Let’s be clear. In a secular state, a candidate’s religion should not matter. Religious affiliation should not categorically eliminate any individual from holding public office in a secular state like the United States. Freedom of religion allows our civic society to survive.
However, I am becomingly increasingly disturbed by how much religion plays a dysfunctional role in our electoral politics. The co-opting of evangelicals by one political party has diminished the Christian prophetic voice. The converse of that trend would not help matters.
The open process of electing a public official such as the President is rife with a wide range of perspectives and opinions. When our faith influences our politics, it can have a powerfully positive effect — such as advocacy for the very least of these. Or it can lead to a warped sense of election — that one candidate is anointed and the other is to be demonized. It happens on both sides.
As a Christian and as an American citizen, I need to apply Biblical principles to my political choices, while at the same time, being careful not to force religious values upon a secular state. Specifically, I want to be careful not to elevate my high view of the United States to a form of idolatry. The conflation of American exceptionalism and American Christianity is a dangerous trend in American politics. It is an idolatry that must be challenged and confronted in Christian circles. There is an inherent danger when a nation sees itself as a chosen, exceptional people destined to be the hope and salvation of the world. This conviction carries over to other faiths. When Islamic jihadists justify violent actions in the name of God, it is also a misappropriation of religious faith.
So I cannot put aside my dis-ease and discomfort with Gov. Romney’s view of American exceptionalism. Gov. Romney closed out the third and final debate on Monday night with a disturbing statement that Christians MUST disavow. He said: “America is the hope for the world.” Even a cursory familiarity with Mormon theology would reveal that Mormonism holds to a high view of America as God’s chosen nation. America replaces Israel in Mormon theology. This perspective of American exceptionalism is also found in certain sectors of evangelicalism.
There is NO Biblical support for American exceptionalism. America is NOT the new Israel. America is NOT the hope for the world. When a nation positions itself as the hope of the world, all sorts of possible abuses arise. When a nation claims that it carries out its actions in the name of God, there are no checks to that nation’s actions. A nation can act in any manner that it wishes because it is blessed and ordained by God. It is a form of jihad. Where any action can be justified because it is being carried out in the name of God. It is NOT a biblical worldview.