Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Fifth of November

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I can think of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Reaction to yesterday’s election are still being sorted out, and there will be countless analyses and debates over what worked and what didn’t and what role the infamous “value voter” played in the results. But there are two contradictory reactions to last night’s results. On the one hand, the passing of anti-gay measures in California, Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas signals continued intolerance by “Christian bigots, which is redundant” (quoted from a message board earlier today) towards the homosexual community. On the other hand, the divine providence expected by Governor Palin in her interview with Dr. James Dobson and again to reporters after she voted yesterday in Alaska didn’t come to pass, signaling to some the end of the influence of the Religious Right.

Which is it? Are we still teetering on the edge of a theocracy driven by intolerance and bigotry, or is this country literally going to Hell in a hand basket? This irony is highlighted in California where voters supported defining marriage as between a man and a woman for the second time while defeating a measure requiring parental consent for abortions, also for a second time.
If anything, it shows that no one can be pigeon-holed by a single issue. And whatever comes out of these results, hopefully the “value voter” will no longer be defined by a short list of wedge issues. I believe this is the dawn of not only post-partisan politics, as noted by President-elect Obama, but also post-partisan Christianity. That’s my prayer anyway.

So what does all this have to do with my invocation of Guy Fawkes above? That both sides of the culture war today feel slighted, disrespected, devalued, and defeated reflects the irony of the cultural versus historical Guy Fawkes.

If you’ve never heard of him (and I teased a friend on Halloween who was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask for no other reason than its use in V for Vandetta) these entries on wikipedia (Guy Fawkes, Gunpowder Plot ) are worth reading. The poem above, and the celebration of Guy Fawkes Night, are celebrated by anarchists, were used symbolically in V opposing fascism in Britain, and continue to inspire anti-government sentiment.

But the poem continues:

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

You see, the poem wasn’t celebrating his treason, but was celebrating his getting caught. And it continues further:

A penny loaf to feed the Pope
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A fagot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah hoorah!

Why did he do it? His treason was in response to discrimination by the British Monarchy towards Catholics. That’s right, this treason was over religious freedom. Even more ironic was that the Monarchy was a borderline theocracy led by King James, the commissioner of that version of the Bible bearing his name.

As Christians of a different stripe, we should never hope for, pray for, or vote for a theocracy (despite what many Evangelical leaders may tell you). There’s too much opportunity for abuse, and too little opportunity to glorify God’s name.

As you burn your “guy” in effigy, launch a firecracker, or light a bonfire tonight to celebrate the new world order in American politics, remember that it was for religious freedom that this country was settled, for freedom from tyranny this country was founded, and opposition to theocracy that inspired the Gunpowder Plot. Remember, remember the 5th of November.

No comments: