Why America Is So Great

In taking a look at my trackbacks, I came across the blog of Cameron Buettel, an Australian living in Denmark. He wrote a post entitled Why America Is So Great!. After conceding to his anti-American friends and countrymen some of the problems of America and its global influence, he makes three observations:

Observation 1
One thing I continually find to be overwhelmingly different in the USA is the common belief that there are still things worth fighting for. Right now there is a truth war going on over the Christian Gospel. In both Europe and Australia, the passivity of professing Christians concerning the fundamental truths of the Christian faith has allowed the false gospels of life enhancement and post modern philosophy to have an open door into mainstream evangelical churches. This has also happened in America but at least there is a fight going on over it. We seem to roll over and play dead when it comes to defending the once for all delivered glorious Gospel purchased with the precious blood of Christ. Meanwhile in America, there are still great preachers who are leading a growing phenomenon of churches and young preachers who will not compromise on the purity of the true Christian Gospel. This is important for all of our sakes. It is also a call to men who have relinquished the roles of priest in their home and guardian in their church to man up, realize that there are hills worth dying on, identify those hills, and go out there and fight to the death.

Observation 2
For many years I have heard the anti-American tirades of many a man on the street and sometimes even in the pulpit. There is no doubt that there is legitimate criticism that can be levelled at the American culture – not least of which their disastrous choice of a radical pro-abortionist President. People certainly vary from state to state and demographic to demographic but I have to say that when it comes to Christian hospitality and compassionate love, I have never experienced it on the level that I have in the local church communities that dot the American landscape. This is something that has humbled me in my travels and caused me to reexamine my own life and conduct among the body of Christ. So instead of taking up the popular pastime of "yank bashing" maybe it's time to at least try to adopt one of the finer points of their culture. . . .

Observation 3
May we never forget that America is the engine room of missions giving, missionary activity, and theological training. The global blessing that this has been is a sleeping giant that those of us who are Christians living outside the USA take for granted. (It also needs to be said, in fairness, that much of what is bad has also emmanated from the USA and we have been quick to embrace many of these in the name of pragmatism). In spite of all the flaws, there is a lot for us to be thankful for when it comes to American contributions to the Great Commission. And pray for the great arsenal of faithful preachers as they persevere in the "Truth War" that rages over there.

The focus here is on American Christianity, which he finds famous, though it’s interesting how he laments the impact of America’s religious pragmatism. I criticize contemporary American culture and contemporary American religion all the time–while still being something of a flag waver–but it was refreshing to get this perspective. Along these lines, what else is great about America? (I’d especially like to hear from denizens of other countries, including expatriates such as FWS.) [OK, we'll give critics a shot later.]

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    What else is great about America. (1.) Manned space exploration. It’s not that we went to the Moon, specifically, but just the fact that we left the Earth and journeyed away into the heavens above us. For the first time in the history of mankind. With the test launch of the Ares 1X this morning, we’re on our way out there again. (2.) Art. During WWII, a small group in the U.S. Army called the “Monuments Men” literally risked life and limb to literally save European culture. After WWII, America became the center of the art world – in part because Europe was in ruins, and in part because of the daring of our abstract artists. Today, there is hardly a small town or city in the U.S. that hasn’t created a fine arts center or program on its own initiative.

  • Tom Hering

    What else is great about America. (1.) Manned space exploration. It’s not that we went to the Moon, specifically, but just the fact that we left the Earth and journeyed away into the heavens above us. For the first time in the history of mankind. With the test launch of the Ares 1X this morning, we’re on our way out there again. (2.) Art. During WWII, a small group in the U.S. Army called the “Monuments Men” literally risked life and limb to literally save European culture. After WWII, America became the center of the art world – in part because Europe was in ruins, and in part because of the daring of our abstract artists. Today, there is hardly a small town or city in the U.S. that hasn’t created a fine arts center or program on its own initiative.

  • Tom Hering

    (3.) Food. Because of our “green revolution” (which is criticized, both fairly and unfairly, today) and our charity, we have fed many of the world’s hungry people for decades.

