Is the United States “exceptional”?

Pastor J.D. discusses whether our attitude toward the United States should be one of pride or of shame.

A glimpse inside this episode:

Another way to frame this question is, What is the right attitude to have toward the United States—pride or shame?

  • I would say: the answer is yes, but not because of our genetics, race, or national character. We are sinful, weak people like everyone else and have been driven by the same greed.
  • Are we chosen by God, like a new Israel? No.
  • But, we were gifted with a Constitution that was rooted in many Christian principles that made us thrive. Ordered liberty, Judeo-Christian morality, Protestant work ethic, dignity and self-reliance, limited government with checks and balances (recognizing universal human depravity and that all leaders need checks and balances).
  • Those are not just a blessing to us, they are a blessing to anyone and they always lead to flourishing wherever they are fully embraced.
    • Islam doesn’t lead to that (or other theocracies)
    • Communism/socialism doesn’t lead to that
  • Let me reverse the question for the cynic: How else do you explain America’s prosperity? Either our founding ideas were superior or our genetics were. I go with the former. And yes, we benefited from lucky coincidences (America’s vast resources, two ocean buffers) and from sin (slavery), but neither of those alone accounts for America’s stunning successes. Our view of humanity and government is exceptional, and it is freely available to all. Look at what happened to S Korea and Japan when they adopted it.

So the United States isn’t better than other countries because of our race, or because God has chosen us. But are you saying that our Constitution makes it better than other countries?

  • The question to focus on is, “Is there anything exceptional about the ideas that America are founded on? And do those ideas uniquely contribute to human flourishing? Or are all government charters equally alike? 
  • I say, “Yes, American ideas are exceptional which has contributed to some unique moments of flourishing.”
  • The true pluralist says “no.” Saying American ideas are exceptional is like saying the colors of our flag are exceptional. It’s just preference. The only reason America has prospered is slavery and exploitation.”
  • But you can’t explain it away like that. Other civilizations have had just as much slavery/exploitation, and it hasn’t led to flourishing. Caribbean. And Thomas Sowell: no other civilization has reversed itself on slavery.
  • Ultimately, it was biblical ideas that led to the overthrow of slavery; the same ideas that caused us to flourish

I get we can be patriots and nationalists in an unhealthy way. But I think it is biblical in many ways to love the idea–or many of the ideas embodied in–America.

  • Eric Metaxas: “If we do not love America and teach our children to love America—as God loves her—we can never love the world beyond our shores and can never teach our children to do the same. And that, precisely, is our promise. That is the promise of America. It is why we came into existence and it is why we have flourished and why we must continue to do so.”
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