Wednesday, October 26, 2011


In the October 16th edition of the Los Angeles Times, is an op-ed article entitled, “America:  With God on our side,” written by Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University.
To those of us who were around in the 60’s it is, of course, reminiscent of that Bob Dylan tune with a similar title.

Bacevich reminds us that “despite a Constitution that mandates the separation of church and state, religion and politics have become inseparable.”  He goes on to describe how presidential candidates, no matter their party affiliation “regularly press God into service.”  America, they claim, has been uniquely chosen by God.

As the first illustration of his thesis, he quotes from a speech by Mitt Romney.  Romney asserts that America must, with its military might be the leader of the world, both economically and militarily and claims “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers.”

Bacevich goes on to assure us that Romney’s claims are not unique, that “No leading contender for the Republican nomination will challenge” Romney’s positions.  Whoever receives the Republican nomination will claim that President Obama does not hold this view.  And President Obama will of course, argue that he does.

The article asserts (correctly) that both the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) and the New Testament writings “provide no evidence to support this proposition.”  No, he claims that instead “the American Bible contains a de facto Third Testament.”

Bacevich appears to be asserting that this is a 21st century phenomenon, although, I’m sure he would agree that the origins of this idea go much farther back to before the beginnings of our nation.  The present lineup of Republican candidates did not invent the idea of America as somehow uniquely chosen of God.

I’ve heard this “doctrine” all of my life and like most of my contemporaries raised during WWII, I accepted it as fact.  I was taught of America’s exceptionalism in school; as Dylan says “…the history books tell it, they tell it so well…”   When I became a Christian and a member of a fundamentalist church, I found that this “doctrine” was held as strongly as the doctrine of inerrancy, even the doctrine of the atonement.  I would probably have agreed with Romney’s statement, “I will never, ever apologize for America.”

I suppose that America’s “civil religion” will always be with us, even though it leads to uncivil politics.  It’s nothing new.  All the great empires of ancient history had theirs.  Many nations today have theirs, even so-called “secular states.”

But it seems to me ironic that the people of the nation that invented the concept of religious freedom should hold so tenaciously to a religion that demands total allegiance from its national leaders.

And it seems more than ironic that those who claim the uniqueness of their religion, who claim that Jesus Christ is the only Way and that all other religious claims are false, should cling to another religion.  And one that demands our loyalty, apparently an even greater loyalty, than our loyalty to Jesus Christ.

I want to be clear.  I love my country.  I consider myself a loyal citizen of the USA.  But must that love of country translate to a syncretism of my faith in Christ with a religious faith in America?

I guess that I’ll never be elected President.  :^(

Perhaps the question should be rephrased, “Is America on God’s side?”


Allison Derton said...

Mike and I completely agree with the thought that loyalty to America has become a religion in and of itself and an idol. We can find VERY few people who would agree with this, or who are even willing to give it some thought. It has been more and more disheartening to us to see Christians putting the love of their country before the teachings of Christ. When it comes to politics, "Love your neighbor" seems to have gone out the window. My husband is a former U.S. Marine, so he does not come to this conclusion lightly. He used to be one (even as a Christian) who put love of country at least synonomous to, if not before, love of God. But Christ has completely transformed him in this area. It boggles my mind that Christians can say spiritual things through one corner of their mouth, then spew hate from the other. Thank you for your honesty. Allison

Bill Ball said...

Allison: Thanks. I really needed that. Uni and I have been extremely discouraged to see many (most?) of our Christian friends taking what we see as unChristlike positions politically. We have even felt at times like "dropping out." Your comment wwas a breath of fresh air to us.

Michelle said...

This was a nice read, Opa. And I appreciate that you called this fundamentalist concept of "loyalty to America" or more specifically to a particular party, a religion. Because it sure seems like that, more and more.

Josh and I were talking about politics the other night. We were talking about the strangeness of Christians voting for their rights, and the seemingly overwhelming focus of that subject in voting. I always hear Christians talking about the gov't stealing their money for taxes, and yadda yadda yadda and infringing on their rights. But really? What rights are OURS? What money is OURS? Jesus never gave some contraindication "Render under Caesar what is his...except if he's trying to give it to poor people." Or anything of the sort. And I really liked what Josh had to say about it: because we have the opportunity to vote, we should be voting in such a way that benefits our neighbors (the Biblical definition, ie the LEAST of these), instead of focusing on our rights. And Christians love to tout "it should be the church, money should be given of a willing heart" blah blah blah, but if we're voting for it, we're freely giving it. And since we have the means, by golly, we should vote in such a way. Why should we care how high our taxes are if that money goes to those who need it?

Anyway...I'm probably not expressing everything we discussed accurately, haha. I tend to not know much when it comes to politics. But not being selfish and instead being others-focused seems like a great way to simplify at least SOME hot topics.

Bill Ball said...

Thanks Michelle.