  • Tom Hering

    (3.) Food. Because of our “green revolution” (which is criticized, both fairly and unfairly, today) and our charity, we have fed many of the world’s hungry people for decades.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    I appreciate the religious tolerance and openness in America. And I don’t mean the legislation, which I think is pretty much the same in Finland nowadays. It struck me big time when we were travelling on the East coast in 2008 from NY to Georgia. E.g. the bumper stickers: the back of a car might not be the place where I’d put Jesus’ name in, but you NEVER see anything like “Our family loves Jesus” text here. In fact, you hardly see anything that shows your personal conviction in some other context, either.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    I appreciate the religious tolerance and openness in America. And I don’t mean the legislation, which I think is pretty much the same in Finland nowadays. It struck me big time when we were travelling on the East coast in 2008 from NY to Georgia. E.g. the bumper stickers: the back of a car might not be the place where I’d put Jesus’ name in, but you NEVER see anything like “Our family loves Jesus” text here. In fact, you hardly see anything that shows your personal conviction in some other context, either.

  • Evelyn

    After living overseas for seven years, I can point to many great things about America. The biggest one, I think, is our committment to the fact that every person is valuable. This plays out in our extensive services to disabled and handicapped people, and even in our attitude toward customer service. Sadly, our committment to life is eroding on many fronts.

  • Evelyn

    After living overseas for seven years, I can point to many great things about America. The biggest one, I think, is our committment to the fact that every person is valuable. This plays out in our extensive services to disabled and handicapped people, and even in our attitude toward customer service. Sadly, our committment to life is eroding on many fronts.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    As a commenter that is also a ghastly outsider, and that has often been critical about some aspects of the US, it’s culture and influence, I’d say that what I do admire is the encouragement and openess to vigorous debate. I also admire that you celebrate your heroes – though we might differ on who the heroes should be!

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    As a commenter that is also a ghastly outsider, and that has often been critical about some aspects of the US, it’s culture and influence, I’d say that what I do admire is the encouragement and openess to vigorous debate. I also admire that you celebrate your heroes – though we might differ on who the heroes should be!

  • Booklover

    “After living overseas for seven years, I can point to many great things about America.”

    Evelyn, please elaborate. I tend to think of the negatives at times, and I would love to hear of more great things.

  • Booklover

    “After living overseas for seven years, I can point to many great things about America.”

    Evelyn, please elaborate. I tend to think of the negatives at times, and I would love to hear of more great things.

  • Tom Hering

    Our heroes this morning are the men and women of the Constellation Program. Watching the launch of the 327 ft. Ares 1X (live on the NASA TV website) made me feel like a kid again. It was a beautiful flight; our first launch of a new space vehicle since 1981. From the Earth, back to the Moon, and on to Mars – at last!

  • Tom Hering

    Our heroes this morning are the men and women of the Constellation Program. Watching the launch of the 327 ft. Ares 1X (live on the NASA TV website) made me feel like a kid again. It was a beautiful flight; our first launch of a new space vehicle since 1981. From the Earth, back to the Moon, and on to Mars – at last!

  • Peter Leavitt

    America is engaged with the world, for the most part diplomatically, though when necessary with force. We saved Europe from Hitler and Stalin, Asia from Japanese and Communist aggression, Bosnia, and Kosovo from Serbian aggression, and Iraq from the mercies of Saddam Hussein. At present we are the key player in the war against the fanatical jihadis. Since the Twentieth Century our efforts have amounted to a Pax Americana. The amount of blood and treasure involved in this is tremendous.

    Recently, a WWII friend of mine who fought and was severely wounded in Manhay Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge made a trip at age 91 to Manhay for a 65th anniversary celebration of the town’s liberation. He tells me that the residents often were in tears thanking him and other American warriors for what they did.

  • Peter Leavitt

    America is engaged with the world, for the most part diplomatically, though when necessary with force. We saved Europe from Hitler and Stalin, Asia from Japanese and Communist aggression, Bosnia, and Kosovo from Serbian aggression, and Iraq from the mercies of Saddam Hussein. At present we are the key player in the war against the fanatical jihadis. Since the Twentieth Century our efforts have amounted to a Pax Americana. The amount of blood and treasure involved in this is tremendous.

    Recently, a WWII friend of mine who fought and was severely wounded in Manhay Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge made a trip at age 91 to Manhay for a 65th anniversary celebration of the town’s liberation. He tells me that the residents often were in tears thanking him and other American warriors for what they did.

