Is America exceptional, or what?

The latest ideological buzzword is “exceptional,” as in, “America is exceptional.”  Republicans Mitt Romney, Mike Pence, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich are accusing Democrats–and President Obama in particular–of not believing in “American exceptionalism.”  See this rather biased article for an overview of the phenomenon: Conservatives’ new focus: America, the exceptional.

What does it mean to say that America is exceptional?  Does it mean, as the article says, that America is the best of all countries, or does it really mean something different?  What IS exceptional about America, and what is not?

Isn’t it true that conservatives tend to be more positively patriotic, while liberals tend to be patriotic in the sense that “it’s patriotic to criticize what is wrong”?  Why is that?

And what does all of this mean from a Christian point of view? At what point does patriotism turn into pride and idolatry?

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.

  • http://joshschroeder.blogspot.com Josh Schroder

    Rush Limbaugh does a really good job of explaining “American exceptionalism.” He says it’s nothing to do with race, genetics, that God favors us more, or anything like that. The history of the world is tyranny and oppression. The United States has so greatly prospered (being a relatively new nation) because of our freedom, free markets, individual responsibility and so forth. It’s not that we are better than anyone else, but that the way our nation was established allowed us to go from small upstart to the richest, most prosperous nation on the planet (and in record time).

    And while I composed that off the top of my head, I think that Rush has explicitly articulated every single point I just rattled off.

  • http://joshschroeder.blogspot.com Josh Schroder

    Rush Limbaugh does a really good job of explaining “American exceptionalism.” He says it’s nothing to do with race, genetics, that God favors us more, or anything like that. The history of the world is tyranny and oppression. The United States has so greatly prospered (being a relatively new nation) because of our freedom, free markets, individual responsibility and so forth. It’s not that we are better than anyone else, but that the way our nation was established allowed us to go from small upstart to the richest, most prosperous nation on the planet (and in record time).

    And while I composed that off the top of my head, I think that Rush has explicitly articulated every single point I just rattled off.

  • ELB

    “Back in the day” we used to teach history from the Biblical perspective that all history is under the providence of God. We started world history with Genesis and we observed that while we eventually had information from other sources, the Bible revealed God’s hand in preserving the promise of the Messiah among the nations. God chose the descendants of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob among whom to especially preserve this truth. They were special in that respect – not chosen because they were special, but special because they were chosen. This is shown clearly in many places in Scripture, but especially when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joshua outside Jericho and said that even then he did not fight on the side of Israel, but on the side of the most high God.
    Outside of Scripture we can only conjecture at God’s hand in the way Rome had many characteristics that facilitated the spread of Christianity, the way that events like the Battle of Tours appear to be providential if not miraculous in preserving the faith from those who would obliterate it (in that case, the Moors).
    Such a view of history always sees nations as sinful, both in the individuals that make them up and in corporate actions. But we can also observe that some nations are more godly than others, both individually and corporately. In short, we can observe that some nations are better than others. In the United States we have the coincidence of a nation blessed beyond words with wealth of all kinds as well as at times in its history being particularly godly.
    Godliness is not a governmental function, of course. Nevertheless the IDEA of America involves a constitution that allows the gospel free course. The founding fathers succeeded better than others in devising a system of government that would “break and hinder” the evil will of both government and citizens.
    The result is a confluence of freedom, unfettered economic energy, great natural resources, personal liberty AND personal responsibility etc. that is exceptional. It is also an undeserved blessing.

  • ELB

    “Back in the day” we used to teach history from the Biblical perspective that all history is under the providence of God. We started world history with Genesis and we observed that while we eventually had information from other sources, the Bible revealed God’s hand in preserving the promise of the Messiah among the nations. God chose the descendants of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob among whom to especially preserve this truth. They were special in that respect – not chosen because they were special, but special because they were chosen. This is shown clearly in many places in Scripture, but especially when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joshua outside Jericho and said that even then he did not fight on the side of Israel, but on the side of the most high God.
    Outside of Scripture we can only conjecture at God’s hand in the way Rome had many characteristics that facilitated the spread of Christianity, the way that events like the Battle of Tours appear to be providential if not miraculous in preserving the faith from those who would obliterate it (in that case, the Moors).
    Such a view of history always sees nations as sinful, both in the individuals that make them up and in corporate actions. But we can also observe that some nations are more godly than others, both individually and corporately. In short, we can observe that some nations are better than others. In the United States we have the coincidence of a nation blessed beyond words with wealth of all kinds as well as at times in its history being particularly godly.
    Godliness is not a governmental function, of course. Nevertheless the IDEA of America involves a constitution that allows the gospel free course. The founding fathers succeeded better than others in devising a system of government that would “break and hinder” the evil will of both government and citizens.
    The result is a confluence of freedom, unfettered economic energy, great natural resources, personal liberty AND personal responsibility etc. that is exceptional. It is also an undeserved blessing.

  • ELB

    While the prosperity and exceptionalism is a blessing, it is a mediate blessing, one which God has given through means. This is why it is important to uphold the idea that America, as well as other nations in history at times, has enjoyed an exceptional place in the world.
    It is because of the IDEA of America. This includes its constitution, the recognition of the importance of personal morality and responsibility if a land with such freedom is to continue, and the importance of Christian faith to the people, though not to the government.
    Growing up across the border from Tijuana, Mexico, I could easily see the difference in the IDEA between the two countries. Baja California has many of the same resources as the U.S. state of California. The people are as intelligent. But there is a totally different IDEA of how government and society and personal responsibility should be ordered.
    Those who deny the esceptionalism of America seem to think that those who live here have just won “life’s lottery” and that there is nothing about the IDEA of America that has been instrumental (especially not as an instrument of God) in making this country great. To go down that path is to acknowledge such principles as the fallenness of human nature, the need for personal restraint and responsibility, the fact that there is not a gifted elite better equipped to make our decisions for us, the fact that we should be equal under the law, etc. etc. etc.
    Those who oppose the idea of American exceptionalism, in my experience end up opposing, being enemies of the IDEA of America.

  • ELB

    While the prosperity and exceptionalism is a blessing, it is a mediate blessing, one which God has given through means. This is why it is important to uphold the idea that America, as well as other nations in history at times, has enjoyed an exceptional place in the world.
    It is because of the IDEA of America. This includes its constitution, the recognition of the importance of personal morality and responsibility if a land with such freedom is to continue, and the importance of Christian faith to the people, though not to the government.
    Growing up across the border from Tijuana, Mexico, I could easily see the difference in the IDEA between the two countries. Baja California has many of the same resources as the U.S. state of California. The people are as intelligent. But there is a totally different IDEA of how government and society and personal responsibility should be ordered.
    Those who deny the esceptionalism of America seem to think that those who live here have just won “life’s lottery” and that there is nothing about the IDEA of America that has been instrumental (especially not as an instrument of God) in making this country great. To go down that path is to acknowledge such principles as the fallenness of human nature, the need for personal restraint and responsibility, the fact that there is not a gifted elite better equipped to make our decisions for us, the fact that we should be equal under the law, etc. etc. etc.
    Those who oppose the idea of American exceptionalism, in my experience end up opposing, being enemies of the IDEA of America.

  • Joe

    I do beleive America is exceptional. I don’t believe we are special nation singled out by God or rewarded as a nation because of our faithfulness or works. America is exceptional simply because it was founded by exceptional people. These exceptional people are everywhere in all cultures but the vast open canvas that was America at her birth drew them here in a higher concentration.

    The question is will she remain exceptional.

  • Joe

    I do beleive America is exceptional. I don’t believe we are special nation singled out by God or rewarded as a nation because of our faithfulness or works. America is exceptional simply because it was founded by exceptional people. These exceptional people are everywhere in all cultures but the vast open canvas that was America at her birth drew them here in a higher concentration.

    The question is will she remain exceptional.

  • Tom Hering

    America is indeed exceptional – when it comes to seeing itself as exceptional.

  • Tom Hering

    America is indeed exceptional – when it comes to seeing itself as exceptional.

  • Carl Vehse

    America is exceptional in that it has permitted the genocidal murder of 50 million unborn Americans without, to date, bringing the murderers to justice, and instead has elected people into office to promote, legislate, and fund such genocide. The inevitable result of that kind of exceptionalism is not going to be pleasant.

  • Carl Vehse

    America is exceptional in that it has permitted the genocidal murder of 50 million unborn Americans without, to date, bringing the murderers to justice, and instead has elected people into office to promote, legislate, and fund such genocide. The inevitable result of that kind of exceptionalism is not going to be pleasant.

  • SKPeterson

    We are exceptional and we are not.

    We are exceptional to the extent that we are exceptions to the general course of history, or to the prevailing course of history. While the world was focused on monarchy and empire, we were focused on liberty and constitutional ordering of government; while the world became enamored of socialism and fascism, we maintained a focus on markets and private property. To that extent we are exceptional.

    We are not exceptional in that we are still all too human. We are prone to the same sinful desires, the same concupiscence, as our fellow men who live in other nations. Here, our only exceptionalism is that imparted to us by Christ in whom we are made brothers with the Church across national boundaries, ethnic divides, linguistic barriers, across time and space. That is pretty exceptional.

    To the extent that we recognize our historical exceptionalism I am comfortable with it. To the extent that this concept of exceptionalism gets wrapped up in a sense of an American public religious triumphalism a la the Mormonist visions of Glenn Beck, I am extremely leery.

  • SKPeterson

    We are exceptional and we are not.

    We are exceptional to the extent that we are exceptions to the general course of history, or to the prevailing course of history. While the world was focused on monarchy and empire, we were focused on liberty and constitutional ordering of government; while the world became enamored of socialism and fascism, we maintained a focus on markets and private property. To that extent we are exceptional.

    We are not exceptional in that we are still all too human. We are prone to the same sinful desires, the same concupiscence, as our fellow men who live in other nations. Here, our only exceptionalism is that imparted to us by Christ in whom we are made brothers with the Church across national boundaries, ethnic divides, linguistic barriers, across time and space. That is pretty exceptional.

    To the extent that we recognize our historical exceptionalism I am comfortable with it. To the extent that this concept of exceptionalism gets wrapped up in a sense of an American public religious triumphalism a la the Mormonist visions of Glenn Beck, I am extremely leery.

  • Rawhider

    Read the Theogogical Declaration of Barmen an appeal to German Christians 1934 . In the intro it states thus “Most Germans took the union of Christianity,nationalism, and militarism for granted and patriotic sentiments were equated with Christian Truth”
    Oh yes they had the patriot act you could be detained without trial,search private dwellings without a warrant,seize property,censor publications,tap phones on on it goes anything sound familiar “Exceptional” oh yes we are in heady company

  • Rawhider

    Read the Theogogical Declaration of Barmen an appeal to German Christians 1934 . In the intro it states thus “Most Germans took the union of Christianity,nationalism, and militarism for granted and patriotic sentiments were equated with Christian Truth”
    Oh yes they had the patriot act you could be detained without trial,search private dwellings without a warrant,seize property,censor publications,tap phones on on it goes anything sound familiar “Exceptional” oh yes we are in heady company

  • White

    Rush Limbaugh SAYS that he believes America is exceptional. We’ve got to remember that he definitely doesn’t believe everything he says.

    Rush is entertainment, not fact, people.

  • White

    Rush Limbaugh SAYS that he believes America is exceptional. We’ve got to remember that he definitely doesn’t believe everything he says.

    Rush is entertainment, not fact, people.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Tom – :)

    A sense of pride, in the very best sense, of one’s country, and it’s accomplishments, history and characteristics is not a bad thing, and to be honest, it is found in most peoples of the world. Furthermore, as I have explained here before, I view the US as the Major Empire of the day, just as the British, or French, or Carolignians, or Byzantines, or Romans, or Persians, or the Han, etc etc were of their day. To achieve Empire means a string of exceptional accomplishments (not all of them good of course).

    HOWEVER:

    If by exceptional one indicates wht is commonly referred to as American Exceptionalism, then a problem arises. Any sense of pride turned into a doctrine of life is idolatory. I have sometimes likened the Exceptionalism expressed in some (American) quarters to the sense of National Election, if you will, of my own people – a belief that has done incredible harm, not only to others, but to themselves.

    Sometimes it is a fine line between Patriotism and Nationalism.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Tom – :)

    A sense of pride, in the very best sense, of one’s country, and it’s accomplishments, history and characteristics is not a bad thing, and to be honest, it is found in most peoples of the world. Furthermore, as I have explained here before, I view the US as the Major Empire of the day, just as the British, or French, or Carolignians, or Byzantines, or Romans, or Persians, or the Han, etc etc were of their day. To achieve Empire means a string of exceptional accomplishments (not all of them good of course).

    HOWEVER:

    If by exceptional one indicates wht is commonly referred to as American Exceptionalism, then a problem arises. Any sense of pride turned into a doctrine of life is idolatory. I have sometimes likened the Exceptionalism expressed in some (American) quarters to the sense of National Election, if you will, of my own people – a belief that has done incredible harm, not only to others, but to themselves.

    Sometimes it is a fine line between Patriotism and Nationalism.

  • Helen F

    In that we have freedom to preach the Gospel, we are not exceptional, but blessed. I fear, though, that since many in this country refuse the most blessed gift of God in Christ, that we shall
    see what Luther predicted about his Germany: as a rain goes on to other places, so too will the Gospel go on to other places and those
    people will be blessed. Whether a country is “exceptional” in that it has freedom to continue to preach and teach God’s Word has to be tied to faithfulness to that Word of God. The question is as Jesus
    said, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”

  • Helen F

    In that we have freedom to preach the Gospel, we are not exceptional, but blessed. I fear, though, that since many in this country refuse the most blessed gift of God in Christ, that we shall
    see what Luther predicted about his Germany: as a rain goes on to other places, so too will the Gospel go on to other places and those
    people will be blessed. Whether a country is “exceptional” in that it has freedom to continue to preach and teach God’s Word has to be tied to faithfulness to that Word of God. The question is as Jesus
    said, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”

  • Porcell

    These remarks of the Republicans need to be understood in context of Obama’s speeches- especially the one in Cairo- apologizing for America’s misdeeds and trying to flatter the Islamic people and the European Left. Obama is in fact a product of the academic Left that routinely disparages America.

    Americans for the most part are aware of their historic faults including slavery and treatment of the Indians, though they, also, know that we stand essentially for a freedom and prosperity that has made for a great nation. We are, also, despite the cultural dominance of the secular elites, among the most religious of peoples. Chesterton remarked that we are a nation with the soul of a church; Lincoln that we are an almost chosen people.

    One can within reason be proud of America’s exceptional history.

  • Porcell

    These remarks of the Republicans need to be understood in context of Obama’s speeches- especially the one in Cairo- apologizing for America’s misdeeds and trying to flatter the Islamic people and the European Left. Obama is in fact a product of the academic Left that routinely disparages America.

    Americans for the most part are aware of their historic faults including slavery and treatment of the Indians, though they, also, know that we stand essentially for a freedom and prosperity that has made for a great nation. We are, also, despite the cultural dominance of the secular elites, among the most religious of peoples. Chesterton remarked that we are a nation with the soul of a church; Lincoln that we are an almost chosen people.

