Letter to the Editor

O'Connor would find analogy blasphemous

Friday, January 2, 2004

To the editor:

I was intrigued by Paul Greenberg's claim of Flannery O'Connor as his champion for banning flag burning. O'Connor would find his analogy between her belief in the "real presence" in the Eucharist and his belief in "presence" -- the presence of what he never makes clear -- in the American flag far more offensive than her companion's view that it was only a "symbol." She would have found Greenberg's abuse of her faith blasphemous.

The "real presence" of Christ in the Eucharist is a matter of religious faith. The claim that the Bible is more than a book is a matter of religious faith. Greenberg must use religious analogies for his claim that the flag is more than a symbol and that it has "presence," for this too is a matter of religious faith. His concept of "presence" lies behind all image-based religions.

Greenberg is entitled to worship his red, white and blue graven image, for our country guarantees freedom of religion. The flag serves well as the icon of the cult of civil religion. However, a law banning flag burning because of its religious "presence" would violate the Constitution, for it would establish a protected religion. As a Christian I can respect Greenberg's faith beliefs, but I cannot participate in the worship of his images. I can respect the flag as a symbol, but if it claims religious "presence," then I must say, in the words of Flannery O'Connor, "to hell with it."


Cape Girardeau, Mo.