I’ve been goaded a bit by a recent sermon to think about the tendency of many, including myself, to conflate patriotism/American nationalism with Christianity.
Point taken – our allegiance is to Christ, first and foremost, and we shouldn’t let any notions of nationalism hinder that.
20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
With that important point made, I feel like there’s also an important counterpoint to be made, in the interests of standing up for truth and history, and that is America’s unique relationship with God. It is a heritage that we shouldn’t just discard. (Just a bit of warning, if you try searching for some of the rest of this stuff online, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit-hole of Mormonism, they’re heavily into this stuff – but as with my opinion on the rest of Mormon beliefs, I think it’s a mix of things that are true with some weird things layered on top.)
America, unlike any other country in history I am aware of through back to ancient Israel, is based on covenants of fellow citizens to each other before God. I will give just a few examples:
- The Pilgrims, when they reached the new world, made a covenant with each other before God.
- The Declaration of Independence is a covenant of its signatories, before God, acting on behalf of the states and territories they represented.
- Federalism – the idea of states binding themselves around common causes – is very much in the idea and spirit of a covenant. The constitution is the actual charter that they have bound themselves to. Many of the states also have constitutions that are explicitly covenanted in nature. As an aside, both the Declaration and the Constitution are based off of John Locke’s very theologically based philosophies.
In addition, there are numerous times when God has shown his faithfulness strongly to these covenants, especially at some our most important crux points:
- General Washington’s army was saved miraculously several times, after ordering them to attend days of prayer and fasting, appeal to God, and give thanks for all they had. His retreat from Long Island with his troops involved several sudden changes in weather that they credited God for using to saving them.
- Lincoln’s leadership foundered throughout the beginning of the Civil War. He specifically wondered if God was on the cause he was fighting for, and prayed for a sign of whether he needed to change. Days later the battle plans for Lee’s planned invasion of the north fell Union hands, and the Union won the battle of Antietam. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation specifically in response to these signs, changing the focus of the war from “preserving the union” to “ending slavery” – and remarkably close in timing to when the Union started winning the war. Lincoln would later call for national fasting and prayer to rededicate our country to God.
All of this is to say that America’s foundations are specifically built in covenant with God and the people and causes of our founding were supported by God. Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America discussed how religion was intertwined with everything in the country, and the founding fathers themselves wrote constantly that the key to preserving a Republic would be the morality of our people. Currently, we live in an era post-sexual-revolution, of mass-abortion, and where society is not only increasingly secular, but oftentimes blatantly hostile to the very notion of religion. I am not so certain God’s favor still rests with us, and I don’t think we should repeat the Israelites’ mistakes of assuming that the prior favor with our country would carry over forever despite our sins.