    One can within reason be proud of America’s exceptional history.

  • The Jones

    I believe America is exceptional. But it sometimes irks me when people explain why America is exceptional. They usually connect it with America being powerful, rich, large, and correct on whatever particular diplomatic issue we’re talking about.

    Unfortunately, if those are the measurements, America is not as exceptional as we would think, we’ve only been as exceptional as we are for maybe 20 or so years, and for 80% of our history, we have been far below other nations in exceptionality. It also means that we are in grave danger of losing our exceptionality to other rising nations, and then America will not be exceptional anymore. Yikes.

    I say America is exceptional because of the desire for freedom, based on the rights of the individual, that has been with America since the beginning. Many others also believe this, even though they can’t articulate it as clearly. Conservatives are usually more inclined to like that, and therefore more likely to jump on-board with the “America is exceptional” bandwagon. Liberals aren’t as inclined to giving three cheers for John Locke, so they’ll probably be more reserved in their exceptionality beliefs.

    From a Christian point of view, is this desire for freedom a good thing? Well, yes. Does it really matter when compared with awesome power the work of God throughout history and through eternity? Well, no.

    All things are vanity compared to God. It is idolatry when we hold our own actions as equal or superior to the work of the kingdom. It’s just silly when we think that the Kingdom of God can only be built in the politically perfect petri dish of individual rights and freedoms. God’s too powerful to be troubled by constitutional injustices. He’s too busy saving souls.

  • The Jones

    I believe America is exceptional. But it sometimes irks me when people explain why America is exceptional. They usually connect it with America being powerful, rich, large, and correct on whatever particular diplomatic issue we’re talking about.

    Unfortunately, if those are the measurements, America is not as exceptional as we would think, we’ve only been as exceptional as we are for maybe 20 or so years, and for 80% of our history, we have been far below other nations in exceptionality. It also means that we are in grave danger of losing our exceptionality to other rising nations, and then America will not be exceptional anymore. Yikes.

    I say America is exceptional because of the desire for freedom, based on the rights of the individual, that has been with America since the beginning. Many others also believe this, even though they can’t articulate it as clearly. Conservatives are usually more inclined to like that, and therefore more likely to jump on-board with the “America is exceptional” bandwagon. Liberals aren’t as inclined to giving three cheers for John Locke, so they’ll probably be more reserved in their exceptionality beliefs.

    From a Christian point of view, is this desire for freedom a good thing? Well, yes. Does it really matter when compared with awesome power the work of God throughout history and through eternity? Well, no.

    All things are vanity compared to God. It is idolatry when we hold our own actions as equal or superior to the work of the kingdom. It’s just silly when we think that the Kingdom of God can only be built in the politically perfect petri dish of individual rights and freedoms. God’s too powerful to be troubled by constitutional injustices. He’s too busy saving souls.

  • Kirk

    “Americans for the most part are aware of their historic faults including slavery and treatment of the Indians”

    Through we should apparently never admit them to Muslims or European liberals…

  • Kirk

    “Americans for the most part are aware of their historic faults including slavery and treatment of the Indians”

    Through we should apparently never admit them to Muslims or European liberals…

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Apparently the US is exceptional enough that even her internal critics never seem to seriously entertain the idea of taking up residence elsewhere.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Apparently the US is exceptional enough that even her internal critics never seem to seriously entertain the idea of taking up residence elsewhere.

  • John C

    To this outsider, notions of of exceptionalism do sound hubristic.
    I do think that there were times when the world admired and sought to emulate the American way of life. But I have a feeling this is no longer the case.

  • John C

    To this outsider, notions of of exceptionalism do sound hubristic.
    I do think that there were times when the world admired and sought to emulate the American way of life. But I have a feeling this is no longer the case.

  • DonS

    The fact that we have to have such a sharp debate concerning our immigration problem is a strong indication of exceptionalism. The U.S. is a good place to live and to work. Individual rights are respected and there is still opportunity for anyone who wants to work hard to do pretty much anything they want to do. We have a unique Constitution which puts a hedge of protection from government around the citizens. In little over 200 years, our ethos of freedom and liberty resulted in the greatest engine of economic power and freedom to ever exist on the planet.

    “Exceptional” doesn’t mean perfect or better. It’s not a swipe against other nations or people. However, it does mean unique and, in this context, good.

    The burden is really on those who don’t think America is exceptional to explain why not.

  • DonS

    The fact that we have to have such a sharp debate concerning our immigration problem is a strong indication of exceptionalism. The U.S. is a good place to live and to work. Individual rights are respected and there is still opportunity for anyone who wants to work hard to do pretty much anything they want to do. We have a unique Constitution which puts a hedge of protection from government around the citizens. In little over 200 years, our ethos of freedom and liberty resulted in the greatest engine of economic power and freedom to ever exist on the planet.

    “Exceptional” doesn’t mean perfect or better. It’s not a swipe against other nations or people. However, it does mean unique and, in this context, good.

    The burden is really on those who don’t think America is exceptional to explain why not.

  • Tom Hering

    Patrick Kyle @ 14, emigration from America is a bigger phenomenon than you might think. Not only are a good number of our best and brightest citizens leaving, but from the studies I’ve seen of “emigration intention” in other developed countries, their best and brightest no longer say the U.S. is their first choice. If I remember correctly, we tend to show up a ways down on their lists.

  • Tom Hering

    Patrick Kyle @ 14, emigration from America is a bigger phenomenon than you might think. Not only are a good number of our best and brightest citizens leaving, but from the studies I’ve seen of “emigration intention” in other developed countries, their best and brightest no longer say the U.S. is their first choice. If I remember correctly, we tend to show up a ways down on their lists.

  • S Bauer

    Politicians who talk about their belief in American “exceptionalism” or criticize others for lack of it, can get away with it because the word can mean whatever the individual hearer wants it to mean. When they take the time to explain exactly in what way they consider America to be exceptional, then I’ll take the time to listen.

    I don’t think the article simplisticly equates exceptionalism with America being the “best of all countries.” It notes specifically that many Americans believe that American “exceptionalism” is due to a divine mandate and purpose in the world (pace Limbaugh). Citizens should be diligent in finding out from these “exceptionalists” if that is what they are talking about.

    I think one can talk of America being exceptional in terms of certain of its founding ideas, though too little of what has transpired in our history since that founding can be attributed to actually pursuing those ideals. And I think those exceptional ideas were, to some extent, instrumental in causing this nation to become preeminant in the world today.

    But let us just remember that in every age there have been this nation or that civilization that rose to the top on the basis of “exceptional” circumstances. And finally it is the world power that dominates all the rest that Revelation identifies as the “whore of Babylon.”

  • S Bauer

    Politicians who talk about their belief in American “exceptionalism” or criticize others for lack of it, can get away with it because the word can mean whatever the individual hearer wants it to mean. When they take the time to explain exactly in what way they consider America to be exceptional, then I’ll take the time to listen.

    I don’t think the article simplisticly equates exceptionalism with America being the “best of all countries.” It notes specifically that many Americans believe that American “exceptionalism” is due to a divine mandate and purpose in the world (pace Limbaugh). Citizens should be diligent in finding out from these “exceptionalists” if that is what they are talking about.

    I think one can talk of America being exceptional in terms of certain of its founding ideas, though too little of what has transpired in our history since that founding can be attributed to actually pursuing those ideals. And I think those exceptional ideas were, to some extent, instrumental in causing this nation to become preeminant in the world today.

    But let us just remember that in every age there have been this nation or that civilization that rose to the top on the basis of “exceptional” circumstances. And finally it is the world power that dominates all the rest that Revelation identifies as the “whore of Babylon.”

  • Tom Hering

    U.S. News and World Report (2008), A Growing Trend of Leaving America.

  • Tom Hering

    U.S. News and World Report (2008), A Growing Trend of Leaving America.

  • Louis

    Tom – yes. When I immigrated 4 years ago, the ease with which one could immigrate (to English speaking countries, from SA) was, in descending order: Australia, Canada, NZ, the UK, Ireland and lastly, the US.

    A friend of mine left SA 2 years before me to head up the North American Division of his company in the US. This month, we qualify to apply for Canadian citizenship. He doesn’t even have a greencard yet, and has to reapply for a work permit on a regular basis.

    Things are not what they used to be.

  • Louis

    Tom – yes. When I immigrated 4 years ago, the ease with which one could immigrate (to English speaking countries, from SA) was, in descending order: Australia, Canada, NZ, the UK, Ireland and lastly, the US.

    A friend of mine left SA 2 years before me to head up the North American Division of his company in the US. This month, we qualify to apply for Canadian citizenship. He doesn’t even have a greencard yet, and has to reapply for a work permit on a regular basis.

    Things are not what they used to be.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Isn’t the U.S. Constitution inspired by God in much the same way as the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Ensign magazine http://lds.org/ensign?lang=eng ? Especially for Romney?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Isn’t the U.S. Constitution inspired by God in much the same way as the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Ensign magazine http://lds.org/ensign?lang=eng ? Especially for Romney?

  • Grace

    Is America “exceptional” – YES!

    We have been blessed, we are all very fortunate to have been born in this country. The United States is the largest donor of foreign aid, not only through government, but private money.

    The American people step up to the plate whenever other countries need help, or when disaster strikes.

    Someone on this thread mentioned our faults, slavery and the Indians – this is all true. Abortion is America’s shame – and it continues through selfish pursuits. Those of us who have tried to change this practice have not been successful, however just as slavery seemed impossible, abortion is not impossible to overturn. We must never give up, we can PRAY, that one day it will be illegal to perform or obtain an abortion.

    If this country were not exceptional, people wouldn’t stand in line to come here, or cross the border illegally.

  • Grace

    Is America “exceptional” – YES!

    We have been blessed, we are all very fortunate to have been born in this country. The United States is the largest donor of foreign aid, not only through government, but private money.

    The American people step up to the plate whenever other countries need help, or when disaster strikes.

    Someone on this thread mentioned our faults, slavery and the Indians – this is all true. Abortion is America’s shame – and it continues through selfish pursuits. Those of us who have tried to change this practice have not been successful, however just as slavery seemed impossible, abortion is not impossible to overturn. We must never give up, we can PRAY, that one day it will be illegal to perform or obtain an abortion.

    If this country were not exceptional, people wouldn’t stand in line to come here, or cross the border illegally.

  • Tom Hering

    Grace, saying impoverished Mexicans see America as a better place than Mexico is setting the bar kind of low for our exceptionalism. ;-)

  • Tom Hering

    Grace, saying impoverished Mexicans see America as a better place than Mexico is setting the bar kind of low for our exceptionalism. ;-)

  • Grace

    Tom,

    “Grace, saying impoverished Mexicans see America as a better place than Mexico is setting the bar kind of low for our exceptionalism.”

    I didn’t mention Mexicans, – what’s your point?

  • Grace

    Tom,

    “Grace, saying impoverished Mexicans see America as a better place than Mexico is setting the bar kind of low for our exceptionalism.”

    I didn’t mention Mexicans, – what’s your point?

  • Grace

    ELB – 3

    “Those who oppose the idea of American exceptionalism, in my experience end up opposing, being enemies of the IDEA of America.”

    EXCELLENT!

  • Grace

    ELB – 3

    “Those who oppose the idea of American exceptionalism, in my experience end up opposing, being enemies of the IDEA of America.”

    EXCELLENT!

  • Tom Hering

    You used crossing the border illegally as an example. Who were you talking about? Patagonians? :-)

    The point is: people immigrating in large numbers from a hell hole next door is no proof we’re exceptionally appealing. People immigrating in large numbers from pretty good countries halfway around the world would be proof of that.

  • Tom Hering

    You used crossing the border illegally as an example. Who were you talking about? Patagonians? :-)

    The point is: people immigrating in large numbers from a hell hole next door is no proof we’re exceptionally appealing. People immigrating in large numbers from pretty good countries halfway around the world would be proof of that.

  • George A. Marquart

    By the time we immigrated to the United States more than 60 years ago, I had already lived in three countries. Since then I have lived in the Soviet Union/Russia for over ten years and visited (stayed for at least a week) in 25 other countries for business and pleasure – in most of them more than once. Nevertheless, for me the United States is the best country in the world.

    Knowing the language is critical to liking a country. Were I to speak Danish, Swedish, or Finnish, I might think that these countries are best. “Contentment Studies” show that the people in these countries are happier than we are in the United States.

    There is no question that the United States is unique in world history. Within recorded time, no country has survived with the same form of government for as long as ours. No other country has ever been based on a principle – “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

    Did God bless our country more than He has blessed others? For God there is no other country except His Kingdom, for (Colossians 1: 13) “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” In it He hears the prayers of His children and answers them. Because our country’s founders included many people who came here in order to practice their faith freely, it is entirely possible that at one time more of His people were concentrated here than in other parts of the world. Therefore it seems possible that His mercy and kindness were more evident here than in the countries our founders fled.

    America was never perfect and is, in my opinion, becoming even less so. Rev. J. R. W. Stott, in one of his many books, said words to the effect that the West has lost its faith and is therefore loosing its values. Therefore, if we love this country, we will witness to our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, because it is only the person made new by the Holy Spirit who can love the Law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night.

    Meanwhile I thank our heavenly Father every day for all of the mercies He pours out on us in this country, and beg Him to continue to be kind to us.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    By the time we immigrated to the United States more than 60 years ago, I had already lived in three countries. Since then I have lived in the Soviet Union/Russia for over ten years and visited (stayed for at least a week) in 25 other countries for business and pleasure – in most of them more than once. Nevertheless, for me the United States is the best country in the world.

    Knowing the language is critical to liking a country. Were I to speak Danish, Swedish, or Finnish, I might think that these countries are best. “Contentment Studies” show that the people in these countries are happier than we are in the United States.

    There is no question that the United States is unique in world history. Within recorded time, no country has survived with the same form of government for as long as ours. No other country has ever been based on a principle – “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

    Did God bless our country more than He has blessed others? For God there is no other country except His Kingdom, for (Colossians 1: 13) “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” In it He hears the prayers of His children and answers them. Because our country’s founders included many people who came here in order to practice their faith freely, it is entirely possible that at one time more of His people were concentrated here than in other parts of the world. Therefore it seems possible that His mercy and kindness were more evident here than in the countries our founders fled.

    America was never perfect and is, in my opinion, becoming even less so. Rev. J. R. W. Stott, in one of his many books, said words to the effect that the West has lost its faith and is therefore loosing its values. Therefore, if we love this country, we will witness to our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, because it is only the person made new by the Holy Spirit who can love the Law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night.

    Meanwhile I thank our heavenly Father every day for all of the mercies He pours out on us in this country, and beg Him to continue to be kind to us.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • Grace

    Tom – 28

    “The point is: people immigrating in large numbers from a hell hole next door is no proof we’re exceptionally appealing. People immigrating in large numbers from pretty good countries halfway around the world would be proof of that.”

    Cost is involved when immigrating half way around the world, it isn’t a matter of sneaking over the border from the south.

