[Credit to soy_esteban for directing me to this painting and these discussions.]
This painting from Jon McNaughton has been making the rounds on both conservative and liberal blogs recently. Liberals are complaining about the extremely sectarian portrayal of America, while conservatives complain about the artist's inclusion of liberals like John Kennedy and Theodore Roosevelt. The artist responds to these partisan criticisms (left vs. right) on his site, where you can also scroll over the painting to zoom in on details, with included commentary.
The commentary lets you know, for instance, that the man in the foreground weeping into his hands is a supreme court judge, while the documents littering the steps are judicial decisions McNaughton finds inconsistent with the Godly roots of our nation. Likewise, it identifies the soldiers in the background, representatives from each U.S. war.
I don't have any strong interest in these conservative/liberal squabbles. But the painting is interesting at a more fundamental level. Nationalism is always in danger of turning to idolatry. This is a fact that the New Testament represents subtly in every page, and a fact which is on display in McNaughton's painting. Here Jesus stands as the new Moses, a lawgiver to a nation uniquely of God. America is the new Israel. Jon McNaughton even refers to the Constitution as "inspired of God," a category Christians generally reserve for scripture.
This recentering of faith away from the church Christ founded to the nation of America reveals itself in the rest of the painting. If America deserves our religious devotion, then certainly killing the enemies of in always service of God, as McNaughton explains when you hover over Jesus' red sash. This America-centered theology is most revealed when you zoom in on the Civil War soldier, who alone of the soldiers is weeping, because that is the only war in which "brother fought against brother."
But a Christ-centered theology knows that Christians are all brothers, regardless of their nationality. Pastor Greg Boyd, commenting on this painting, observes that the Revolutionary War was fought against Christians from England, who "felt a divine obligation to keep Americans under the authority of the King because the Bible says all authority is given by God
and Christians are to submit to the authorities they are under."
Likewise, a Christ-centered theology realizes that gathered around Jesus are people from every "tribe and tongue and nation," not particularly Americans, and that the teachings of Christ are not found in the U.S. Constitution. I am convinced that the kind of nationalism depicted in this painting crosses the line into idolatry, and works against the mission of Christ and his church.
(Click on the picture to see the original portrait with its commentary.) What is your impression of the painting and the view of America it portrays?