“Americans have some messed up theology about America.” ~a friend in conversation about this research
On July 1, LifeWay Research posted an article entitled, “Americans Optimistic About Nation’s Future; Most Say U.S. Has Special Bond With God.” The findings included a response to this statement, “God has a special relationships with the USA.” Among all Americans 53% agreed.
But, among evangelical Christians the figure is 67% agreeing. And, “[a]mong evangelicals 45 and older, the share soars to 71 percent.”
On July 14, LifeWay Research released an article entitled, “American Evangelicals Stand Behind Israel.” They found 70 percent of evangelicals believe “God has a special relationship with the modern nation of Israel.” Sixty-nine percent of evangelicals see the formation of modern Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, while less than half (46 percent) of Americans generally hold that position.
Leaving aside the prophetic aspects for the moment, there are two question that stare us down: How is it that nearly as many American evangelicals believe God has a special relationship with America (67%) as with modern Israel (70%)? How is it that evangelicals 45 and older believe that relationship with America to be 71%?
Most likely not because of any scripture. Merely reciting “Righteousness exalts a nation” is not the same thing as being favored by God. In his book, “Land of the Gods: How a Scottish Landscape Was Sanctified to Become Arthur’s,” Philip Coppens writes:
In our 21st century, 400 years after being colonised by Europeans and nearly 250 after the Declaration of Independence the United States still feels it is specifically favoured by “God”…The United States are not alone; various other countries believe the same. And, originally, it seems various cultures believed this: from Easter Island, to Egypt, to Sumer, etc. In all these cases, past and present, the belief in a special relationship between God or the Gods and the people, and hence the nation, married the people to the land they lived. (p 9)
France, England, Portugal and Spain could be added to such a list.
All of these nations have the same claim as the United States. That is to say, none. It is one thing to acknowledge God’s blessings on a people. It is quite another to claim “favorite son.”
Most could make a strong biblical case for Israel being favored by God as a theme of the Old Testament. Many could make a biblical case for Israel being favored by God in the New Testament era, i.e., now. But to make a case for God favoring America like He favored/favors Israel? The interpretative gymnastics break the legs, arms and spine.
This view of the U.S. can be very problematic. It can lead to carte blanche thinking where any decision made by the country–especially militarily–is unquestioned. The question is not whether the U.S. is favored by God now, but whether we ever were. Believe in “American exceptionalism” as you wish, but do not claim a divine mandate.
The glorious scene of Revelation 5 is captured thus:
And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth. (v 9, 10, HCSB)
This is the essence of the Apostle Peter’s admonition to “you who believe”:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9, 10, HSCB)
God is plundering the kingdoms of humanity for the Kingdom of God.
American Christians let us not wrap the cross in Old Glory. Rather, let us chase with abandon every nation, tribe, people and tongue in the light of the gospel that the Kingdom of God may be more readily seen on earth.
Those are my thoughts. Yours?
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