    Mexico and other countries below the border are a problem, you and I have worn our fingers on the keyboard expressing our views. I believe, (I hope this doesn’t change the mood of this thread) Mexico needs to work on Mexico. Last night on Night Line there was piece on the mentally ill in that country, it was horrific. The lack of love, concern, wellbeing of these people is mirrored in the citizens of Mexico and their heartless care for their own. Even poor people can give a helping hand, but in this impoverished group it is none existent.

    We know a great many people who have immigrated to this country from Europe, India, S.Korea, Iran, Vietnam, and many others. The point is, most people, given the opportunity would come here to live, … ask them, however the possibility most likely doesn’t exist.

    Those who are fortunate to vacation and visit here in the U.S. love it here – however, they often then begin to find fault with the U.S. – perhaps it’s envy? I don’t know how much you have traveled, but this country will always be my choice. Traveling to other places is exciting, educational, and romantic ;) – but there is nothing like the United States, it is exceptional.

  • Grace

    Tom – 28

    “The point is: people immigrating in large numbers from a hell hole next door is no proof we’re exceptionally appealing. People immigrating in large numbers from pretty good countries halfway around the world would be proof of that.”

    Cost is involved when immigrating half way around the world, it isn’t a matter of sneaking over the border from the south.

    Mexico and other countries below the border are a problem, you and I have worn our fingers on the keyboard expressing our views. I believe, (I hope this doesn’t change the mood of this thread) Mexico needs to work on Mexico. Last night on Night Line there was piece on the mentally ill in that country, it was horrific. The lack of love, concern, wellbeing of these people is mirrored in the citizens of Mexico and their heartless care for their own. Even poor people can give a helping hand, but in this impoverished group it is none existent.

    We know a great many people who have immigrated to this country from Europe, India, S.Korea, Iran, Vietnam, and many others. The point is, most people, given the opportunity would come here to live, … ask them, however the possibility most likely doesn’t exist.

    Those who are fortunate to vacation and visit here in the U.S. love it here – however, they often then begin to find fault with the U.S. – perhaps it’s envy? I don’t know how much you have traveled, but this country will always be my choice. Traveling to other places is exciting, educational, and romantic ;) – but there is nothing like the United States, it is exceptional.

  • DonS

    Tom @ 28: Hmmm, I’m thinking you’ve pretty much blown your chance at working for the Mexico Ministry of Tourism. ;-)

  • DonS

    Tom @ 28: Hmmm, I’m thinking you’ve pretty much blown your chance at working for the Mexico Ministry of Tourism. ;-)

  • DonS

    George @ 29: Beautifully put! You far more than most of us are positioned to understand the place America has in the world.

    My recollection is that, politically, you are not particularly conservative, which makes your statements all the more poignant. Once upon a time love of the U.S. was shared by folks of all political stripes, but as exemplified on this blog, it’s hard to find those having a politically liberal sensibility that regard the U.S. as anything special anymore.

    Thank you for your comment.

  • DonS

    George @ 29: Beautifully put! You far more than most of us are positioned to understand the place America has in the world.

    My recollection is that, politically, you are not particularly conservative, which makes your statements all the more poignant. Once upon a time love of the U.S. was shared by folks of all political stripes, but as exemplified on this blog, it’s hard to find those having a politically liberal sensibility that regard the U.S. as anything special anymore.

    Thank you for your comment.

  • F.Scottie

    The argument whether America is “exceptional” is really a matter of semantics. Taken in a straightforward, denotative sense, I guess it would mean America is “better” than other countries. This must be proven through statistics, life experience, and the media.

    In the past, people have referred to America as the “shining city upon a hill.” The meaning of this phrase has also morphed over the years, but as I understand it, it originally referred to the original colonists and their desire to establish a commonwealth under Protestant Christian ideals. Obviously, that was before the the United States of America was formed.

    The modern connotations of exceptionalism, as I perceive it, have to do with people’s “vision” of what America is. This is related to how people connect the past, present and future with a grand narrative. The common ones are these: God has been our side so we’re the good guys mentality, we have to stop those damn Communists, and/or we have to spread democracy and capitalism through out the world.

  • F.Scottie

    The argument whether America is “exceptional” is really a matter of semantics. Taken in a straightforward, denotative sense, I guess it would mean America is “better” than other countries. This must be proven through statistics, life experience, and the media.

    In the past, people have referred to America as the “shining city upon a hill.” The meaning of this phrase has also morphed over the years, but as I understand it, it originally referred to the original colonists and their desire to establish a commonwealth under Protestant Christian ideals. Obviously, that was before the the United States of America was formed.

    The modern connotations of exceptionalism, as I perceive it, have to do with people’s “vision” of what America is. This is related to how people connect the past, present and future with a grand narrative. The common ones are these: God has been our side so we’re the good guys mentality, we have to stop those damn Communists, and/or we have to spread democracy and capitalism through out the world.

  • Tom Hering

    “… you and I have worn our fingers on the keyboard expressing our views …” – Grace @ 30.

    What needs to be discussed is how exceptionalism is related to a literal Millennium. You go first. :-) :-) :-)

  • Tom Hering

    “… you and I have worn our fingers on the keyboard expressing our views …” – Grace @ 30.

    What needs to be discussed is how exceptionalism is related to a literal Millennium. You go first. :-) :-) :-)

  • Grace

    No, NO, NO – I want you to have the honor Mr. Tom – :lol:

    Let’s keep the time frame within the next twenty years – The Bible has a lot to say about the 1,000 years –

    Do you understand Mr. Tom – we will be accused of hijacking this thread – remember what happened last week? – I do! LOL

  • Grace

    No, NO, NO – I want you to have the honor Mr. Tom – :lol:

    Let’s keep the time frame within the next twenty years – The Bible has a lot to say about the 1,000 years –

    Do you understand Mr. Tom – we will be accused of hijacking this thread – remember what happened last week? – I do! LOL

  • Grace

    Blessed to be born in America – how could we not call that exceptional?

    People from around the world come here for medical care, the reason? – because it is the best/exceptional. Just this past week it was reported the Saudi King had come to a New York hospital, taking over an entire wing. This man is very rich, he could have gone anywhere, but here he is in the United States. Why did he NOT turn to his own doctors, or those in any of a number of middle east countries? Diagnostic equipment, scientific research, is superior, and so is medical research in our teaching hospitals, and a vast number of other hospitals have is superior. Johns Hopkins is one of the finest hospitals for cancer. Stanford medical is outstanding, teaching hospitals in Texas, UCLA, USC, Harvard, the list goes on.

    Even though large groups of people take America for granted, most often believing they are entitled, still gives them the privilege to be educated in our public schools, and then go to college – in many instances, their college education will not benefit them in comparison to the loans they incur ….. translating, … they will not be able to pay off the loans, their chances for top employment equaling the output will never come to fruition.

    33 – F.Scottie -.- “God has been our side so we’re the good guys mentality, we have to stop those damn Communists, and/or we have to spread democracy and capitalism through out the world. -.-

    Scottie, – do you believe the U.S. should stop Communism. Why send aid to countries who are at odds with our country, such as soci@lism, communism, capitalism, and democracy – why should we feed the very people who verbally war with our country?

  • Grace

    Blessed to be born in America – how could we not call that exceptional?

    People from around the world come here for medical care, the reason? – because it is the best/exceptional. Just this past week it was reported the Saudi King had come to a New York hospital, taking over an entire wing. This man is very rich, he could have gone anywhere, but here he is in the United States. Why did he NOT turn to his own doctors, or those in any of a number of middle east countries? Diagnostic equipment, scientific research, is superior, and so is medical research in our teaching hospitals, and a vast number of other hospitals have is superior. Johns Hopkins is one of the finest hospitals for cancer. Stanford medical is outstanding, teaching hospitals in Texas, UCLA, USC, Harvard, the list goes on.

    Even though large groups of people take America for granted, most often believing they are entitled, still gives them the privilege to be educated in our public schools, and then go to college – in many instances, their college education will not benefit them in comparison to the loans they incur ….. translating, … they will not be able to pay off the loans, their chances for top employment equaling the output will never come to fruition.

    33 – F.Scottie -.- “God has been our side so we’re the good guys mentality, we have to stop those damn Communists, and/or we have to spread democracy and capitalism through out the world. -.-

    Scottie, – do you believe the U.S. should stop Communism. Why send aid to countries who are at odds with our country, such as soci@lism, communism, capitalism, and democracy – why should we feed the very people who verbally war with our country?

  • Stephen

    Though one need not be exceptionally exceptional, as far as I’m concerned, I will make exception for the unexceptional, which, except for this exception, would otherwise remain a question of acceptance. While certain expectations might be expected to be expected, in which case those same exceptions could not be accepted, due to this exceptional exception which I accept under exceptional exceptions which I am exceptionally exceptional at accepting regardless of expectations because I am exceptional, I accept you, not because you are exceptional, but especially because I am exceptional at making this exceptional exception.

    This is the Gospel of Our Lord. Thanks be to God

  • Stephen

    Though one need not be exceptionally exceptional, as far as I’m concerned, I will make exception for the unexceptional, which, except for this exception, would otherwise remain a question of acceptance. While certain expectations might be expected to be expected, in which case those same exceptions could not be accepted, due to this exceptional exception which I accept under exceptional exceptions which I am exceptionally exceptional at accepting regardless of expectations because I am exceptional, I accept you, not because you are exceptional, but especially because I am exceptional at making this exceptional exception.

    This is the Gospel of Our Lord. Thanks be to God

  • Grace

    Dear Dr. Veith,

    Please be advised that Mr. Tom Hering is suggesting a different topic, that means he’s hijacking the thread, …. If I post after he states his case, (most likely my views are the opposite) I don’t want to be held accountable.

    You may have noted last week that Tom, Louis, fws a few others and myself made a, ….. you COULD call it a truce ;) …… please let me know, …. should we crank it up, FULL STEAM AHEAD, or fall back, perched on the caboose ?

  • Grace

    Dear Dr. Veith,

    Please be advised that Mr. Tom Hering is suggesting a different topic, that means he’s hijacking the thread, …. If I post after he states his case, (most likely my views are the opposite) I don’t want to be held accountable.

    You may have noted last week that Tom, Louis, fws a few others and myself made a, ….. you COULD call it a truce ;) …… please let me know, …. should we crank it up, FULL STEAM AHEAD, or fall back, perched on the caboose ?

  • Grace

    Dr. Veith – I forgot to mention Stephen.

  • Grace

    Dr. Veith – I forgot to mention Stephen.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Tom Hering,

    “Patrick Kyle @ 14, emigration from America is a bigger phenomenon than you might think.”

    Right.

    Compare how many come here, and how many would love to come here if possible, against the numbers of those that leave.

    It’s so lopsided as to be ridiculous.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Tom Hering,

    “Patrick Kyle @ 14, emigration from America is a bigger phenomenon than you might think.”

    Right.

    Compare how many come here, and how many would love to come here if possible, against the numbers of those that leave.

    It’s so lopsided as to be ridiculous.

  • Tom Hering

    “… do you believe the U.S. should stop Communism. Why send aid to countries who are at odds with our country, such as soci@lism, communism, capitalism, and democracy – why should we feed the very people who verbally war with our country?”

    Grace, about the only Communist country left is China. And we’re in pretty tight with them. And the argument could be made that it’s them aiding us. ;-)

  • Tom Hering

    “… do you believe the U.S. should stop Communism. Why send aid to countries who are at odds with our country, such as soci@lism, communism, capitalism, and democracy – why should we feed the very people who verbally war with our country?”

    Grace, about the only Communist country left is China. And we’re in pretty tight with them. And the argument could be made that it’s them aiding us. ;-)

  • trotk

    The whole conversation unsettles me. It reminds me of James and John arguing about who got to sit in the position of honor.

    Christ was exceptional, and yet He didn’t talk about it.

    He came to serve.

    He told us to humble ourselves, and be like little children.

    Whenever I hear people bragging about exceptionalism, which always implies being better than someone else, I hear someone rejecting Christ’s example and command.

    We can be patriotic, and be thankful for what we are given, but as soon as the comparison starts, we are in danger of becoming the Pharisee who prayed, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like others.”

  • trotk

    The whole conversation unsettles me. It reminds me of James and John arguing about who got to sit in the position of honor.

    Christ was exceptional, and yet He didn’t talk about it.

    He came to serve.

    He told us to humble ourselves, and be like little children.

    Whenever I hear people bragging about exceptionalism, which always implies being better than someone else, I hear someone rejecting Christ’s example and command.

    We can be patriotic, and be thankful for what we are given, but as soon as the comparison starts, we are in danger of becoming the Pharisee who prayed, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like others.”

  • Grace

    trotk

    Your comments regarding Tom and my posts are not a comparison between James and John. That sort of accusation is nothing more than shutting down meaningful dialogue, I don’t buy it!

    This thread is about the country we live in, …. it could only have been possible through the LORD Jesus Christ.

  • Grace

    trotk

    Your comments regarding Tom and my posts are not a comparison between James and John. That sort of accusation is nothing more than shutting down meaningful dialogue, I don’t buy it!

    This thread is about the country we live in, …. it could only have been possible through the LORD Jesus Christ.

  • Porcell

    On Dr. Veith’s question of what does all this mean from a Christian point of view, the key is in the phrase of the Oath, One nation under God… However exceptional America is, in the final analysis we profess to be a nation under the ultimate judgment of God.

    Though secular elites tend to dominate American culture, we remain a predominantly Judeo-Christian people that is among the most religious peoples in the world. It is not idolatry to regard America as exceptional as long as we acknowledge being under the judgment of God.

  • Porcell

    On Dr. Veith’s question of what does all this mean from a Christian point of view, the key is in the phrase of the Oath, One nation under God… However exceptional America is, in the final analysis we profess to be a nation under the ultimate judgment of God.

    Though secular elites tend to dominate American culture, we remain a predominantly Judeo-Christian people that is among the most religious peoples in the world. It is not idolatry to regard America as exceptional as long as we acknowledge being under the judgment of God.

  • Tom Hering

    “It’s so lopsided as to be ridiculous.” – Steve Martin @ 40.

    Total immigration per year, from all countries for the period 1991-1998 (the latest figures I could find), was 950,634. The U.S. News article I linked to @ 21 reported estimates of up to 3,000,000 Americans per year becoming expatriates.

    Ridiculously lopsided indeed! :-)

  • Tom Hering

    “It’s so lopsided as to be ridiculous.” – Steve Martin @ 40.

    Total immigration per year, from all countries for the period 1991-1998 (the latest figures I could find), was 950,634. The U.S. News article I linked to @ 21 reported estimates of up to 3,000,000 Americans per year becoming expatriates.

    Ridiculously lopsided indeed! :-)

  • trotk

    Grace, my comment wasn’t to you. As I said, “the whole conversation unsettles me.” Not just the one here. This one doesn’t bother me much, because I don’t here much bragging here.

    I am referring to the political figures boasting in our exceptionalism or boasting in their refusal to see America as exceptional. Both are the same prideful preoccupation with self. Neither follow the example of Christ.

    Humbling ourselves is not being self-deprecating and it is not boasting and comparing. Instead, it is the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying, as Christ did. It is forgetting ourselves and loving others.

