America the Exceptional
One of the interesting and dangerous ideas that flows through parts of American Protestantism is the idea that America is a new Israel. The implication is that God has chosen America in our day to receive special blessings and authority from God. Sometimes the idea even sees America as the replacement for biblical Israel. This is often referred to as “triumphant nationalism” by those concerned with this development.
As one opposed to the idea that America is a chosen nation, I prefer calling this idea “American exceptionalism” - meaning to me that we believe that we have a divine right to put ourselves first and seek our own good as opposed to what is good for the larger world.
Let me be clear, I do believe that we in America have been blessed with prosperity not seen in most of the world. However, I believe that blessings are meant to be shared with others. And to be more precise, let me introduce you to a term that I find helpful- “inverted exceptionalism.” This means that whereas most might consider being exceptional as an opportunity to exploit that specialness for selfish desires, I believe that God would prefer that we “invert” this exceptionalism and use our blessings to bless others. This is what God wanted from ancient Israel (Genesis 12:3) and what Jesus wanted from the disciples (Mark 10:35-45). I believe this is what God still wants today: those who have been given much should be those who give much. I pray that we as disciples will be generous and work for an even more generous country. Then we would be truly exceptional!