The Heresy of America First

The Heresy of America First November 22, 2018
Here’s a little pre-turkey political theology for your day. Consider, when someone says “America first” what do they mean? What they mean, bottom line, is that the president can do whatever is necessary to sustain the life of the US.
Examples: drone strikes on US citizens, suspend asylum rules, any and all proclamations or edicts from the “sovereign” that suspend the rules (which is why almost all of these policies are then challenged by the courts, the last arbiters of whether or not the “sovereign” is violating the “economy” of rules set by the nation itself, by previous “sovereigns”).
The modern political theological concept of this was: Sovereign is the one who makes the state of exception.
The larger theological question related to it: Can God act contrary to the economy of salvation God has ordered?
My friend Greg Walter points out to me that this larger theological question is very old (at least in our western Christian tradition), going way back to debates about the Eucharist and political issues around Charles the Great in the 9th century.
But everyone, of all political or religious persuasions, will want to ask themselves the fundamental questions that hover around this: What should we do when the sovereign violates sovereign laws (and in the case of asylum, for example, in the name of America first violates not only the laws of asylum but also the laws and norms that places the person under him in their position in the first place–Whitaker).
In other words, a basic theological question would be: Can you faithfully say “America first”? One answer to that would be global… how shall we love other nations even while loving our own nation?
But another answer would be: America first becomes heretical when it elevates the sovereign above the very economy of laws that makes the nation what it is.
Greg also pointed out to me that heteronormativity was another one of these moves that happened in the 19th century. “Heteronormativity is established in the 19th century as a way to suspend the traditions of broad acceptance, flexibility, and generosity that characterize the way that Christians and others granted each other about sex… [Foucault and Jordan point out that] pre-19th century attitudes weren’t as welcoming as they could be to non-hetero folk.  but the codification and suspension of a wide variety of traditions suspended more welcoming tradition’s potency and care.”
In the modern world, the other sovereign is the subject themselves. I decide, each individual person decides, the state of exception. Nobody can get between me and Jesus. Nothing else norms that. You can’t challenge what I believe, because that’s just what I believe.

This is why the Chief Justice finally spoke up yesterday. He’s attempting to carve out space that makes the sovereignty question more complex (which is what our form of government attempts to do also):

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

You might say the judicial response to the question of sovereignty is, at its best: Communicative rationality.

Or as Greg says, “A response to America First should not be God First or my community first. Instead, get rid of firsts altogether.”

"I am "Christian" by association (and osmosis), in the choir at 6 churches over 75 ..."

Three Reasons I’m Neither Spiritual Nor ..."
"I grew up in a secular household. My family never attended church, nor did we ..."

Three Reasons I’m Neither Spiritual Nor ..."
"My perspective, fwiw, could be useful to some.Common to humanity is having meaning, purpose, and ..."

Three Reasons I’m Neither Spiritual Nor ..."
"I am close to your perspective or position--from a Catholic angle. Not sure that Jesus ..."

Three Reasons I’m Neither Spiritual Nor ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • mikefromdelaware

    The phrase America First, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m not a Trumpster, but he did make a valid point the other day when he said, other leaders consider what’s best for their nation first, and that’s what I’m doing, putting America’s needs first. I don’t disagree with that statement. Our President, can and should put America first, after all he is the President of the United States of America, not the President of the World, or Europe, etc.

    Sadly, President Trump’s approach to accomplishing this is where I see the problem. Trump wants to put America first by pushing down other nations. The problem with Trump’s approach is, he see it as being we win, they lose. I believe a better approach is where we win and they win. We have more Nukes, Air Craft, and Air Craft Carriers than the rest of the world combined. We are the big dog on the porch. So, we can be the bully big dog and cause nation’s to fear us, or we can do, as the US was noted for doing, yep being the big dog on the porch that had a heart for all other nations too. We didn’t allow them to take advantage of us, but we worked with all others to find the best solutions for all, not just us.

    Unfortunately, President Trump isn’t capable of doing this, he simply isn’t wired that way, so until we get a new President, DEM, GOP, or Independent it isn’t going to change. So, as Americans we need to vote, in the next election, 2020, for someone, be they a DEM or Independent [Trump has already said he’s running in 2020 as a Republican] who will go back to making America First, but not as a bully, but as a friend who will work with and even help the other nations become great too.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Are churches still collecting tax breaks and housing allowances for their clergy?
    This has to stop.

  • sanchezmikea

    Wow, suddenly the policies of Obama are being criticized by so called “progressives”, These are not “America First” policies, they are anti terrorist policies practiced by both Democrats and Republicans. President Wilson, the progressive hero of the left showed “Birth of a Nation” at the white house to encourage his cabinet to embrace race politics. Just like the Democrats caused the death of 500,000 men (many of them immigrants) to try to save slavery and stop the Republican president Lincoln from freeing the Black man. Lies, lies and damn lies! Today the so call progressives are responsible for over 250,000 black babies being killed in the womb. Think about it……

  • sanchezmikea

    Along with Jesse Jackson making a million a year off a non-profit. End all non profits, and force them to pay taxes, if that is your position.

  • Ivan T. Errible


  • Hopeful27

    The writer is very confused. America first is about patriotism and love for your own country and people. This is about loving your neighbor, your fellow American before loving foreigners, some of whom are your enemies. This is a good thing. Globalism is the attitude that we are citizens of the world. That attitude causes companies particularly to forsake their ties with their homeland for the sake of monetary gain. It also skews the viewpoint of American citizens who embrace that ideology. Again, loving your neighbor, a biblical command from God, is about loving your fellow citizens, those who live next door, down the block, and in your town. Legal immigrants would be included, but NOT illegal aliens, who are criminals. Criminals are enemies of the citizens and in every nation, people are against criminal behavior.

  • Chari McCauley

    I have a question. If, when you pray, you keep asking for things that The Father would never approve of, and YOU keep insisting;….Does The Father hand the prayer to the one who WILL give it to you? So that you MAY learn the consequences?

    If Father “let’s you do you”, whose fault is it if you don’t like the outcome?

  • Chari McCauley

    not as a bully, but as a friend who will work with and even help the other nations become great too.

    Is this not what any good father would want for the children He cares about?

    How about cooperating, instead of competing in your own home? Stop being a bully in your own house, first.

    I mean, here we are trying to find a place, in space, to escape to…really?