    Grace, you and Tom can talk about immigration until your fingers fall off. I don’t mind, and I might even jump in.

  • trotk

    Grace, my comment wasn’t to you. As I said, “the whole conversation unsettles me.” Not just the one here. This one doesn’t bother me much, because I don’t here much bragging here.

    I am referring to the political figures boasting in our exceptionalism or boasting in their refusal to see America as exceptional. Both are the same prideful preoccupation with self. Neither follow the example of Christ.

    Humbling ourselves is not being self-deprecating and it is not boasting and comparing. Instead, it is the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying, as Christ did. It is forgetting ourselves and loving others.

    Grace, you and Tom can talk about immigration until your fingers fall off. I don’t mind, and I might even jump in.

  • Grace

    I have known those who declare they are “expatriates” – we had some in our family (cousins) He, a very successful man in his field, living abroad over 18 years in three countries. As time went by, disillusionment set in. I add,…… they lived in three of the most expensive countries, and areas in the world. They are now residing in the U.S., no more chatter regarding “expats” – not a sound.

    This happens all too often.

  • Grace

    I have known those who declare they are “expatriates” – we had some in our family (cousins) He, a very successful man in his field, living abroad over 18 years in three countries. As time went by, disillusionment set in. I add,…… they lived in three of the most expensive countries, and areas in the world. They are now residing in the U.S., no more chatter regarding “expats” – not a sound.

    This happens all too often.

  • Grace

    trokt – 46

    – “I am referring to the political figures boasting in our exceptionalism or boasting in their refusal to see America as exceptional. Both are the same prideful preoccupation with self. Neither follow the example of Christ.”

    You are right – the difference is they don’t follow Christ. I cannot be responsible for what others do, only what I say and do. I am grateful to be blessed to have been born in this country with wonderful Godly parents. It is a blessing which was given to me by God.

    I believe this country is exceptional. I have said it before and now again, only the LORD could have chosen to allow this country all the blessings it has. The problem is this, many people in this country have fallen away from the LORD, they have chosen idolatry in every form, to direct their lives. How long will God allow this country to continue…… only HE knows the answer.

    I also believe that abortion, the endless slaughter of the unborn, laid on the table of selfish wishes and empty dreams must anger the LORD.

    God is not mocked. He has given us everything, what we as Believers can do is give out the Gospel, continue to tell others about Him. God help us!

  • Grace

    trokt – 46

    – “I am referring to the political figures boasting in our exceptionalism or boasting in their refusal to see America as exceptional. Both are the same prideful preoccupation with self. Neither follow the example of Christ.”

    You are right – the difference is they don’t follow Christ. I cannot be responsible for what others do, only what I say and do. I am grateful to be blessed to have been born in this country with wonderful Godly parents. It is a blessing which was given to me by God.

    I believe this country is exceptional. I have said it before and now again, only the LORD could have chosen to allow this country all the blessings it has. The problem is this, many people in this country have fallen away from the LORD, they have chosen idolatry in every form, to direct their lives. How long will God allow this country to continue…… only HE knows the answer.

    I also believe that abortion, the endless slaughter of the unborn, laid on the table of selfish wishes and empty dreams must anger the LORD.

    God is not mocked. He has given us everything, what we as Believers can do is give out the Gospel, continue to tell others about Him. God help us!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Grace, I do indeed appreciate how you have become part of one big happy family on this blog! (Like me and my brother.) :-)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Grace, I do indeed appreciate how you have become part of one big happy family on this blog! (Like me and my brother.) :-)

  • Stephen

    Grace, I hate to break it to ya, but I’ve given up my life of hijacking. But I may just rant.

    As for American exceptionalism, I am of two minds. I have traveled some to lands that are every bit as religious and every bit as beautiful with people every bit as generous. They are all fascinated with America. In Europe, the impression years ago was generally good will. Recently it was a feeling that we are myopic and that we had let them down somehow. Yet, the people were no less gracious or welcoming or human. It’s possible to get past our nationality, as well as other things about ourselves, if we allow ourselves to do it and look for opportunities to connect.

    In poorer countries, and I have been to the poorest, some for long stretches, and the impression remains from years ago and more recently that we are all rich. In both cases, rich and poor countries, I feel the need to disabuse people of these images of our character as they perceive it. But it comes from some other place than all these images of how special we are (or are not) in a worldly sense. I will agree that there are very precious and special things about America, but I love my country on terms that have to do with specific things rather than gauging the level of my devotion to it as a whole. I do think we are responsible to keep something alive in the world that was given to us as a heritage that has to do with certain ideals, and I think those are spoiling to a greater or lesser degree as time passes. They are being spoiled by the same wickedness that ruined other great civilizations and one day our candle may just go dim because of the kind of growing avarice and ill-will that surrounds us in our politics, entertainment and general betrayal of the very ideals the founders assumed would flourish if people were given half a chance. Turns out the scriptures rather than the Enlightenment was correct. Sin abounds. We are corrupted and we need a savior. Even Walt Whitman, Americas first truly original poet (and homosexual I might add), understood that the Bible was the counterbalance to the enlightened ideas enshrined in the Constitution.

    I spoke to a visitor from Ireland recently. He was an elderly man with a passion for history. He loves America and is fascinated by how so many different people can live together and maintain their differences and yet be a people together. He also sees that the US has been burdened with the responsibility of taking care of the world without a lot of thanks for doing so ever since the end of WWII. It’s true. It’s not the Chinese that rush in when there is a tsunami in southern India. It’s the US Navy. And likewise it wasn’t the Russians who brought peace to the former Yugoslavia.

    But those people in our military, ah, they are few and very far between. The next time you see a guy with a funny haircut in the airport, buy him a cup of coffee and ask him how he’s doing. Then you can say you support the troops. Until then, put a sock in your pie hole.

    I also see an America that lines up at 3 a.m. at Best Buy to buy junk to entertain themselves while their fellow citizens are hungry. It’s good for the economy I guess. We consume something like 40 % of the resources on the planet, is that right? I mean, is that right, as in good? Is that an exceptional thing we’d like to put out there too? We are 5% of the world’s population. Is that so morally superior and Judeo-Christian of us no matter how much money we throw at the disaster de jour?

    So like I said, I am of two minds, and I have no answer. I think all this crap about singing our “exceptional” song at the expense of all others is nauseating from these political wannabes. With all the reality TV around you’d think we could get some reality candidates. No chance. Why are we always looking for a politician ala Ronald Reagan or Obama to pump us up and make us feel special, so we can chant U S A and feel proud to be an American. We just passed through Thanksgiving and you’d think that was completely lost on these boneheads. Remember when we were all just humble enough to admit we needed each other, instead of worrying about preserving our sense of exceptional-ness?

    I do think that America is a great gift to us and to the world. I also think it is seriously flawed and sinful in enormous ways, ways we are all culpable for and must account for in our own lives rather than point at the liberals or conservatives or immigrants or homos or celebrities or Muslims or whoever we think is the problem that we despise or would like to blame for all the problems. At least I think that is what it means to be a confessing Christian, because heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word of the Lord remains forever.

  • Stephen

    Grace, I hate to break it to ya, but I’ve given up my life of hijacking. But I may just rant.

    As for American exceptionalism, I am of two minds. I have traveled some to lands that are every bit as religious and every bit as beautiful with people every bit as generous. They are all fascinated with America. In Europe, the impression years ago was generally good will. Recently it was a feeling that we are myopic and that we had let them down somehow. Yet, the people were no less gracious or welcoming or human. It’s possible to get past our nationality, as well as other things about ourselves, if we allow ourselves to do it and look for opportunities to connect.

    In poorer countries, and I have been to the poorest, some for long stretches, and the impression remains from years ago and more recently that we are all rich. In both cases, rich and poor countries, I feel the need to disabuse people of these images of our character as they perceive it. But it comes from some other place than all these images of how special we are (or are not) in a worldly sense. I will agree that there are very precious and special things about America, but I love my country on terms that have to do with specific things rather than gauging the level of my devotion to it as a whole. I do think we are responsible to keep something alive in the world that was given to us as a heritage that has to do with certain ideals, and I think those are spoiling to a greater or lesser degree as time passes. They are being spoiled by the same wickedness that ruined other great civilizations and one day our candle may just go dim because of the kind of growing avarice and ill-will that surrounds us in our politics, entertainment and general betrayal of the very ideals the founders assumed would flourish if people were given half a chance. Turns out the scriptures rather than the Enlightenment was correct. Sin abounds. We are corrupted and we need a savior. Even Walt Whitman, Americas first truly original poet (and homosexual I might add), understood that the Bible was the counterbalance to the enlightened ideas enshrined in the Constitution.

    I spoke to a visitor from Ireland recently. He was an elderly man with a passion for history. He loves America and is fascinated by how so many different people can live together and maintain their differences and yet be a people together. He also sees that the US has been burdened with the responsibility of taking care of the world without a lot of thanks for doing so ever since the end of WWII. It’s true. It’s not the Chinese that rush in when there is a tsunami in southern India. It’s the US Navy. And likewise it wasn’t the Russians who brought peace to the former Yugoslavia.

    But those people in our military, ah, they are few and very far between. The next time you see a guy with a funny haircut in the airport, buy him a cup of coffee and ask him how he’s doing. Then you can say you support the troops. Until then, put a sock in your pie hole.

    I also see an America that lines up at 3 a.m. at Best Buy to buy junk to entertain themselves while their fellow citizens are hungry. It’s good for the economy I guess. We consume something like 40 % of the resources on the planet, is that right? I mean, is that right, as in good? Is that an exceptional thing we’d like to put out there too? We are 5% of the world’s population. Is that so morally superior and Judeo-Christian of us no matter how much money we throw at the disaster de jour?

    So like I said, I am of two minds, and I have no answer. I think all this crap about singing our “exceptional” song at the expense of all others is nauseating from these political wannabes. With all the reality TV around you’d think we could get some reality candidates. No chance. Why are we always looking for a politician ala Ronald Reagan or Obama to pump us up and make us feel special, so we can chant U S A and feel proud to be an American. We just passed through Thanksgiving and you’d think that was completely lost on these boneheads. Remember when we were all just humble enough to admit we needed each other, instead of worrying about preserving our sense of exceptional-ness?

    I do think that America is a great gift to us and to the world. I also think it is seriously flawed and sinful in enormous ways, ways we are all culpable for and must account for in our own lives rather than point at the liberals or conservatives or immigrants or homos or celebrities or Muslims or whoever we think is the problem that we despise or would like to blame for all the problems. At least I think that is what it means to be a confessing Christian, because heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word of the Lord remains forever.

  • F.Scottie

    36-Grace, I’m not against stopping communism, (of course, the possibility of actually doing so is another matter), but I am concerned when people think it’s some kind of a divine mission from God(henceforth “exceptionalism”) for the government of the United States of America to do so.

  • F.Scottie

    36-Grace, I’m not against stopping communism, (of course, the possibility of actually doing so is another matter), but I am concerned when people think it’s some kind of a divine mission from God(henceforth “exceptionalism”) for the government of the United States of America to do so.

  • Stephen

    Oh yeah, and I am also speaking rather rhetorically and not directing my comments to anyone. Mostly, like trotk, I am concerned with politicians who take something like this and use it to make points with citizens to rile people up. It’s sort of sickening and gets away from really talking about something that matters. But then, when has that happened much lately with a politician running for office?

  • Stephen

    Oh yeah, and I am also speaking rather rhetorically and not directing my comments to anyone. Mostly, like trotk, I am concerned with politicians who take something like this and use it to make points with citizens to rile people up. It’s sort of sickening and gets away from really talking about something that matters. But then, when has that happened much lately with a politician running for office?

  • Frank Matheis

    American exceptionalism is what I see on your bumper stickers
    “God Bless America”.
    I prefer the one’s that say “God bless everyone”.
    To all this, I cite a Pete Seeger lyric “When will they ever learn?”
    History repeats itself.
    Do you think Jesus would actually favor one people over another, or one nation over another?
    “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
    (Matthew 22.37-40 ESV)
    With neighbors, I think it is not meant for just the people living down the street from you. The illusion of national superiority and exceptionalism, the folly of nationalism, the intoxication of power over others has led many countries to ruin and self-destruction. Take it from this German Lutheran.
    I can’t believe that God will look at Americans as you see yourselves, as “Number one”. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…” The German people learned that the hard way. And all those who spoke out to say these very things were scorned and ignored, punished or persecuted.

  • Frank Matheis

    American exceptionalism is what I see on your bumper stickers
    “God Bless America”.
    I prefer the one’s that say “God bless everyone”.
    To all this, I cite a Pete Seeger lyric “When will they ever learn?”
    History repeats itself.
    Do you think Jesus would actually favor one people over another, or one nation over another?
    “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
    (Matthew 22.37-40 ESV)
    With neighbors, I think it is not meant for just the people living down the street from you. The illusion of national superiority and exceptionalism, the folly of nationalism, the intoxication of power over others has led many countries to ruin and self-destruction. Take it from this German Lutheran.
    I can’t believe that God will look at Americans as you see yourselves, as “Number one”. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…” The German people learned that the hard way. And all those who spoke out to say these very things were scorned and ignored, punished or persecuted.

  • Grace

    Steve – 50

    “I also see an America that lines up at 3 a.m. at Best Buy to buy junk to entertain themselves while their fellow citizens are hungry. It’s good for the economy I guess. We consume something like 40 % of the resources on the planet, is that right? I mean, is that right, as in good? Is that an exceptional thing we’d like to put out there too? We are 5% of the world’s population. Is that so morally superior and Judeo-Christian of us no matter how much money we throw at the disaster de jour?”

    I will speak to some of your statements (rants? – Many of these “3 a.m.” people don’t have enough money to buy what they need, that’s why their in line. Whether it’s a computer, or something else, they are looking at how they can afford what they need. Is it good for the economy? – you bet…… If there were little consumerism, there would be no need for manufacturing, stores, or people to work in either one. YES, there are people who buy big screen T.V’s for many rooms in their homes, but there are others who wouldn’t think of doing so, no matter how much money they had.

    There was an outcry from the Salvation Army in Compton (one of the slums in L.A.) for food. They only had one turkey, and a few cans, …. they needed to give 500 boxes of Thanksgiving food, and they had no funds. The next day it was reported $30,000 had been sent from people who had heard the story on T.V. Take into consideration this is not only a slum, it has poor people, children who have no other choice. People reach out Steve, the Salvation Army is amazing.

    It takes money to fix these “disasters” – the Christian community gives, and so do many who are secular.

    If you don’t have commerce, manufacturing, etc, etc., where do you think people will find jobs? It takes a lot of everybody to make it, not just the well off, but everyone. Just as I said earlier in so many words, not everyone is college bound, nor should they waste their money, rather looking at their gifts and using them to their best advantage.

  • Grace

    Steve – 50

    “I also see an America that lines up at 3 a.m. at Best Buy to buy junk to entertain themselves while their fellow citizens are hungry. It’s good for the economy I guess. We consume something like 40 % of the resources on the planet, is that right? I mean, is that right, as in good? Is that an exceptional thing we’d like to put out there too? We are 5% of the world’s population. Is that so morally superior and Judeo-Christian of us no matter how much money we throw at the disaster de jour?”

