In a recent Facebook discussion on the subject of “Christian nationalism” a commenter said,
“I sometimes feel we have an attitude that because we do it better than most, we don’t need to make changes. When you believe you are the best, why make changes??”
This was my response, slightly expanded here, which gave me no pleasure to write:
As an Austrian who grew up in a home built with Marshall Plan funds and and who was fully aware that without US involvement in WWII my country would likely be living under either Hitler’s or Stalin’s terror regime, and who therfore used to be an uncritical fan of the US in my youth; as one who was socialized and formed as an Evangelical Christian by American missionaries, spent almost five years living in the US working for a Christan ministry, and still has many dear friends in and from the US, but who now is thoroughly disillusioned with both American society/politics and the American church, I would say the attitude you describe is wrong on two counts:
- Of course you need to make changes. Even the best can always do and be better.
- But you don’t actually do it better than most. Let’s see:
- You are almost the worst at controlling violent crime, largely due to a ludicrous misinterpretation of the 2nd Amendment to your constitution;
- You may have some of the best (and best-equipped) doctors and medical facilities but you are pretty worse than most industrialized nations at providing equal and equitable healthcare access and funding to all;
- You are a leader in technological research who sends people into space and spends tons of money on your military, but your power grid and road network and telephone network are in deplorable condition;
- Your education system leaves most of its graduates shackled by debt for many years;
- Your society is hopelessly polarized and your politics controlled by the extremes of the left and the right:
- The Democrats are dominated by a destructive “progressive” agenda which seeks to deconstruct human nature as essentially male and female and plays with identity politics which divides rather than unites the country;
- The GOP is under the thumb of a serial adulterer and liar who has brought the country to the brink of political collapse and possibly civil war and whose followers know only law and order but not mercy and compassion;
- Vast swathes of the American church, instead of being a prophetic witness speaking truth to power, have got into bed with either the political left or the political right, championing their respective agendas and favouring the separation of church and state only when it suits them while trying to push their own agenda on the state when that suits them.
I could go on, but this is enough to show why in a very real sense you do it worse than most in so many areas that the meaning of American exceptionalism has become inverted, and why there is definitely room (and a desparate need) for change.
It pains me especially that many churches and leaders in my own Evangelical tradition have, in an extreme and especially bizarre form of supersessionism, appropriated the Jewish people’s status as God’s uniquely chosen people not just for the church (bad enough in view of Romans 9–11) but for the United States, claiming the promises made to Israel but disregarding most of the responsibilities such as caring for the poor and welcoming strangers. At the same time they uncritically support the State of Israel as an actor in and venue of their favourite end time scenario but have little use and sympathy for Jews as a people.
So the question posed in the title of this post is a very real one: unless the American nation and the American church drastically change direction, and do so soon, I fear for their future.
The cover image appeared here. The editor of e-International Relations could not find any licensing information so I decided to use it. If anyone claims copyright I will of course remove it.