  • Kirk

    My observations from living overseas:

    1.) We don’t use squatty toilets
    2.) Bacon is widely available
    3.) Our ketchup > other nations’ ketchup

  • Kirk

    My observations from living overseas:

    1.) We don’t use squatty toilets
    2.) Bacon is widely available
    3.) Our ketchup > other nations’ ketchup

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    #9: Well, maybe your ketchup > other ketchup, but your tomato sauce < other tomato sauce :)

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    #9: Well, maybe your ketchup > other ketchup, but your tomato sauce < other tomato sauce :)

  • Kirk

    Eh, we’re not perfect. What can I say?

  • Kirk

    Eh, we’re not perfect. What can I say?

  • Richard

    I lived in Germany for almost 20 years. Great–big grocery stores;
    Not-so-great: man, are there a LOT of overweight people here.
    Horrible–American beer (generally–let’s hear it for microbreweries.)

  • Richard

    I lived in Germany for almost 20 years. Great–big grocery stores;
    Not-so-great: man, are there a LOT of overweight people here.
    Horrible–American beer (generally–let’s hear it for microbreweries.)

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Thanks, Tom, for the info on Ares 1-X. I enjoyed watching the video at the NASA site.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Thanks, Tom, for the info on Ares 1-X. I enjoyed watching the video at the NASA site.

  • fws

    when I see the american flag, my mind goes to ideals like freedom, human dignity, republican constitutional government, opposition to torture and other arbitrary unlawful government activities, the rule of law. If mayhem ever broke out in brasil, I would like to think the flag would represent a “safe haven” not just for me as an american citizen but for others.

    There is NO other country I am aware of where flag=ideals. where patriotism=ideals.

    It is true that we now are a country that tortures. But those ideals remain, and to be true to them is to be a true patriot, especially when they supercede party affiliation.

  • fws

    when I see the american flag, my mind goes to ideals like freedom, human dignity, republican constitutional government, opposition to torture and other arbitrary unlawful government activities, the rule of law. If mayhem ever broke out in brasil, I would like to think the flag would represent a “safe haven” not just for me as an american citizen but for others.

    There is NO other country I am aware of where flag=ideals. where patriotism=ideals.

    It is true that we now are a country that tortures. But those ideals remain, and to be true to them is to be a true patriot, especially when they supercede party affiliation.

  • fws

    also the ability to be self critical can be at times unique. we tried hard to imitate the japanese when we thought they would overpower us economically. we found that they had no magic bullets and that one certain dr demming , an american, was given alot of credit by them for making them an industrial powerhouse.

    we believe in standards and norms, industrially and otherwise, both religious and nonreligious alike. this makes society more ordered, but also has some rather wierd consequences as well. a two edged sword when carried, as often is the case, to extremes or when applied to human beings. we even seem to have standards for non-conformity.

  • fws

    also the ability to be self critical can be at times unique. we tried hard to imitate the japanese when we thought they would overpower us economically. we found that they had no magic bullets and that one certain dr demming , an american, was given alot of credit by them for making them an industrial powerhouse.

    we believe in standards and norms, industrially and otherwise, both religious and nonreligious alike. this makes society more ordered, but also has some rather wierd consequences as well. a two edged sword when carried, as often is the case, to extremes or when applied to human beings. we even seem to have standards for non-conformity.

  • Partizan

    I’m currently living in the former Yugoslavia, and the find that the most amazing part of America is it’s ability to give everyone the sense that ethnicity doesn’t matter. In Bosnia, Croats, Muslims, and Serbs are at each others throats. in Chicago, they drink coffee and smoke together at the same cafes and tell jokes. And if you ask them, “Well, why can’t you just do that here?”, they’ll answer, “It just doesn’t work that way.”

  • Partizan

    I’m currently living in the former Yugoslavia, and the find that the most amazing part of America is it’s ability to give everyone the sense that ethnicity doesn’t matter. In Bosnia, Croats, Muslims, and Serbs are at each others throats. in Chicago, they drink coffee and smoke together at the same cafes and tell jokes. And if you ask them, “Well, why can’t you just do that here?”, they’ll answer, “It just doesn’t work that way.”

  • Peter Leavitt

    Excellent, Partizan

  • Peter Leavitt

    Excellent, Partizan

  • Booklover

    Thank you, Tom. I wouldn’t have even known about the Ares 1X if it hadn’t been for you. Our news is positively glutted with coverage of H1N1 virus and vaccination, and with the “left-right” catfight. I feel sorry for our children who are bombarded with the same inane news day after day after day. Thank you for opening us up to what is actually interesting and enlightening.