    I will speak to some of your statements (rants? – Many of these “3 a.m.” people don’t have enough money to buy what they need, that’s why their in line. Whether it’s a computer, or something else, they are looking at how they can afford what they need. Is it good for the economy? – you bet…… If there were little consumerism, there would be no need for manufacturing, stores, or people to work in either one. YES, there are people who buy big screen T.V’s for many rooms in their homes, but there are others who wouldn’t think of doing so, no matter how much money they had.

    There was an outcry from the Salvation Army in Compton (one of the slums in L.A.) for food. They only had one turkey, and a few cans, …. they needed to give 500 boxes of Thanksgiving food, and they had no funds. The next day it was reported $30,000 had been sent from people who had heard the story on T.V. Take into consideration this is not only a slum, it has poor people, children who have no other choice. People reach out Steve, the Salvation Army is amazing.

    It takes money to fix these “disasters” – the Christian community gives, and so do many who are secular.

    If you don’t have commerce, manufacturing, etc, etc., where do you think people will find jobs? It takes a lot of everybody to make it, not just the well off, but everyone. Just as I said earlier in so many words, not everyone is college bound, nor should they waste their money, rather looking at their gifts and using them to their best advantage.

  • Grace

    Steve – 50

    When I think of “exceptional” I don’t think of it as being boastful, but being grateful for the opportunity to have been born here, and enjoy what this country has to offer – but most of all my parents and family, and my husband. The most IMPORTANT of all is knowing Christ, and living in a land where I can Worship Him without threat.

    I feel very sad when people come here, or when traveling people rant about the U.S. My opinion is; they are envious of the United States, and its citizens. The hate against Americans isn’t lost on those who travel. Sometimes it isn’t verbal, – actions speak louder than words. These same people know that if their land is invaded, or there is a disaster the Americans will step up – but at the same time, they don’t like us.

    As far as buying a cup of coffee for someone I don’t know – no Steve, that isn’t safe, nor is it a good idea. I have had many a conversation with people sitting next me or my husband when we are out to dinner. I’ve had some interesting conversations in airports, etc.,

  • Grace

    Steve – 50

    When I think of “exceptional” I don’t think of it as being boastful, but being grateful for the opportunity to have been born here, and enjoy what this country has to offer – but most of all my parents and family, and my husband. The most IMPORTANT of all is knowing Christ, and living in a land where I can Worship Him without threat.

    I feel very sad when people come here, or when traveling people rant about the U.S. My opinion is; they are envious of the United States, and its citizens. The hate against Americans isn’t lost on those who travel. Sometimes it isn’t verbal, – actions speak louder than words. These same people know that if their land is invaded, or there is a disaster the Americans will step up – but at the same time, they don’t like us.

    As far as buying a cup of coffee for someone I don’t know – no Steve, that isn’t safe, nor is it a good idea. I have had many a conversation with people sitting next me or my husband when we are out to dinner. I’ve had some interesting conversations in airports, etc.,

  • Grace

    “God bless America” ? – you betcha!

    After reading some of these posts, it appears that there is more antagonistic anger than we realize. Because this is a blog, people aren’t in one another’s faces, if they were, things might not be said.

    Yes I pray that God bless America and heal our land – including the slaughter of infants, bringing our military home safe. Why shouldn’t I say or pray “God bless America” ?

  • Grace

    “God bless America” ? – you betcha!

    After reading some of these posts, it appears that there is more antagonistic anger than we realize. Because this is a blog, people aren’t in one another’s faces, if they were, things might not be said.

    Yes I pray that God bless America and heal our land – including the slaughter of infants, bringing our military home safe. Why shouldn’t I say or pray “God bless America” ?

  • Grace

    Frank Matheis – 53

    “With neighbors, I think it is not meant for just the people living down the street from you. The illusion of national superiority and exceptionalism, the folly of nationalism, the intoxication of power over others has led many countries to ruin and self-destruction. Take it from this German Lutheran.”

    Do you understand how much the American people care about others, …… others from other countries who suffer from disaster, those in Africa who have suffered starvation? I’m glad this country has the money to do this, and the churches give to help, as well as medical teams. That isn’t nationalism or intoxication, that’s caring. Is it superiority? – no it isn’t, it is being grateful we can help.

    Why the anger Frank? – we fought in WW2, some of my family were in the military….. Europe. One of my uncles, a pilot, was shot down over Germany, he was held in a camp. When he came home his nervous system was a mess.

  • Grace

    Frank Matheis – 53

    “With neighbors, I think it is not meant for just the people living down the street from you. The illusion of national superiority and exceptionalism, the folly of nationalism, the intoxication of power over others has led many countries to ruin and self-destruction. Take it from this German Lutheran.”

    Do you understand how much the American people care about others, …… others from other countries who suffer from disaster, those in Africa who have suffered starvation? I’m glad this country has the money to do this, and the churches give to help, as well as medical teams. That isn’t nationalism or intoxication, that’s caring. Is it superiority? – no it isn’t, it is being grateful we can help.

    Why the anger Frank? – we fought in WW2, some of my family were in the military….. Europe. One of my uncles, a pilot, was shot down over Germany, he was held in a camp. When he came home his nervous system was a mess.

  • trotk

    Grace, another point to consider, but first a caveat.

    Caveat: America is an amazing country with great freedoms, a great deal of material wealth, and plenty of amazing character traits.

    That said, does it do any good to talk about America being exceptional?

    If people from other countries perceive it as boasting, regardless of our motivation, is it loving towards them,who feel they are being put down?

    If it has the chance of making us boastful in anything other than Christ crucified, is it worth doing?

    If it furthers the political divide in our country, should we do it?

    If it overlooks the poor who do not have many of the blessings they think that we are referring to, should we stop?

    If Paul responded to the Jews (who boasted that they were special because they were given the oracles of God, and who truly were divinely chosen) by breaking down their boast to reveal that they were sinners, should we fall into the same trap?

    If Christ, who was the only exceptional one, never seemed concerned about being perceived as such and instead served, loved, and gave Himself up, should we disregard His example?

    My point is that, other than in our private prayers of thanks (but even then we must beware, as the Pharisee reveals) and other than in our encouragement to continue the good that exists in our nation, I don’t see the point in talking about it.

  • trotk

    Grace, another point to consider, but first a caveat.

    Caveat: America is an amazing country with great freedoms, a great deal of material wealth, and plenty of amazing character traits.

    That said, does it do any good to talk about America being exceptional?

    If people from other countries perceive it as boasting, regardless of our motivation, is it loving towards them,who feel they are being put down?

    If it has the chance of making us boastful in anything other than Christ crucified, is it worth doing?

    If it furthers the political divide in our country, should we do it?

    If it overlooks the poor who do not have many of the blessings they think that we are referring to, should we stop?

    If Paul responded to the Jews (who boasted that they were special because they were given the oracles of God, and who truly were divinely chosen) by breaking down their boast to reveal that they were sinners, should we fall into the same trap?

    If Christ, who was the only exceptional one, never seemed concerned about being perceived as such and instead served, loved, and gave Himself up, should we disregard His example?

    My point is that, other than in our private prayers of thanks (but even then we must beware, as the Pharisee reveals) and other than in our encouragement to continue the good that exists in our nation, I don’t see the point in talking about it.

  • Grace

    trotk,

    I would never stop giving God the glory for what He has done for me, or what He has allowed this country to have through HIS blessing. It is only because of HIM that we have it to give to someone else.

    To tell you the truth trotk, I’m tired of people who take every opportunity to rant against our countrymen …. those who come from other countries taking pot shots, the very ones who have benefited from those in our military, who never came home again – it isn’t honoring to those who have given their lives so that others can be free.

  • Grace

    trotk,

    I would never stop giving God the glory for what He has done for me, or what He has allowed this country to have through HIS blessing. It is only because of HIM that we have it to give to someone else.

    To tell you the truth trotk, I’m tired of people who take every opportunity to rant against our countrymen …. those who come from other countries taking pot shots, the very ones who have benefited from those in our military, who never came home again – it isn’t honoring to those who have given their lives so that others can be free.

  • Stephen

    Grace @54, 55

    The person with the funny haircut I was suggesting someone buy a cup of coffee for was someone who is obviously in the military. I guess I didn’t make that clear. I was trying to say something about empty gestures, which I think this whole thing coming from political figures is all about, and people just play along. The truly exceptional among us deserve better than the kind of loudmouth jingoisms of the current crop of celebrity political know-nothings coming down the pike.

    I’m not disagreeing that America isn’t exceptional in many ways (did that make sense?). I feel exceptionally blessed. I am white, middle-class, 21st century American male – I mean, I’d be stupid not to see that as exceptionally . . . exceptional, far above just about any other place in human history for opportunity and comfort and possibility.

    And I get all that about commerce. It is not lost on me, and I certainly enjoy many of those luxuries myself. I have heard the rationalizations for keeping the engine of the economy going. Yes we all want work to do and so on and so on. The same arguments can and are used to sell all kinds of goods and services, many that I’m sure you would not approve of yourself. Our economy runs on more than TVs and video games. It also runs on porn and weapons and crime. There is no inherent morality in capitalism, and I do not think money makes the world go round. I’m not sure that is a fair way to frame what you are saying, but I think we live in a culture that teaches that as a primary value, and we buy into it (see, its even imbedded in our language!). I do not see any clarion call to higher virtues as excessively evident in the machinations of commerce’s bottom line. I see just about any excuse to lay people off as a matter of fact.

    What I was trying to get at is that when we talk about being exceptional, if it has to do with what great consumers we are, that we do lots of good things with our money in the process of devouring the planet’s resources, meanwhile making our children fat, ignorant and slothful, then just how exceptional are we really? And if we want to top that off with bragging about how Christian we are, then by all means, let’s get on our knees and bloody well repent. But we don’t really want to do that because that would mean really taking a hard look at things, at ourselves, and giving up a whole lot of things for the sake of our neighbor – I mean really giving things up – not because it is morally purifying, but because our neighbor needs us to do so. Each of us has to examine what that would mean in their own life, and it is a challenge for a Christian daily to take up that cross, because this country is about getting and having and keeping and owning and possessing. Giving up things, and I don’t mean just material things, flies in the face of all that. It is counter-cultural.

    My sense is we will go on attempting to shape everything in the American image, including our religion. And that being the case, the sacrifices we offer up and goodwill we do, I’m sure, will be done with the very best intentions, believing that God is pleased with us. He must be. Just look how blessed we are. Look how much stuff we have. We’re exceptional.

    And at that point I’m afraid we have missed the point entirely Grace, which is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. I hate to sound so cynical, and I’m actually not a cynical person. But redemption does not cometh by the economy any more than it cometh from a hero politician who promises to make government work again. Like I said, I do not have an answer. It was not my intention to offer one, but to critique the value of this idea of “exceptionalism” as a helpful way to describe our country. I do think there are exceptional things about it, and I have known extraordinary Americans, and none of them have been on TV.

    When I pray for America, it has been for insight, and reflection, for patience, and for help for people who need it. I pray that wise people would be heard and the fools would be disregarded. I don’t think that happens much, but that’s my opinion. I pray that people who oppose each other could be less politicized, more humanized, talk to each other rather than at each other so that clarity could somehow shine out of the haze. That seems like the only way to reconcile the most difficult issues without them eventually coming to violence.

    Frankly, this makes me sad. Your last comment about abortion drives it home. What about that is not absolutely and exceptionally shameful? That too, I believe, is a product of our market economy – children as product, product which can be dispensed with if not economically feasible, etc. Abortion is embedded in that same value system. Extracting it from a culture that approves of it means upending an entire value system in my view. Are conservatives who prize that system so very highly really willing to have it undergo such a scathing critique in order to win the abortion battle? That is one example of the kind of thing I am talking about giving up. And there are plenty of things on the liberal side as well.

    Oh well, rant too long, tired and must sleep. America exceptional, blah, blah.

  • Stephen

    Grace @54, 55

    The person with the funny haircut I was suggesting someone buy a cup of coffee for was someone who is obviously in the military. I guess I didn’t make that clear. I was trying to say something about empty gestures, which I think this whole thing coming from political figures is all about, and people just play along. The truly exceptional among us deserve better than the kind of loudmouth jingoisms of the current crop of celebrity political know-nothings coming down the pike.

    I’m not disagreeing that America isn’t exceptional in many ways (did that make sense?). I feel exceptionally blessed. I am white, middle-class, 21st century American male – I mean, I’d be stupid not to see that as exceptionally . . . exceptional, far above just about any other place in human history for opportunity and comfort and possibility.

    And I get all that about commerce. It is not lost on me, and I certainly enjoy many of those luxuries myself. I have heard the rationalizations for keeping the engine of the economy going. Yes we all want work to do and so on and so on. The same arguments can and are used to sell all kinds of goods and services, many that I’m sure you would not approve of yourself. Our economy runs on more than TVs and video games. It also runs on porn and weapons and crime. There is no inherent morality in capitalism, and I do not think money makes the world go round. I’m not sure that is a fair way to frame what you are saying, but I think we live in a culture that teaches that as a primary value, and we buy into it (see, its even imbedded in our language!). I do not see any clarion call to higher virtues as excessively evident in the machinations of commerce’s bottom line. I see just about any excuse to lay people off as a matter of fact.

    What I was trying to get at is that when we talk about being exceptional, if it has to do with what great consumers we are, that we do lots of good things with our money in the process of devouring the planet’s resources, meanwhile making our children fat, ignorant and slothful, then just how exceptional are we really? And if we want to top that off with bragging about how Christian we are, then by all means, let’s get on our knees and bloody well repent. But we don’t really want to do that because that would mean really taking a hard look at things, at ourselves, and giving up a whole lot of things for the sake of our neighbor – I mean really giving things up – not because it is morally purifying, but because our neighbor needs us to do so. Each of us has to examine what that would mean in their own life, and it is a challenge for a Christian daily to take up that cross, because this country is about getting and having and keeping and owning and possessing. Giving up things, and I don’t mean just material things, flies in the face of all that. It is counter-cultural.

    My sense is we will go on attempting to shape everything in the American image, including our religion. And that being the case, the sacrifices we offer up and goodwill we do, I’m sure, will be done with the very best intentions, believing that God is pleased with us. He must be. Just look how blessed we are. Look how much stuff we have. We’re exceptional.

    And at that point I’m afraid we have missed the point entirely Grace, which is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. I hate to sound so cynical, and I’m actually not a cynical person. But redemption does not cometh by the economy any more than it cometh from a hero politician who promises to make government work again. Like I said, I do not have an answer. It was not my intention to offer one, but to critique the value of this idea of “exceptionalism” as a helpful way to describe our country. I do think there are exceptional things about it, and I have known extraordinary Americans, and none of them have been on TV.

