Make America Great-est?

July 19, 2016

"America, the greatest country God ever created."

Those words echoed through the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland last night. Chachi Arcola from Happy Days uttered that statement in his speech at the Republican National Convention. It's not a unique patriotic claim. Conservative pundit Sean Hannity frequently makes a similar declaration.

"The U.S. is the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth."

This isn't just a political claim. This is also a theological claim. It's one thing to say a country is the greatest. It's another to say God made it the greatest. Such extreme 'God bless America' statements not only are inaccurate, but also represent dangerous jingoism. 

(screen shot from video stream)
In the Bible we find one special, unique nation: ancient Israel. If any nation can lay claim to "the greatest country God ever created," it's the Israel of the Old Testament. Anyone who takes the Bible seriously cannot nominate any other nation for that honor.

Yet, even if God did make the U.S. as an extra-special nation, that still would't mean what the child actor or the talk show host thinks it means. It doesn't mean the U.S. can do no wrong and it doesn't mean that the U.S. deserves extra blessings. The Bible speaks of the expectation that Israel would bless other nations. Their special status wasn't just about them, but about the whole world!

"Trump is sent from God."

Another speaker made that claim during the convention last night. He meant the remark as an endorsement. The theology behind the statement suggests God only sends blessings because otherwise the speaker would've added that God sent Trump as something good. But as ancient Israel learned, sometimes God sends Assyrian or Babylonian armies. Sometimes God sends a godless king to rule.

While the kings of the Old Testament saw their nation as the greatest, the prophets proclaimed the sins and failures of the nation and its rulers. We're seeing too many jingoistic court prophets who just say what the kings want to hear. But real prophets will hold the rulers accountable. It's not about making America great (again or otherwise), but about bringing justice for people here and around the world. But it's hard for us to accomplish that when we're too focused on bragging about how special we think we are in God's eyes.