  • Booklover

    Thank you, Tom. I wouldn’t have even known about the Ares 1X if it hadn’t been for you. Our news is positively glutted with coverage of H1N1 virus and vaccination, and with the “left-right” catfight. I feel sorry for our children who are bombarded with the same inane news day after day after day. Thank you for opening us up to what is actually interesting and enlightening.

  • http://sezeye.blogspot.com/ Stephen Fleming

    Your post is, I’m sorry to say, exactly what’s wrong with contemporary Christianity. The entire blog is full of blind spots, assumptions and outright fallacies.
    For example, you say, “..there are still great preachers who are leading a growing phenomenon of churches and young preachers who will not compromise on the purity of the true Christian Gospel.” By implication, it’s a “purity” and “truth” as YOU define it. It evinces a problem common among conservatives, both political and religious, everywhere. You think you know the “purity” of the “true” Christian Gospel. That is an illusion. Just as the Islamic extremist thinks that he has some insight into the “truth” and “purity” of the Koran, you are equally misled. And, potentially, more dangerous. Whenever zealots begin talking about “purity” it’s time to watch out. “Purity” simply means that you agree with some ideas and disagree with others. Your thinking is no purer than any other human. Your brand of believing, dated, anachronistic and at times, truly hypocritical as it is, is no more pure or true than the millions of variations that have come and gone through the ages. What appears pure to you might well turn out to be blasphemy. Your hubris is a form of spiritual pride and it endangers more than just your soul.
    The history of Christianity is one of endless compromising over who gets to say what is pure and true. Believe me, those young “preachers” are for the most part, free agents, they get to make it up as they go along. Each one screaming that they know what righteousness is. For my part, I’m beginning to long for the good old days when real leaders in real denominations made it clear that somewhere there were actual scholars in charge. And that involves a whole lot more than quoting whatever piece of scripture that fits the bill. They claim to be full of the Holy Spirit but too many times it turns out to be a get-rich-quick scheme or some form assembly line salvation. If American Christendom is so holy, then why has the country drifted for forty years with most of its population declining in health, wealth and education while producing Billionaires aplenty?
    The statement that, “It is also a call to men who have relinquished the roles of priest in their home and guardian in their church to man up, realize that there are hills worth dying on, identify those hills, and go out there and fight to the death. “ What pure reactionary hokum. That could have been said by Osama Bin Laden. Are you sure you didn’t plagiarize it from one of his tapes? Why not just advocate suicide booming? “Man up”? Oh dear, someone has a real masculinity issues. That’s just what we need, more macho crusaders willing to become martyrs. Some people have accused me of being paranoid about the possibility of reactionary crusaders plotting the seizure of our atomic arsenal. With quotes like that, I rest my case.
    You are also unable to conceal your politics when you mention the recent election in the U.S.A. I can only guess that you had a different notion in 2000 when a so-call believer came to power. That fiasco should have given congregations everywhere at least some pause. But no, conservative literalists and their neo-conservative political allies have simply redoubled their efforts to turn their religious identity into an instrument of power. As long as the so-called Christian Right are the dupes of corporate power, the military-industrial complex and mega-missionaries, they do nothing but drag the world backwards. Their efforts are more damaging in the long run, than any Islamic terrorist cell, because they enjoy the freedom to organize, plan and finance whatever agenda that their bible belt college graduates dream up.
    “May we never forget that America is the engine room of missions giving, missionary activity, and theological training.” All of this sounds great unless you happen to the target of this kind of cultural brainwashing. If a Muslim had said it, we would be investigating where his funding came from. Exporting you beliefs onto others is a form of colonization which usually ends up destroying the fabric of that culture. The Native Americans, the Australian Aborigines, the Pacific Islanders just to mention a few who are probably familiar to you. Our great-grandfathers might be forgiven for their missionary zeal because of their misguided notion of the peoples of the world. We have no such excuse.
    It’s fun to visit a country where folks speak the same language and treat visitors hospitably (as long as they DO speak the same language!) It must be that much more fun when the people who entertain you are motivated to send you back to your own country willing to carry their message. They love to sweet talk any innocent soul with the Blood of Christ as long as they eventually get to export their brand of belief around the world. It’s obvious that you bought the whole line.
    I say ‘well done’ to those neighbors of yours who don’t buy the American brand of reactionary radicalism. They’re right to be skeptical, you should try it.
    Stephen Fleming
    Roswell, New Mexico, USA

