Franklin Graham is known for saying controversial things, but the other day he said something that wasn’t very controversial at all. He said that God has blessed the United States of America more than any other nation on earth.
This concept isn’t unique to Graham– I’ve heard it said a thousand and one times in my life. The idea that America is somehow God’s favorite, that America is the place God has blessed more than anywhere else, is widely accepted in Americanized Christianity.
But here’s the question: Is it true?
I’ve noticed over the years that many of us seem content to repeat ideas and facts we’ve been taught from childhood, and that we believe and repeat them simply out of habit– something I call generational theology or generational beliefs. Somehow, few of us seem to be encouraged to ask the all important question of whether or not generational theology actually true before we believe and repeat it.
But has God blessed us more than anyone else? Are we somehow God’s favorite?
Surely, the United States has enjoyed great wealth and prosperity– but this alone is not evidence of God’s blessing. In fact, to associate blessing with material wealth is to completely miss the New Testament concept of blessing. Certainly, in the Old Testament blessing was often associated with prosperity, but in the New Testament, instead of wealth and prosperity, blessing has connotations more in line with a state of happiness and contentment that comes from living out the teachings of Jesus.
However, even if an abundance of wealth were part of God’s blessing, it is completely possible to have an abundance of wealth and not be blessed by God. Is a man who robs a bank and gets away with it blessed by God, or a thief who enjoys his ill-gotten gain in spite of how he acquired it?
Yes, the United States is wealthy, but it is wealthy for a good reason: since its inception, American wealth and prosperity has been at the expense of… well, everyone who’s not white. The nation was born on stolen land, genocide, and slavery– realities that directly relate to our prosperity as a nation. We cannot divorce our wealth from the genesis of it all– one that was rooted in rebellion against God instead of Christian living.
Thus, our prosperity has nothing to do with God’s blessing, unless God’s “blessing” for us is really, really, bad news for a whole lot of others.
So, what about the New Testament concept of blessing being related to happiness? Did God bless us in that department more than any other?
Certainly not– we’re not the happiest country in the world, by far. When happiness is measured, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Finland seem to come out on top. You know, those socialist hell-holes that everyone is fleeing in droves to come to the United States.
While both the OT and NT concepts of God’s blessing fail to describe America, the idea that God has “blessed America more than any other nation” really fails in light of the biblical truth that God doesn’t play favorites that way. In fact, it’s one of the major messages of the New Testament.
When Jesus came on the scene of world history, Israel had a long history of thinking they were the bees-knees when it came to God’s favorites. Jesus’ first public speech actually ended in an assassination attempt, and one of those reasons was because he hinted to the fact that God’s “favorites” would be the very people who rejected him and denied him honor.
Further along in his ministry, Jesus very specifically commands his followers to love and bless everyone equally. The reason Jesus gives for this is simple: because that’s what God does. In fact, Jesus drives home the point by using the analogy of rain, and points out that God causes the rain to fall on everyone, not just some people (Matthew 5:45). In Luke he points out that this is true even for people who hate God, and that we are to bless our enemies as an act of imitating God who is “kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35). It’s as if Jesus wants to make it abundantly clear that God blesses everyone.
Finally, and perhaps most pointedly, we find the early church in the New Testament finally embrace this idea that God has not blessed one group of people more than any others. To that point in time they had believed exactly that– God had blessed and accepted Israel, but that Gentiles were out. Peter had a dramatic experience that caused him to see how broken that sort of thinking was, and it led him to boldly proclaim, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism” (Acts 10:34). It’s actually one of the most beautiful transitions in Scripture, because it’s the point where the group mentality shifted from, “We’re the ones most blessed by God” to the realization that, “Oooooooh. I get it now. God receives and blesses them, too.”
To claim that God has blessed America more than any nation on earth is the height of arrogance and biblical illiteracy. Viewing one’s self, one’s people, or one’s nation as being more favored by God is a destructive and toxic belief– one that Jesus came to deliver us from.
Instead of thinking we’re the greatest because God blesses America more than everyone else, we are invited to have the experience of Peter in Acts.
We are invited to look at those around us and to realize, “Oooooooh. I get it now. God has blessed all of them, too.”
So, no. God doesn’t bless America more than any other nation on earth– and that’s what Franklin Graham is wrong about today.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.