The combination of nationalism and religion, and the conflation of patriotism with religiosity, has always made me uncomfortable. I guess that’s why even in high school the song “God Bless America” got on my nerves more than a little. I could never quite understand why “God” or any other deity should bless or favor this particular country over any other. (It sounded vaguely like Manifest Destiny, which seemed racist to me even then.)
Post 9/11, we’ve pretty much been awash in all of the above, and it’s only now beginning to abate a little. But it’s not anywhere near gone yet. I’d say we’re just waist-deep in it now as opposed to nipple-deep in it a while back. So, I wasn’t surprised to see Kevin over at Preemptive Karma point out the Family Research Council’s latest attempt to drag out the old saw that “God” has removed “his” favor from America. Jerry Falwell was among the first to dust it off even as the dust was settling at Ground Zero. Now the FRC is extending the blame from gays to include everyone who voted Democratic this November.
It seems that Perkins is deeply concerned about the results of this year’s Congressional elections. Presumably all those who voted for Democrats were defying God’s will because “The next two years may bring the most profoundly anti-faith, family and freedom initiatives in the history of Congress.” And Perkins wants his Prayer Team to “Pray that God will multiply His prayer army during the next two years. May He train men, women and young people to be disciplined, focused, faith-filled and equipped to challenge whatever may come.” The point of this effort is clearly the 2008 Presidential elections. “Pray that God will intervene to give America a President who knows and fears Him, who will lead our nation in righteousness and call Americans to the kind of prayer and to repentance that will allow God to restore his favor to America.”
Kevin does an excellent job of unpacking various events from American history, to ask whether America “lost favor” with the deity in question a long time ago. So, no need to do that here. But Kevin’s post came to mind later when I read Vigilance, where Jim points out that none other than conservative columnist Cal Thomas (with whom I’m unlikely to agree on so much as the time of day), actually counters Perkins’ assertion pretty well.
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales…Before Him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by Him as worthless and less than nothing.” (Isaiah 40:15-16). That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for those who claim America is a “Christian nation.”
What does that mean? That we are all Christian? Of course not, because all are not.
Declaring America as special, or uniquely Christian, or more favored by God than, say, Canada, or Mexico, or even Iran, is a form of idolatry.
It also reflects an unbiblical view that God’s Kingdom and the United States have a kind of “special relationship,” the theological equivalent of the “special relationship” that has existed between the U.S. and Britain. A lot of Scripture has to be twisted to reach such a conclusion.
Only individuals can be Christian, not countries, and those who think otherwise are in danger of breaking the Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
If someone as conservative as Cal Thomas can manage to get that much, then maybe someday we will only be knee-deep in post-9/11 God-and-Country nationalism.