  • http://sezeye.blogspot.com/ Stephen Fleming

    Your post is, I’m sorry to say, exactly what’s wrong with contemporary Christianity. The entire blog is full of blind spots, assumptions and outright fallacies.
    For example, you say, “..there are still great preachers who are leading a growing phenomenon of churches and young preachers who will not compromise on the purity of the true Christian Gospel.” By implication, it’s a “purity” and “truth” as YOU define it. It evinces a problem common among conservatives, both political and religious, everywhere. You think you know the “purity” of the “true” Christian Gospel. That is an illusion. Just as the Islamic extremist thinks that he has some insight into the “truth” and “purity” of the Koran, you are equally misled. And, potentially, more dangerous. Whenever zealots begin talking about “purity” it’s time to watch out. “Purity” simply means that you agree with some ideas and disagree with others. Your thinking is no purer than any other human. Your brand of believing, dated, anachronistic and at times, truly hypocritical as it is, is no more pure or true than the millions of variations that have come and gone through the ages. What appears pure to you might well turn out to be blasphemy. Your hubris is a form of spiritual pride and it endangers more than just your soul.
    The history of Christianity is one of endless compromising over who gets to say what is pure and true. Believe me, those young “preachers” are for the most part, free agents, they get to make it up as they go along. Each one screaming that they know what righteousness is. For my part, I’m beginning to long for the good old days when real leaders in real denominations made it clear that somewhere there were actual scholars in charge. And that involves a whole lot more than quoting whatever piece of scripture that fits the bill. They claim to be full of the Holy Spirit but too many times it turns out to be a get-rich-quick scheme or some form assembly line salvation. If American Christendom is so holy, then why has the country drifted for forty years with most of its population declining in health, wealth and education while producing Billionaires aplenty?
    The statement that, “It is also a call to men who have relinquished the roles of priest in their home and guardian in their church to man up, realize that there are hills worth dying on, identify those hills, and go out there and fight to the death. “ What pure reactionary hokum. That could have been said by Osama Bin Laden. Are you sure you didn’t plagiarize it from one of his tapes? Why not just advocate suicide booming? “Man up”? Oh dear, someone has a real masculinity issues. That’s just what we need, more macho crusaders willing to become martyrs. Some people have accused me of being paranoid about the possibility of reactionary crusaders plotting the seizure of our atomic arsenal. With quotes like that, I rest my case.
    You are also unable to conceal your politics when you mention the recent election in the U.S.A. I can only guess that you had a different notion in 2000 when a so-call believer came to power. That fiasco should have given congregations everywhere at least some pause. But no, conservative literalists and their neo-conservative political allies have simply redoubled their efforts to turn their religious identity into an instrument of power. As long as the so-called Christian Right are the dupes of corporate power, the military-industrial complex and mega-missionaries, they do nothing but drag the world backwards. Their efforts are more damaging in the long run, than any Islamic terrorist cell, because they enjoy the freedom to organize, plan and finance whatever agenda that their bible belt college graduates dream up.
    “May we never forget that America is the engine room of missions giving, missionary activity, and theological training.” All of this sounds great unless you happen to the target of this kind of cultural brainwashing. If a Muslim had said it, we would be investigating where his funding came from. Exporting you beliefs onto others is a form of colonization which usually ends up destroying the fabric of that culture. The Native Americans, the Australian Aborigines, the Pacific Islanders just to mention a few who are probably familiar to you. Our great-grandfathers might be forgiven for their missionary zeal because of their misguided notion of the peoples of the world. We have no such excuse.
    It’s fun to visit a country where folks speak the same language and treat visitors hospitably (as long as they DO speak the same language!) It must be that much more fun when the people who entertain you are motivated to send you back to your own country willing to carry their message. They love to sweet talk any innocent soul with the Blood of Christ as long as they eventually get to export their brand of belief around the world. It’s obvious that you bought the whole line.
    I say ‘well done’ to those neighbors of yours who don’t buy the American brand of reactionary radicalism. They’re right to be skeptical, you should try it.
    Stephen Fleming
    Roswell, New Mexico, USA


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