Sometimes when we identify with a certain group or sports team, we may sometimes view what we’re apart of through a biased lens. Viewing these things through an honest lens is difficult because of how they contribute to our identity and how we do things.
Take something as small as sports where a team like the New England Patriots were caught cheating in games on numerous occasions. My bias shows here a bit, too because, as a New Yorker, the Patriots are the worst; however, if you were to talk to a Patriots fan about their cheating scandals, it may not be seen as big of a deal as it would to the teams and fans who were affected by the cheating.
From that small example, you can move to bigger examples such as ethnicity and even religion, where there are Christians who minimize the negative things the church has done towards others. As a Christian, I know that the negatives have been used as an attack against the truth, but sometimes we disregard the effects of our sins on others because of how it makes us appear. As much as I can focus on any one of these things, what I want to focus on is how we view America and how that view is affected by a specific bias that goes by the name of American exceptionalism.
In short, American exceptionalism is a view that sees America as the most unique nation that has ever existed. It’s not hard to see why this would be alluring with our values of democracy and freedom, as well as the number of people who come to America for a better life. I also don’t discount that whether we like it or not, America occupies an important geopolitical seat in our world today as noted by our place among the UN and as a world power. I do believe it’s valid to recognize that God has allowed this country to occupy that space.
But by being in that place and having the values we do, we can become biased towards America and not view things realistically. When we look at American history, like any other history, it is easy to sanitize what took place. So much so, that it’s hard to come to grips with the reality that our history was more difficult and nuanced than we have been taught. America was established by ingenuity, intelligence, and a desire for freedom. It was also established by colonialism, imperialism, and an expansionism that destroyed the cultures and habitats of those who were here before us.
As Christians, why is this so important to keep in mind? I believe there are very real stumbling blocks to the truth that are rooted in acts and patterns of history. If we as believers subscribe to a nationalism and exceptionalism that elevates America to a status that God doesn’t view it in, it will affect everything from the way we pray, to the way we engage our fellow citizens of America as citizens for the Kingdom.
A global perspective will help us to ground our expectations for America. Making America exceptional has bled into the church by how we view our country as the new Israel that God has made a covenant with, and things will get better for us if we follow 2 Chronicles 7:14, which will lead to unmet expectations because God has not made the covenant of Israel with us.
Instead, we are a nation that God has elevated for a specific reason just as He did with nations before us, and with that lens we can look at the positives and negatives of America. We can do this instead of minimizing the negatives and maximizing the positives when we talk about America as a nation. We can view our place on Earth more accurately in light of the other nations that God is also using the body of Christ in, in spite of any opposition or way these nations operate.
May we have a renewed perspective of our country, wherever we may live, so that it informs how we think and live our lives as part of God’s Kingdom. What are your thoughts on this? Chime in with your comments below!