I am uncertain if our political leaders will embrace alternatives to the god of manifest destiny. Versions of American exceptionalism show up in virtually every politician's speech, sometimes seriously, often gratuitously. But, let me suggest a vision of God that allows us to join self-affirmation with humility and the affirmation of the giftedness of other nations.

Christian doctrine affirms the omnipresence of God, but seldom explores the lived and practical meaning of this doctrine. To say that God is omnipresent is to assert that God is present and acting in every person and situation. From this perspective, there are no boundaries either to love or revelation, that is, if we affirm that the God we worship reflects the life and teaching of Jesus. For Jesus, love was the primary spiritual principle. God's love included our enemies as well as our fellow citizens; it embraced the poor as well as the wealthy, and the forgotten as well as the privileged. Accordingly, God's presence and action are to be understood primarily in terms of love. The only power, from this perspective, that God embodies is loving power and this must ultimately include everyone, not just a select few. There are no outsiders to God's love, and this includes nations as well as individuals. God loves the U.S., and God loves every other people.

Will a change in images of God's nature change American foreign, legal, and economic policy? I can't claim to know the answer. But, I am sure that it will change our language and that's an important place to start. The words we use shape, to some extent, how we view ourselves and others in terms of their value and rights. If we affirm a God of unlimited and unbounded love, we will no longer be able to call ourselves "exceptional" without affirming the value of other nations. While the U.S. may have a particular historical vocation, so do other nations. We love our country, but so do the citizens of other lands, even those we describe as enemies and competitors. This beginning may help us, at the very least, to embody the words of Abraham Lincoln, that we pray not for God to be on our side, but to be on God's side in our personal and national lives.

While gratefully singing our National Anthem this Fourth of July, we might also join in singing "This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land" as a call to affirm all the peoples of our land and an inspiration to truly seek liberty and justice for all. We might also raise our voices to the "Song of Peace" (also known as "This is My Song" to the tune of Finlandia):

This is my song, oh God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
This is my song, thou God of all the nations;
a song of peace for their land and for mine.

This is my song, oh God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
This is my song, thou God of all the nations;
a song of peace for their land and for mine.

This year, I will sing the traditional patriotic hymns and I will honor those who have served our nation in war, but I will also sing hymns of peace, and add peace crusaders and justice seekers to my hymns of gratitude for this great land. God bless America! God bless all the earth's peoples! God bless our good earth!