    When I pray for America, it has been for insight, and reflection, for patience, and for help for people who need it. I pray that wise people would be heard and the fools would be disregarded. I don’t think that happens much, but that’s my opinion. I pray that people who oppose each other could be less politicized, more humanized, talk to each other rather than at each other so that clarity could somehow shine out of the haze. That seems like the only way to reconcile the most difficult issues without them eventually coming to violence.

    Frankly, this makes me sad. Your last comment about abortion drives it home. What about that is not absolutely and exceptionally shameful? That too, I believe, is a product of our market economy – children as product, product which can be dispensed with if not economically feasible, etc. Abortion is embedded in that same value system. Extracting it from a culture that approves of it means upending an entire value system in my view. Are conservatives who prize that system so very highly really willing to have it undergo such a scathing critique in order to win the abortion battle? That is one example of the kind of thing I am talking about giving up. And there are plenty of things on the liberal side as well.

    Oh well, rant too long, tired and must sleep. America exceptional, blah, blah.

  • Grace

    Steve – 60

    “What I was trying to get at is that when we talk about being exceptional, if it has to do with what great consumers we are, that we do lots of good things with our money in the process of devouring the planet’s resources, meanwhile making our children fat, ignorant and slothful, then just how exceptional are we really?”

    I’m not a Gore fan ; ) – making children fat is the parents responsibility. That is one of the problems Steve, people believe we should steer them in the right direction, and then they balk at the advice. If they want to feed their kids till they won’t fit through the door, wellllllll that’s what their going to do. There is no reason to believe we should have parent police patrol. We have to accept, parents are responsible for their children, the state isn’t.

    “And if we want to top that off with bragging about how Christian we are, then by all means, let’s get on our knees and bloody well repent. But we don’t really want to do that because that would mean really taking a hard look at things, at ourselves, and giving up a whole lot of things for the sake of our neighbor – I mean really giving things up – not because it is morally purifying, but because our neighbor needs us to do so. Each of us has to examine what that would mean in their own life, and it is a challenge for a Christian daily to take up that cross, because this country is about getting and having and keeping and owning and possessing. Giving up things, and I don’t mean just material things, flies in the face of all that. It is counter-cultural.”

    Steve, I’m not sure just what you mean here. You would need to be SPECIFIC.

  • Grace

    Steve – 60

    “What I was trying to get at is that when we talk about being exceptional, if it has to do with what great consumers we are, that we do lots of good things with our money in the process of devouring the planet’s resources, meanwhile making our children fat, ignorant and slothful, then just how exceptional are we really?”

    I’m not a Gore fan ; ) – making children fat is the parents responsibility. That is one of the problems Steve, people believe we should steer them in the right direction, and then they balk at the advice. If they want to feed their kids till they won’t fit through the door, wellllllll that’s what their going to do. There is no reason to believe we should have parent police patrol. We have to accept, parents are responsible for their children, the state isn’t.

    “And if we want to top that off with bragging about how Christian we are, then by all means, let’s get on our knees and bloody well repent. But we don’t really want to do that because that would mean really taking a hard look at things, at ourselves, and giving up a whole lot of things for the sake of our neighbor – I mean really giving things up – not because it is morally purifying, but because our neighbor needs us to do so. Each of us has to examine what that would mean in their own life, and it is a challenge for a Christian daily to take up that cross, because this country is about getting and having and keeping and owning and possessing. Giving up things, and I don’t mean just material things, flies in the face of all that. It is counter-cultural.”

    Steve, I’m not sure just what you mean here. You would need to be SPECIFIC.

  • Grace

    What happened to my ;)

  • Grace

    What happened to my ;)

  • Grace

    Steve – 60

    “There is no inherent morality in capitalism, and I do not think money makes the world go round.”

    “Morality in capitalism” – comparing morality to capitalism?

    Definitions

    morality goodness, decency, probity, honesty, integrity, honor, virtue, godliness, saintliness

    capitalism free-market system: an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods, characterized by a free competitive market and motivation by profit

    Shall we ‘nuance and ‘parse’ these words until there is nothing left of them? Is that not what the Oval Office now does to convince the American people of soci@lism? – down with morality?

    Is there “morality” in taking what is someone else’s and dividing it up for others who have not labored to earned whatever the product, goods? –

    Try buying a house without money or anything else. Money isn’t evil, it’s what one does with it that makes it evil. Don’t forget, it doesn’t take money to make man evil, ….. his heart can be evil without it, …. his mind, lust, hate, envy, and evil thoughts drive the bus.

  • Grace

    Steve – 60

    “There is no inherent morality in capitalism, and I do not think money makes the world go round.”

    “Morality in capitalism” – comparing morality to capitalism?

    Definitions

    morality goodness, decency, probity, honesty, integrity, honor, virtue, godliness, saintliness

    capitalism free-market system: an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods, characterized by a free competitive market and motivation by profit

    Shall we ‘nuance and ‘parse’ these words until there is nothing left of them? Is that not what the Oval Office now does to convince the American people of soci@lism? – down with morality?

    Is there “morality” in taking what is someone else’s and dividing it up for others who have not labored to earned whatever the product, goods? –

    Try buying a house without money or anything else. Money isn’t evil, it’s what one does with it that makes it evil. Don’t forget, it doesn’t take money to make man evil, ….. his heart can be evil without it, …. his mind, lust, hate, envy, and evil thoughts drive the bus.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    B Minor@16 you said;
    “For rich, white men, America’s always been exceptional, and still is. But for nonwhites, most women, and the poor [those who, interestingly, also struggle to be heard by rightwing evangelical and Lutheran America] it’s a much different country. Worse than others, better than some, but not exceptional. Not by a long shot.”

    Yeah, right. We have an African American President, a woman Secretary of State, an “non-white” woman sitting on the Supreme court. (in addition to two other women on the same bench) and many women and “nonwhites ” holding political office and positions at the head of large companies. Lots of “minorities ” own
    their own businesses, and millions are in middle management. And in case you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of poor white men around too.
    Come on, if your are going to criticize, try something other than that old cannard.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    B Minor@16 you said;
    “For rich, white men, America’s always been exceptional, and still is. But for nonwhites, most women, and the poor [those who, interestingly, also struggle to be heard by rightwing evangelical and Lutheran America] it’s a much different country. Worse than others, better than some, but not exceptional. Not by a long shot.”

    Yeah, right. We have an African American President, a woman Secretary of State, an “non-white” woman sitting on the Supreme court. (in addition to two other women on the same bench) and many women and “nonwhites ” holding political office and positions at the head of large companies. Lots of “minorities ” own
    their own businesses, and millions are in middle management. And in case you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of poor white men around too.
    Come on, if your are going to criticize, try something other than that old cannard.

  • Stephen

    Grace @ 63

    In the Federalist Papers Alexander Hamilton tries to make the case that capitalism encourages virtue as a natural outgrowth of the exchange of goods and services. But as I said, those goods and services can be of any type. Criminals have a code of their own by which they abide to exchange the goods and services in which they traffic, and if it is violated, well, they just kill each other. That too is capitalism. That is what I meant by there being nothing inherently moral about capitalism per se. Conservatives who defend the capitalist system above all else seem to regard it as inherently moral. Yet, there is no truly Burkeian (sp?) economic system going because a society as large as ours cannot tolerate the extremes of boom and bust, poverty and wealth that it implies. Even Newt Gingrich agrees that we must have some kind of social system in place to avoid the Dickensian wasteland that an extreme libertarian economy that unleashes an unfettered capitalism upon our country would bring to our population as it did in the 19th c in Europe.
    Yet we have conservative “spokespersons” like Glenn Beck wanting to popularize the wickedness of Ayn Rand, an atheist near-sociopath who would just as soon line up and shoot anyone she didn’t like, and whose disciples include none other than Alan Greenspan who, by his own admission, is largely responsible for the economic mess we are in. These people believe heavily in the ability of the free market to fix everything because they think it is completely rational. It’s not, because people are not. People are emotional, and yes, spiritual beings, something Ayn Rand absolutely denies. Yet we have Tea Party people parading through the streets threatening to “go Galt” after a character in her famous, and famously horrid, novel. This, I think, is a mark of America’s exceptional ignorance and lack of wisdom. We listen to fools.
    And as for specifics, I did give one, that of the market value that pervades everything, including the way we understand our humanity and how this effects the way abortion is embedded in the consciousness of America. In my view, it will take more than railing about its fundamental immorality to get it to end. It will mean an entire gutting of the economic man and his “rights” in order to undo it. But the “right” to property is not something a conservative will let go of anymore than a liberal will let go of their “right” to their own body. That is what I meant about giving things up.
    What I think would be exceptional is a politics that was more humane, and by that I mean one in which a person is not automatically lined up with a whole host of issues simply because they stand for one thing. If I say I am opposed to abortion, I am immediately set up as bible-thumping conservative who hates gays. Well, I’m not that. If I say I support gay marriage, I am immediately in support of abortion. Well, that is not the case either. Our politics is such that one issue becomes a litmus test for everything else. We are all at the ready to size up the other guy as demonic. So if I criticize our market economy on some point or even several points it makes me a socialist. That’s ridiculous. The socialist label is silly to the point of meaningless. Our president cut a deal with insurance companies. That doesn’t sound very socialist to me. The far left is disappointed in him. He is center-left. Big deal. Time marches on. Like I said, he is not savior, neither was Reagan.
    Grace, what I wanted to say is that we are exceptionally wonderful in some ways but, in cautionary way, we are exceptionally sinful in others. Perhaps this is the burden of our great heritage. And perhaps if we refuse to admit that we are in great peril. If we have no humility about our “greatness” (which I think this latest attempt to trumpet our exceptionalism seems to be) then we risk losing it altogether. And by the way, I am no fan of Gore either. I think he’s a coward. But that’s nothing new for men in positions of power born with silver spoon in their mouth.

  • Stephen

    Grace @ 63

    In the Federalist Papers Alexander Hamilton tries to make the case that capitalism encourages virtue as a natural outgrowth of the exchange of goods and services. But as I said, those goods and services can be of any type. Criminals have a code of their own by which they abide to exchange the goods and services in which they traffic, and if it is violated, well, they just kill each other. That too is capitalism. That is what I meant by there being nothing inherently moral about capitalism per se. Conservatives who defend the capitalist system above all else seem to regard it as inherently moral. Yet, there is no truly Burkeian (sp?) economic system going because a society as large as ours cannot tolerate the extremes of boom and bust, poverty and wealth that it implies. Even Newt Gingrich agrees that we must have some kind of social system in place to avoid the Dickensian wasteland that an extreme libertarian economy that unleashes an unfettered capitalism upon our country would bring to our population as it did in the 19th c in Europe.
    Yet we have conservative “spokespersons” like Glenn Beck wanting to popularize the wickedness of Ayn Rand, an atheist near-sociopath who would just as soon line up and shoot anyone she didn’t like, and whose disciples include none other than Alan Greenspan who, by his own admission, is largely responsible for the economic mess we are in. These people believe heavily in the ability of the free market to fix everything because they think it is completely rational. It’s not, because people are not. People are emotional, and yes, spiritual beings, something Ayn Rand absolutely denies. Yet we have Tea Party people parading through the streets threatening to “go Galt” after a character in her famous, and famously horrid, novel. This, I think, is a mark of America’s exceptional ignorance and lack of wisdom. We listen to fools.
    And as for specifics, I did give one, that of the market value that pervades everything, including the way we understand our humanity and how this effects the way abortion is embedded in the consciousness of America. In my view, it will take more than railing about its fundamental immorality to get it to end. It will mean an entire gutting of the economic man and his “rights” in order to undo it. But the “right” to property is not something a conservative will let go of anymore than a liberal will let go of their “right” to their own body. That is what I meant about giving things up.
    What I think would be exceptional is a politics that was more humane, and by that I mean one in which a person is not automatically lined up with a whole host of issues simply because they stand for one thing. If I say I am opposed to abortion, I am immediately set up as bible-thumping conservative who hates gays. Well, I’m not that. If I say I support gay marriage, I am immediately in support of abortion. Well, that is not the case either. Our politics is such that one issue becomes a litmus test for everything else. We are all at the ready to size up the other guy as demonic. So if I criticize our market economy on some point or even several points it makes me a socialist. That’s ridiculous. The socialist label is silly to the point of meaningless. Our president cut a deal with insurance companies. That doesn’t sound very socialist to me. The far left is disappointed in him. He is center-left. Big deal. Time marches on. Like I said, he is not savior, neither was Reagan.
    Grace, what I wanted to say is that we are exceptionally wonderful in some ways but, in cautionary way, we are exceptionally sinful in others. Perhaps this is the burden of our great heritage. And perhaps if we refuse to admit that we are in great peril. If we have no humility about our “greatness” (which I think this latest attempt to trumpet our exceptionalism seems to be) then we risk losing it altogether. And by the way, I am no fan of Gore either. I think he’s a coward. But that’s nothing new for men in positions of power born with silver spoon in their mouth.

  • kerner

    Boy, give up the internet for a few days to get some work done, and you miss some great topics.

    George @29 said it best. But Josh (quoting Rush Limbaugh of all people) captured a lot of truth as well.

    America is exceptional in that it is based on “ideals” rather than on a particular ethnicity or even culture. Those ideals were incorporated into our constitution. This does not make it unique, but it certianly makes America unusual, or “exceptional”.

    The ideals so embodied and otherwise preserved are what used to be called “classical liberalism”: the principles of personal freedom and a free market economy that have caused this country to prosper in so many ways. Our fidelity to these ideals was never perfect. But that’s the way it is with ideals. Nobody can live up to them. But in this, I think America becomes more exceptional still. And it is why so many people want to come here. They see the success of our system and want to share in it, even if they don’t really fully understand it.

    In my opinion, the big struggle for the last century or more has been whether our founding ideals were true ideals, or just one stage in an evolutionary process leading to something better.

    I think Christians can legitimately argue that our founding political and economic ideals are worth defending as Christians, not just as Americans. Here’s why.

    Our founding ideals incorporate a profound recognition that people have a fallen, sinful, nature. The reason government should be decentralized is because people are fallen creatures and simply cannot be trusted with very much authority. A person with a lot of authority is simply a sinner with the ability to do a lot more damage. There is no such thing a a human ruler that will do more good than harm. Therefore, human rulers are to be avoided. God’s kingdom can NEVER be of this world. Any attempt, however well intentioned, to make it so by giving the government the authority to “do good” will only result in more harm. Humankind will never “progress” to a point where there are politicians who can be trusted with great authority. This is why the “liberals” among us here, and in the rest of the country, will almost always be wrong and need to be opposed when they try to give the government more power to “help”. Our system of government is intentionally designed to play men’s sinful impulses against each other, thus not abolishing government, but limiting it.

    Which brings me to our economic system. It also is based on the recognition of the fallen nature of mankind. People are not by nature charitable and will never (I repeat, NEVER) cooperate together to help each other through a legal system designed to accomplish it. Attempting to make people cooperate economically always results in corruption and failure and increases poverty. The paradox is that allowing people to pursue there own self interests increases prosperity and decreases poverty. I have raised this point before, and no liberal here has ever really addressed it. The fact is, trying to help the poor through governmental fiat only creates more poor and traps the existing poor in their poverty. The government that allows the free exchange of goods and services based on the self interest of the exchangers (with little overt concern about forcing them to help the poor) generates enough prosperity to actually help the poor more than systems that are overtly designed to help them. As a Christian, I believe that the Church is much better able to help the poor by appealing to the prosperous individually than by trying to create a system that attempts to enforce “helping the poor”.

