about as dignified and reputable as adapting “Honkytonk Padonkeydonk” as an offertory hymn. It isn’t particularly amenable to an organ accompaniment, maybe, but it does ask the Lord for mercy on account of the relative size of her britches and her–correct me if I’m misspelling this–padonkeydonk. It’s one thing to use a hymn that is Protestant but straight-up powerful, like “Amazing Grace,” but recessing to a batshit crazy pastiche of nationalistic talking points is embarrassingly vulgar. Or at least it should be. The sovereignty of the Vatican City notwithstanding, one should hope that the Roman Catholic Church would transcend that sort of coarse nationalism. Instead, I hear that the local bishop is stirring the pot over the same-sex marriage ruling, and parishes are still allowed to distribute hymnals with historically bogus nationalistic ditties worthy of nickel beer halls for recitation at mass. That is, defying the civil authorities is a duty of religious conscience whenever the shoe feels uncomfortable on the other foot, but there’s no need to cut spiritually distracting and coarsening secular tunes from formal canons of church music or stop using the same inappropriate ballads in lieu of something the least bit spiritually centering when the congregation gathers to pray.

Must I explain why the separation of church and state is a good thing for the church, too? Maybe we can start singing off-key covers of Hozier in lieu of the Act of Contrition. A maudlin Irishman who infuriates wannabe alphas by singing a poignantly supplicating beta male tour de force can’t be worse than the Faustian bargain that the Catholic Church is making with American nationalists today. Or maybe we could use Tom Lehrer’s “Vatican Rag” as a recessional. At least that would show some insight into our own spiritual condition. It might be enough of a kick in the pants to start acting like Christians again instead of nationalistic dipshits waving the bloody shirt at our church services.

That was pleasant. What did you learn at Sunday school today?


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