In his book, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, Mark Noll asks why the Civil War, in contrast to past wars, produced no “deep theological insights from either elites or the masses.” At least one of the reasons may be, as Noll amply documents, that religious thinkers in America assumed the people of America had a covenantal relationship with God. America was identified with the tribes of Israel in which it was assumed that the federal union “created a higher bond than the bond constituted by the unity of all Christian believers in the church.” This was combined with the confidence of the Enlightenment that the common man was capable of reading Scripture without guidance from any other authority, which meant that it was a simple matter to read God’s providential will for political events. The war did not force American Christians to deeper theological insights because the war was, for America, our church.
(Hauerwas, Stanley (2011-10-01). War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity (Kindle Locations 782-791). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.)
There are some very interesting insights in that statement but none more so than the notion, one that is alive and well, that there is a particular covenantal relationship between America as a people and God. I think this idea, unsupportable from either Scripture or history, nevertheless infects so much of the church. Religious Americans often invoke 2 Cor 7:14 and other passages of Scripture that are clearly directed at and specific to the ancient Old Covenant nation of Israel. Little wonder we think of America as being a choice and special land in God's eyes.
Some of his other statements, like war being for America our church, are more controversial but I think you would be hard pressed to find another modern nation that has her national identity so inextricably linked with warfare. A nation born of war, almost destroyed and eventually renewed by a civil war and a nation that rose above all others based on two wars fought in the former center of civilization, wars that destroyed Europe and leaving America relatively untouched. I cannot imagine another nation that is so nostalgic about the wars of the past and so enamoured with war in the present, nor a nation that is so incessantly at war.
For American Christians we must always be on watch that we do not elevate our unity in the federal union of American citizenship over our unity as one Body of Christ. Many people who purport to be Christians flat out refuse to even associate with other Christians but think nothing of going to war to kill and die for people who don't share our common salvation but do share a common earthly citizenship. That is something that troubles me more and more each day...