    This economic system is not without its defects. Selfishness materialism and greed are endemic to it, and we are a “spoiled” people. We think we have a right to all our “stuff”, and absent God’s grace this will bring us down. Never the less, in our society, the poor have more “stuff” (hence less poverty) as well. Whatever the faults of free market capitalism may be, creating more poverty is not among them.

    Essentially what free market capitalism does is start with the truth (people are selfish sinners) and so proceeds with that in mind.

    Soci@lism starts with a lie (people can be forced to be good and care about their neighbors as themselves) and tries to make a system based on a lie work. It can’t; it doesn’t; it never will. For all you liberals, you defeat your own purpose every time you try to make such a system work.

    The Holy Spirit may melt the heart of the greedy rich man. The government never, ever, will. Give it up.

    But this is why it makes sense for a Christian to want to support the American system of government and economics. Because it recognises the truth we recognise: people are sinners. We can better work within a system that is founded on truth that we can in a system that is founded on a lie.

    This doesn’t mean that we as Christians should start believing that all this material prosperity is proof that we are God’s “chosen people”. Quite the contrary. God may very well decide that our prosperity, the more we obsess over it, is reason to humble us by bringing us down. Or He may just let us put our trust in our earthly treasure, which would be worse than bringing us down in an earthly way, because that would bring us down eternally.

  • kerner

    Boy, give up the internet for a few days to get some work done, and you miss some great topics.

    George @29 said it best. But Josh (quoting Rush Limbaugh of all people) captured a lot of truth as well.

    America is exceptional in that it is based on “ideals” rather than on a particular ethnicity or even culture. Those ideals were incorporated into our constitution. This does not make it unique, but it certianly makes America unusual, or “exceptional”.

    The ideals so embodied and otherwise preserved are what used to be called “classical liberalism”: the principles of personal freedom and a free market economy that have caused this country to prosper in so many ways. Our fidelity to these ideals was never perfect. But that’s the way it is with ideals. Nobody can live up to them. But in this, I think America becomes more exceptional still. And it is why so many people want to come here. They see the success of our system and want to share in it, even if they don’t really fully understand it.

    In my opinion, the big struggle for the last century or more has been whether our founding ideals were true ideals, or just one stage in an evolutionary process leading to something better.

    I think Christians can legitimately argue that our founding political and economic ideals are worth defending as Christians, not just as Americans. Here’s why.

    Our founding ideals incorporate a profound recognition that people have a fallen, sinful, nature. The reason government should be decentralized is because people are fallen creatures and simply cannot be trusted with very much authority. A person with a lot of authority is simply a sinner with the ability to do a lot more damage. There is no such thing a a human ruler that will do more good than harm. Therefore, human rulers are to be avoided. God’s kingdom can NEVER be of this world. Any attempt, however well intentioned, to make it so by giving the government the authority to “do good” will only result in more harm. Humankind will never “progress” to a point where there are politicians who can be trusted with great authority. This is why the “liberals” among us here, and in the rest of the country, will almost always be wrong and need to be opposed when they try to give the government more power to “help”. Our system of government is intentionally designed to play men’s sinful impulses against each other, thus not abolishing government, but limiting it.

    Which brings me to our economic system. It also is based on the recognition of the fallen nature of mankind. People are not by nature charitable and will never (I repeat, NEVER) cooperate together to help each other through a legal system designed to accomplish it. Attempting to make people cooperate economically always results in corruption and failure and increases poverty. The paradox is that allowing people to pursue there own self interests increases prosperity and decreases poverty. I have raised this point before, and no liberal here has ever really addressed it. The fact is, trying to help the poor through governmental fiat only creates more poor and traps the existing poor in their poverty. The government that allows the free exchange of goods and services based on the self interest of the exchangers (with little overt concern about forcing them to help the poor) generates enough prosperity to actually help the poor more than systems that are overtly designed to help them. As a Christian, I believe that the Church is much better able to help the poor by appealing to the prosperous individually than by trying to create a system that attempts to enforce “helping the poor”.

    This economic system is not without its defects. Selfishness materialism and greed are endemic to it, and we are a “spoiled” people. We think we have a right to all our “stuff”, and absent God’s grace this will bring us down. Never the less, in our society, the poor have more “stuff” (hence less poverty) as well. Whatever the faults of free market capitalism may be, creating more poverty is not among them.

    Essentially what free market capitalism does is start with the truth (people are selfish sinners) and so proceeds with that in mind.

    Soci@lism starts with a lie (people can be forced to be good and care about their neighbors as themselves) and tries to make a system based on a lie work. It can’t; it doesn’t; it never will. For all you liberals, you defeat your own purpose every time you try to make such a system work.

    The Holy Spirit may melt the heart of the greedy rich man. The government never, ever, will. Give it up.

    But this is why it makes sense for a Christian to want to support the American system of government and economics. Because it recognises the truth we recognise: people are sinners. We can better work within a system that is founded on truth that we can in a system that is founded on a lie.

    This doesn’t mean that we as Christians should start believing that all this material prosperity is proof that we are God’s “chosen people”. Quite the contrary. God may very well decide that our prosperity, the more we obsess over it, is reason to humble us by bringing us down. Or He may just let us put our trust in our earthly treasure, which would be worse than bringing us down in an earthly way, because that would bring us down eternally.

  • Stephen

    kerner@66

    I believe my post is something of a challenge to your flat out gush over the merits of unrestrained capitalism. I don’t disagree that pursuing self-interest provides some of the benefits you suggest (paradoxically, if we have to say it that way, though I think a better way to say it might be something like “under the restraint of law for the common good”). But the lie you say that soci@lism is based upon seems exactly how the military works, and it works quite well. Why is that? Just curious.

  • Stephen

    kerner@66

    I believe my post is something of a challenge to your flat out gush over the merits of unrestrained capitalism. I don’t disagree that pursuing self-interest provides some of the benefits you suggest (paradoxically, if we have to say it that way, though I think a better way to say it might be something like “under the restraint of law for the common good”). But the lie you say that soci@lism is based upon seems exactly how the military works, and it works quite well. Why is that? Just curious.

  • Stephen

    And by the way, why does everything always have to be separated into such clear cut dualism, bifurcated into oppositions that some seem to think they can so clearly delineate? “If it isn’t this, well by heaven, it must be that, and we sure don’t like that!”

    Kerner @ 66 The market economy recognizes that we are sinners? Only in the most accidental way perhaps. No, if it assumes anything about the character of human beings it is that they are basically good and will pursue what is best. That is the Enlightenment position and it is fundamentally opposed to the Christian idea of Original sin. It was worked into things like the “invisible hand” of Adam Smith, which is certainly a taskmaster and slave driver if it is anything, and other ideas like the one I described coming out of the Federalist Papers. It is not fundamentally Christian. That was rejected by the Enlightenment out of which our economics and “paradoxically” liberal democratic freedoms were born.

  • Stephen

    And by the way, why does everything always have to be separated into such clear cut dualism, bifurcated into oppositions that some seem to think they can so clearly delineate? “If it isn’t this, well by heaven, it must be that, and we sure don’t like that!”

    Kerner @ 66 The market economy recognizes that we are sinners? Only in the most accidental way perhaps. No, if it assumes anything about the character of human beings it is that they are basically good and will pursue what is best. That is the Enlightenment position and it is fundamentally opposed to the Christian idea of Original sin. It was worked into things like the “invisible hand” of Adam Smith, which is certainly a taskmaster and slave driver if it is anything, and other ideas like the one I described coming out of the Federalist Papers. It is not fundamentally Christian. That was rejected by the Enlightenment out of which our economics and “paradoxically” liberal democratic freedoms were born.

  • Grace

    Frank Matheis – 53

    “The illusion of national superiority and exceptionalism, the folly of nationalism, the intoxication of power over others has led many countries to ruin and self-destruction. Take it from this German Lutheran.
    I can’t believe that God will look at Americans as you see yourselves, as “Number one”.
    “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…” The German people learned that the hard way. And all those who spoke out to say these very things were scorned and ignored, punished or persecuted.”

    I was not going to comment on the above, however it is too troubling to AVOID, as it STRONGLY appears to be comparing Germany, its wicked hatred, anti-semitism (1930′s – 1940′s) to the United States, today. The U.S.A. is in no way shape or form is like Germany, and their hatred for the Jewish people, THERE IS NO COMPARISON – The United States has supported Israel and so do I, and the majority of Evangelical Churches do as well.

    This is still a sore subject, not just in America but in many other countries as well. The elders in my family remember all to well the war that was waged in Germany, and spread like hell to other countries. Hitler was not embraced by anyone who had knowledge of what the Bible said, or understood God’s love for His chosen people, or that fact that Christ Himself was born into a Jewish family, all of His Apostles were Jews, the first Believers were Jews…… but that mattered little to Hitler or his SS troops or the majority of citizens in Germany.

    Please do not equate the U.S. as being exceptional – with Germany, it doesn’t fit – it is an insult to the American people who did everything to end the holocaust, losing many lives, broking bodies, and hearts, in the process.

    Do you by chance live in Germany now? – or are you living in America? I understand you might not want to answer the question, but it does come to mind.

  • Grace

    Frank Matheis – 53

    “The illusion of national superiority and exceptionalism, the folly of nationalism, the intoxication of power over others has led many countries to ruin and self-destruction. Take it from this German Lutheran.
    I can’t believe that God will look at Americans as you see yourselves, as “Number one”.
    “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…” The German people learned that the hard way. And all those who spoke out to say these very things were scorned and ignored, punished or persecuted.”

    I was not going to comment on the above, however it is too troubling to AVOID, as it STRONGLY appears to be comparing Germany, its wicked hatred, anti-semitism (1930′s – 1940′s) to the United States, today. The U.S.A. is in no way shape or form is like Germany, and their hatred for the Jewish people, THERE IS NO COMPARISON – The United States has supported Israel and so do I, and the majority of Evangelical Churches do as well.

    This is still a sore subject, not just in America but in many other countries as well. The elders in my family remember all to well the war that was waged in Germany, and spread like hell to other countries. Hitler was not embraced by anyone who had knowledge of what the Bible said, or understood God’s love for His chosen people, or that fact that Christ Himself was born into a Jewish family, all of His Apostles were Jews, the first Believers were Jews…… but that mattered little to Hitler or his SS troops or the majority of citizens in Germany.

    Please do not equate the U.S. as being exceptional – with Germany, it doesn’t fit – it is an insult to the American people who did everything to end the holocaust, losing many lives, broking bodies, and hearts, in the process.

    Do you by chance live in Germany now? – or are you living in America? I understand you might not want to answer the question, but it does come to mind.

  • Grace

    Kerner – 66

    “Soci@lism starts with a lie (people can be forced to be good and care about their neighbors as themselves) and tries to make a system based on a lie work. It can’t; it doesn’t; it never will. For all you liberals, you defeat your own purpose every time you try to make such a system work.

    The Holy Spirit may melt the heart of the greedy rich man. The government never, ever, will. Give it up.”

    Kerner, there were many more points, but the ones you made above should be printed and framed.

    EXCELLENT!

  • Grace

    Kerner – 66

    “Soci@lism starts with a lie (people can be forced to be good and care about their neighbors as themselves) and tries to make a system based on a lie work. It can’t; it doesn’t; it never will. For all you liberals, you defeat your own purpose every time you try to make such a system work.

    The Holy Spirit may melt the heart of the greedy rich man. The government never, ever, will. Give it up.”

    Kerner, there were many more points, but the ones you made above should be printed and framed.

    EXCELLENT!

  • Tom Hering

    “The Holy Spirit may melt the heart of the greedy rich man. The government never, ever, will.”

    Melting is nice, but unnecessary. Government can bring about changes in an individual’s behavior by means of rewards and punishments. And the result for others can be same as if genuine love of neighbor were that individual’s motive.

  • Tom Hering

    “The Holy Spirit may melt the heart of the greedy rich man. The government never, ever, will.”

    Melting is nice, but unnecessary. Government can bring about changes in an individual’s behavior by means of rewards and punishments. And the result for others can be same as if genuine love of neighbor were that individual’s motive.

  • Shane Ayers

    I can’t claim to have read all the previous posts, but I would ask the question to those who claim “freedom” as grounds for American exceptionalism: is the purpose of government ever to promote virtue (i.e., to compel, in some sense, right action)? Romans 13 implies such. I think most Christian political theory also agrees. Is freedom tantamount to good, or is lack of restraint cause goodness?

    Frankly, I would suggest that those who are most ardent arguers for “American exceptionalism” perhaps have the least right to be patriotic. For, they truly believe the country they love is the best (and I have no aim to dissuade them). But what about those of us who lament it’s decadence, it’s foreign policy, it’s hollow culture, it’s vapid church? Don’t we critics actually love “America” more than the exceptionalists?

    But let me rephrase. I do think America is exceptional… just because it is mine. England is exceptional to the Englishman, and France to the Frenchman. I do not begrudge them their land or culture. But if I base my love of home off qualifications (i.e., being the most free, most wealthy, most powerful, best governed) am I not a bit mercenary? What happens when my country is ill? Should I not love her through illness? (I claim no originality in this post; as it’s directly taken from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and Lewis’s Four Loves). Perhaps the liberals are more conservative than the conservatives in this regard.

  • Shane Ayers

    I can’t claim to have read all the previous posts, but I would ask the question to those who claim “freedom” as grounds for American exceptionalism: is the purpose of government ever to promote virtue (i.e., to compel, in some sense, right action)? Romans 13 implies such. I think most Christian political theory also agrees. Is freedom tantamount to good, or is lack of restraint cause goodness?

    Frankly, I would suggest that those who are most ardent arguers for “American exceptionalism” perhaps have the least right to be patriotic. For, they truly believe the country they love is the best (and I have no aim to dissuade them). But what about those of us who lament it’s decadence, it’s foreign policy, it’s hollow culture, it’s vapid church? Don’t we critics actually love “America” more than the exceptionalists?

    But let me rephrase. I do think America is exceptional… just because it is mine. England is exceptional to the Englishman, and France to the Frenchman. I do not begrudge them their land or culture. But if I base my love of home off qualifications (i.e., being the most free, most wealthy, most powerful, best governed) am I not a bit mercenary? What happens when my country is ill? Should I not love her through illness? (I claim no originality in this post; as it’s directly taken from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and Lewis’s Four Loves). Perhaps the liberals are more conservative than the conservatives in this regard.

  • Grace

    Shane Ayers – 72

    “I do think America is exceptional… just because it is mine. England is exceptional to the Englishman, and France to the Frenchman. I do not begrudge them their land or culture. But if I base my love of home off qualifications (i.e., being the most free, most wealthy, most powerful, best governed) am I not a bit mercenary?”

