This July 4th, like every other I remember, I’m going to a birthday party for a nation. But what makes this party unique from others is that the birthday girl—America—thinks she’s the fairest of them all. According to a 2013 Rasmussen poll, 59 percent of likely U.S. voters believe the United States is more exceptional than other nations. Just 27 percent disagree.
“On the Fourth of July, we don’t only celebrate the birth of our nation,” writes conservative columnists Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski. “We celebrate American exceptionalism—everything that makes the United States the greatest nation on earth.”
The term “American exceptionalism” is not a new one; it’s often traced back to Alexis de Tocqueville and the belief that our economic underpinnings were extraordinary. In recent years, however, the term has grown and evolved as American politicians have trumpeted it with increasing frequency. But is America better than other nations, and if so, is it something Christians should shout from their star-spangled rooftops?
America is the most charitable country in the world. Each year, Americans voluntarily donate hundreds of billions of dollars to churches, non-profits and humanitarian agencies. We are one of the freest countries in the world. Americans can worship whatever god they choose whenever they choose, and no one here can force his wife to cover her face in public. Many living conditions are better in America than elsewhere. Unlike much of the world, clean water is a readily available commodity and the average wage is much higher than most of the world.
America is great. In our sinew and our spirit, we are a great people living in a great nation. That’s why countries look to us when drafting constitutions and forming governments. That’s why we spend so much time debating immigration, not emigration. This is a wonderful place to live, and many citizens of other nations are clamoring to come here while our citizens largely stay put.
The politically correct police might have us believe all countries are exceptional in their own way, but such assertions are thin and meaningless. They’re reminiscent of a scene from “The Incredibles” in which the mother says, “Everyone’s special” and the son replies, “Which is another way of saying no one is.”
Even though I believe America is exceptional, I am not an “American exceptionalist.” Why? Because the former is rooted in objective facts and the latter is built upon bad theology and is counterproductive.