Friday, February 26, 2010

American Exceptionalism

Excellent post on the religion of American exceptionalism today from Dog Wilson at Blog & Mablog. The point is not that America stinks but that even though there are many blessings in being Americam, at it's core America is full of Americans. Americans who are sinners who need the Gospel and don't get a free pass into heaven because they are American citizens.

American exceptionalism is objectionable because it is a false religion, a false faith. It is a smooth and attractive idol, and probably the idol most likely to ensnare conservative evangelicals. The apostle John's warning should be kept in mind at all times (1 John 5:21). David Gelernter has seriously suggested that we treat Americanism as one of the world's great religions. Other treatments of the subject are less adoring, but no less problematic. The problem is that Americanism is seen as a source of ideals, an artesian well of ethics, a fountainhead of standards. This is not just nonsense, it is damned nonsense. I speak metaphorically only, but purveyors of this doctrine need to be splashed around in the village pond for a bit.

To object to American exceptionalism (for I am an American objectionalist) is not to maintain that there is nothing unique about Americans or American history. It is to say that there is nothing religiously unique. We are sinners like everybody else, we need God's grace like everybody else, we are thoughtless when prosperous like everybody else, and peevish when not prosperous like everybody else. Take off an American's boots, and you will find ten toes. Son of a gun.

I am in full agreement that especially among conservative evangelicals, the cult of American exceptionalism is especially dangerous. For many of my conservative brothers and I would include my prior stances here, American exceptionalism is indeed a religion and an article of faith. I don't agree with Doug Wilson on everything (starting with paedocommunion even though it is consistent with paedobaptism) but I think he hit the mark here.

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