    Free, wealthy, powerful, best governed? Freedom is most important, having power to withstand the attacks from foreign nations most certainly serves our nation well, and then there is FREEDOM of WORSHIP – paying for military, foreign aid, welfare and many other things costs a great deal of money, without it we wouldn’t have the best military or equipment. For your last, “best governed” ….. would you rather we be under communist rule, or a soci@list regime, or perhaps a dictatorship – - that couldn’t be changed every two, six or four years (Representatives Senators President) by vote of our citizens? The United States isn’t perfect, but it beats everything I have ever observed.

    “What happens when my country is ill? Should I not love her through illness? (I claim no originality in this post; as it’s directly taken from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and Lewis’s Four Loves). Perhaps the liberals are more conservative than the conservatives in this regard.”

    I can speak for myself – I would love my country even though it were ill. It suffers with illness at this very moment from the slaughter of unborn infants, and sexual sin that is rampant, and flaunted in film, TV, and other areas. Homosexual marriage as an option as well.

    Your last sentence “Perhaps the liberals are more conservative than the conservatives in this regard.” makes no sense – it appears to be thrown out as a pseudo-intellectual soft ball.

  • Grace

    Shane Ayers – 72

    “I do think America is exceptional… just because it is mine. England is exceptional to the Englishman, and France to the Frenchman. I do not begrudge them their land or culture. But if I base my love of home off qualifications (i.e., being the most free, most wealthy, most powerful, best governed) am I not a bit mercenary?”

    Free, wealthy, powerful, best governed? Freedom is most important, having power to withstand the attacks from foreign nations most certainly serves our nation well, and then there is FREEDOM of WORSHIP – paying for military, foreign aid, welfare and many other things costs a great deal of money, without it we wouldn’t have the best military or equipment. For your last, “best governed” ….. would you rather we be under communist rule, or a soci@list regime, or perhaps a dictatorship – - that couldn’t be changed every two, six or four years (Representatives Senators President) by vote of our citizens? The United States isn’t perfect, but it beats everything I have ever observed.

    “What happens when my country is ill? Should I not love her through illness? (I claim no originality in this post; as it’s directly taken from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and Lewis’s Four Loves). Perhaps the liberals are more conservative than the conservatives in this regard.”

    I can speak for myself – I would love my country even though it were ill. It suffers with illness at this very moment from the slaughter of unborn infants, and sexual sin that is rampant, and flaunted in film, TV, and other areas. Homosexual marriage as an option as well.

    Your last sentence “Perhaps the liberals are more conservative than the conservatives in this regard.” makes no sense – it appears to be thrown out as a pseudo-intellectual soft ball.

  • kerner

    Stephen:

    Well, I guess Alexander Hamilton and I would probably disagree about a few things, but we would agree that self interest is the motivator that drives our economic system.

    I, along with any number of historic and contemporary Christian theologians, believe that self interest, i.e. selfishness, is the root of sin in all its forms. This goes all the way back to Adam (Eat the fruit and you will be like God). Unlike Hamilton, I don’t think the pursuit of material gain, in and of itself, will improve my nature such that I cease to be fallen. But I do believe, because the empirical evidence is uncontravertable, that a competitive economic system increases opportunity and productivity so much that the poor are always better off than in a system specifically designed to help them. If our goal is REALLY to alleviate poverty as much as possible, the competitive system is the only real choice.

    Call it a “gush” if you will, but a free and competitive market is what gets results.

    As for you statement that the underlying “lie” of socialism is the way the military works and “works quite well”, I think that you have made something of an “apples and oranges” comparison. First of all, comparing the military (a small subset of our population, dominated by 18-24 year olds who have been put through a rigorous program of harsh training and subjected to a system of absolute authority backed up by severe punishment, and from which most of the 18-24 year olds depart at the first opportunity) to the life of the general public is a little ridiculous.

    Secondly, what is the basis for your statement that it “works quite well”? While I grant you that the military system is needed to get people to perform under fire, I see very little evidence that the military does anything else very well at all, or that civilians don’t do better, more efficiently and less expensively in the competitive marketplace.

  • kerner

    Stephen:

    Well, I guess Alexander Hamilton and I would probably disagree about a few things, but we would agree that self interest is the motivator that drives our economic system.

    I, along with any number of historic and contemporary Christian theologians, believe that self interest, i.e. selfishness, is the root of sin in all its forms. This goes all the way back to Adam (Eat the fruit and you will be like God). Unlike Hamilton, I don’t think the pursuit of material gain, in and of itself, will improve my nature such that I cease to be fallen. But I do believe, because the empirical evidence is uncontravertable, that a competitive economic system increases opportunity and productivity so much that the poor are always better off than in a system specifically designed to help them. If our goal is REALLY to alleviate poverty as much as possible, the competitive system is the only real choice.

    Call it a “gush” if you will, but a free and competitive market is what gets results.

    As for you statement that the underlying “lie” of socialism is the way the military works and “works quite well”, I think that you have made something of an “apples and oranges” comparison. First of all, comparing the military (a small subset of our population, dominated by 18-24 year olds who have been put through a rigorous program of harsh training and subjected to a system of absolute authority backed up by severe punishment, and from which most of the 18-24 year olds depart at the first opportunity) to the life of the general public is a little ridiculous.

    Secondly, what is the basis for your statement that it “works quite well”? While I grant you that the military system is needed to get people to perform under fire, I see very little evidence that the military does anything else very well at all, or that civilians don’t do better, more efficiently and less expensively in the competitive marketplace.

  • collie

    I really enjoyed reading the comments on this thread – there’s a lot of good points. I’m sensitive to the criticism, because so much of it is valid; especially how we’ve abused liberty at times and neglected our neighbors (next door or around the world). But at the same time, I love this country! I really like having the choices in life that living here has given me. I’d like to see that system continue if possible.

    Re: the term exclusive – it does sound like “We (Americans) are the best”, which if we are talking about individuals, is a concept Christians reject. From our standpoint, all nations (peoples) are in the same boat – the boat of sinners in need of a savior.

    Maybe we need to use other terms. Here is a link to a speech that Sen Lamar Alexander is giving today. He titles it “The New Promise of American Life”. I read the speech, but can’t remember if he uses the term exclusive; if he did, his emphasis is not on that term.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/254399/new-promise-american-life-sen-lamar-alexander

    I liked what he has to say, such as solving problems in incremental steps vs the gigantic comprehensive approach favored by the current administration.

  • collie

    I really enjoyed reading the comments on this thread – there’s a lot of good points. I’m sensitive to the criticism, because so much of it is valid; especially how we’ve abused liberty at times and neglected our neighbors (next door or around the world). But at the same time, I love this country! I really like having the choices in life that living here has given me. I’d like to see that system continue if possible.

    Re: the term exclusive – it does sound like “We (Americans) are the best”, which if we are talking about individuals, is a concept Christians reject. From our standpoint, all nations (peoples) are in the same boat – the boat of sinners in need of a savior.

    Maybe we need to use other terms. Here is a link to a speech that Sen Lamar Alexander is giving today. He titles it “The New Promise of American Life”. I read the speech, but can’t remember if he uses the term exclusive; if he did, his emphasis is not on that term.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/254399/new-promise-american-life-sen-lamar-alexander

    I liked what he has to say, such as solving problems in incremental steps vs the gigantic comprehensive approach favored by the current administration.

  • collie

    oops, I goofed; the term was “exceptional”. Sorry about that; I’ve been reading this thread gradually over the last day, between stringing Christmas lights and baking. Exclusive means the same thing, right? :-)

  • collie

    oops, I goofed; the term was “exceptional”. Sorry about that; I’ve been reading this thread gradually over the last day, between stringing Christmas lights and baking. Exclusive means the same thing, right? :-)

  • Shane Ayers

    Re: Grace

    Thanks for your response! Your comment regarding America as not “perfect, but it beats everything I have ever observed” is rather my point.

    Here’s my problem with that sentiment:
    1st, it assumes an objectivity that we shouldn’t have. We don’t look at our nation in a dispassionate, disinterested matter–and we shouldn’t. Thus, it’s probably not a good idea to assume a perfectly objective evaluation of the “best” country on earth. How could we even decide this? What qualifications would we use? Is material prosperity and security an equal balance to culture and heritage? If we decide that America is the “greatest nation on earth” we probably only do so because we have decidedly American criteria for that question. So we’re rather begging the question, I think.

    2nd, even if we do decide, definitively, that America is the “best” place on earth, that is still no reason for love. That is merely a use. If I choose to be loyal to America just so long as it is “most free,” religiously, economically, etc., then I really have no commitment to America at all. I have a commitment to the abstract idea of “freedom”. Or, worse, I have a commitment to my personal desire for freedom and prosperity. If my loyalty is based off the belief that America is best, then the moment I am convinced that it is *not* the best, I may as well jump ship. An even further danger is the chance that I will maintain my idea of American superiority regardless of circumstantial criteria, which is either a religious or scientific commitment. And this we have in our history: racial superiority or Manifest Destiny. For an individual like, say, Glen Beck, American exceptionalism does indeed fulfill a religious role. And I think Collie is quite right to say that Christians should reject the idea that “We (Americans) are the best.”

    And this is what I mean by my last sentence about the “liberals being more conservative than the conservatives” on this. Dr. Veith mentioned the idea that liberals claim to be the “real patriots” because they critique their country, whereas conservatives focus on it’s exceptionalism. I suspect that much of the liberal population simply finds a pleasure in an anti-patriotism, but let’s set that aside. Insofar as liberals claim they can be patriots and critics, they are right. Even if they don’t know it, that means they *have to* assume a pre-rational commitment to their nation. But if conservatives base their patriotism off exceptionalism, that is simply a mercenary use of a nation–a love of it’s qualifications for being best, not a love of the country itself.

    All this is to say, we have to love a land enough to make it free and well ordered before we can base our love off it being free and well ordered. We have to love it “irrationally,” so to speak. America may very well beat everything else, but it’s still no reason for patriotism.

  • Shane Ayers

    Re: Grace

    Thanks for your response! Your comment regarding America as not “perfect, but it beats everything I have ever observed” is rather my point.

    Here’s my problem with that sentiment:
    1st, it assumes an objectivity that we shouldn’t have. We don’t look at our nation in a dispassionate, disinterested matter–and we shouldn’t. Thus, it’s probably not a good idea to assume a perfectly objective evaluation of the “best” country on earth. How could we even decide this? What qualifications would we use? Is material prosperity and security an equal balance to culture and heritage? If we decide that America is the “greatest nation on earth” we probably only do so because we have decidedly American criteria for that question. So we’re rather begging the question, I think.

    2nd, even if we do decide, definitively, that America is the “best” place on earth, that is still no reason for love. That is merely a use. If I choose to be loyal to America just so long as it is “most free,” religiously, economically, etc., then I really have no commitment to America at all. I have a commitment to the abstract idea of “freedom”. Or, worse, I have a commitment to my personal desire for freedom and prosperity. If my loyalty is based off the belief that America is best, then the moment I am convinced that it is *not* the best, I may as well jump ship. An even further danger is the chance that I will maintain my idea of American superiority regardless of circumstantial criteria, which is either a religious or scientific commitment. And this we have in our history: racial superiority or Manifest Destiny. For an individual like, say, Glen Beck, American exceptionalism does indeed fulfill a religious role. And I think Collie is quite right to say that Christians should reject the idea that “We (Americans) are the best.”

    And this is what I mean by my last sentence about the “liberals being more conservative than the conservatives” on this. Dr. Veith mentioned the idea that liberals claim to be the “real patriots” because they critique their country, whereas conservatives focus on it’s exceptionalism. I suspect that much of the liberal population simply finds a pleasure in an anti-patriotism, but let’s set that aside. Insofar as liberals claim they can be patriots and critics, they are right. Even if they don’t know it, that means they *have to* assume a pre-rational commitment to their nation. But if conservatives base their patriotism off exceptionalism, that is simply a mercenary use of a nation–a love of it’s qualifications for being best, not a love of the country itself.

    All this is to say, we have to love a land enough to make it free and well ordered before we can base our love off it being free and well ordered. We have to love it “irrationally,” so to speak. America may very well beat everything else, but it’s still no reason for patriotism.

  • Tom Moeller

    Is America exceptional? Yes. (sure beats No.)

  • Tom Moeller

    Is America exceptional? Yes. (sure beats No.)

  • Grace

    76 Shane

    You can dissect “Is America exceptional or what” 14 ways all day, ….. in my opinion and that of many other people, this country is exceptional. If it weren’t people would NEVER stand in line to immigrate to the U.S. nor would we have those who illegally came across our borders.

    I’ve known people who have left, and then hot footed it right back to the United States, never making one peep about how great it was to live somewhere else. Another interesting fact: I have friends who have been sent to other countries as top corporate heads, (most often they would be there for two maybe five years) they were given first class accommodations, club memberships, great expense accounts, wives and children traveling often. However, it wasn’t long before they requested to come home to the U.S. – it’s one thing to travel for business, or pleasure, it’s another to live in other countries, even the most beautiful, with all the perks a corporation can offer.

    The other side of the coin…. people often say they hope to leave their country one day and retire in the U.S. – this after vacationing here as often as possible.

  • Grace

    76 Shane

    You can dissect “Is America exceptional or what” 14 ways all day, ….. in my opinion and that of many other people, this country is exceptional. If it weren’t people would NEVER stand in line to immigrate to the U.S. nor would we have those who illegally came across our borders.

    I’ve known people who have left, and then hot footed it right back to the United States, never making one peep about how great it was to live somewhere else. Another interesting fact: I have friends who have been sent to other countries as top corporate heads, (most often they would be there for two maybe five years) they were given first class accommodations, club memberships, great expense accounts, wives and children traveling often. However, it wasn’t long before they requested to come home to the U.S. – it’s one thing to travel for business, or pleasure, it’s another to live in other countries, even the most beautiful, with all the perks a corporation can offer.

    The other side of the coin…. people often say they hope to leave their country one day and retire in the U.S. – this after vacationing here as often as possible.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “This country is exceptional. If it weren’t people would NEVER stand in line to immigrate to the U.S. nor would we have those who illegally came across our borders” (@78).

    Indeed, this point keeps getting made. And yet those who make it keep avoiding (intentionally or not) two points that follow from that logic: (1) what the emigration rates likewise say about how “exceptional” our country is, and (2) what the people standing in line to immigrate to (or illegally entering into) other countries says about how “exceptional” they are.

    But nobody who claims that the US is “exceptional” talks about any of those numbers, that I’ve seen. Which makes me wonder if their belief in our exceptionalism is actually based on what they say it is.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “This country is exceptional. If it weren’t people would NEVER stand in line to immigrate to the U.S. nor would we have those who illegally came across our borders” (@78).

    Indeed, this point keeps getting made. And yet those who make it keep avoiding (intentionally or not) two points that follow from that logic: (1) what the emigration rates likewise say about how “exceptional” our country is, and (2) what the people standing in line to immigrate to (or illegally entering into) other countries says about how “exceptional” they are.

    But nobody who claims that the US is “exceptional” talks about any of those numbers, that I’ve seen. Which makes me wonder if their belief in our exceptionalism is actually based on what they say it is.


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