On the Eve of U.S. Independence Day (Almost . . .)

2 Jul

I unashamedly believe that we Americans live in the best experiment in democracy the world has ever known.  

That is not to take away from Old Testament Israel, which I believe was the best experiment in theocracy (government by God) the world has ever known.  

Two separate categories.  Google them.

At the same time that I stand firmly for American exceptionalism, I can say that I exercise caution in advocating patriotic services at churches.  The reasoning against it that I have seen makes sense.  We are so diverse now that not everyone attending our churches is a U.S. citizen.  My own husband is not.  

That is not to say that non-U.S. citizens are automatically uncomfortable at such services.  I used to joyfully sing “God Save the Queen” at patriotic services in Britain, knowing that it took not one whit away from my joy in being an American.  I would have sung “Deutschland” while living in Germany but my German was so shaky that I never learned the words.

It is possible to participate, without envy and without rancor, in someone else’s patriotic services.    

What does get blurred sometimes in patriotic services is the glory of America (its democracy) and the glory of Old Testament Israel (its theocracy).  It used to be common to say, and even preach, that America has replaced Old Testament Israel in Biblical prophecy.  

I so don’t believe that is true.  I believe a literal Israel will be fullly back in God’s court when future prophetic events are fulfilled.  America is exceptional but it has not replaced Israel.  Again, two separate categories.

The problem is that many Christians are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  Since they understand that America has not replaced Israel in prophecy, they reject American exceptionalism, too.  That is a mistake.  Exceptionalism is a separate belief and not even a particularly theological one.  There have been atheists who believed in American exceptionalism.  There have been people of no religion at all who have believed in it, too.  

The postmillennialists have not been careful in teaching their doctrine in the midst of a population that does not particularly like to read up on history.  In postmillennial belief, there have very much been pockets that have held that Israel has been totally replaced in prophecy by either the U.S. or (more commonly) by the New Testament church.   Some people still believe one of those statements.  

Problem is, when you teach one of those, it has to be taught in context, understanding that people who don’t read their Bibles often and don’t read history books often will misunderstand.  When we teach things and don’t allow for human nature/context in our teaching, we don’t teach them well.

I believe the current rebuke of patriotic services is a kneejerk reaction to theological misunderstanding.  Christians are starting to think that they can’t simultaneously believe that Israel is still fully functional and that America is exceptional.  

I believe both statements to be true.  One, a prophetic interpretation, is theological.  The other is a historical and patriotic statement.

My country is exceptional.  That probably has something to do with many of the Founding Fathers having a deep belief in God.  But it is not a theological statement . . .  You don’t have to be a Christian to believe that the U.S. is exceptional.

Long may she wave!


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