America is the hope of the world?

Posted: October 24, 2012 in evangelical history, next evangelicalism, Social Justice, Uncategorized

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.

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Comments
  1. Hector garfias says:

    Thank you Professor Rah! I have been disturbed by the political dicourse and the arrogance of one or the other candidates in terms of deciding for others in the world.

  2. hvanderbijl says:

    Absolutely, but if God wants to use America as an instrument of hope in the world we should pursue that calling with humility. Pride comes before a fall, and America will fall one day; but i think there is much to be proud of before that day comes. I was not born in America, my family immigrated here when I was a kid, so I feel like I can say with some objectivity that America is one of the most wonderful countries the world has ever seen.

    I don’t agree with the way Obama has presented the US the world, e.g. returning the bust of Winston Churchill to Britain. That was rude at best.

    • The bust of Churchill was on loan and was returned on the date that was requested by
      Britain.

      • Hanno says:

        Hi Judy,

        Sounds like it was complicated because there are two busts of Churchill and there was an extension on the loan and so forth. Regardless of the details, I guess its easy to get sucked into these petty controversies. I’ll be really glad when this election is over because I feel pressured to pick a side and worship the one candidate and denigrate the other. Am I the only one? This is really frustrating. Thank you for the fact check.

        Blessings

  3. Ms Sandra Burton says:

    Prof Rah, currently I am reading “Many Colors” as part of my curriculum, Part I caused a curiosity to hear further of your opinion. I have felt torn in how to vote based on my biblical views. I have made up my mind but I was still perplexed by the dialogue used between the candidates. This race is going to be close, however, I can stand assured that God is ultimately in control.

  4. mike helbert says:

    Thank you for articulating something that many of us think and feel. Yes, America is a great place to live. There are opportunities here that simply don’t exist in other places. But, when we try to qualify our existence as something we are not, i.e. Chosen by God, (does anyone remember Manifest Destiny?), we are in serious danger.

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