American Christians perpetuate myth of American Exceptionalism

Students should ponder the effects of nationalism and religion in the Trump era.

Justin Yun, Writer

Subscribers of the Christian faith have always had and continue to wield enormous influence on the political institutions and power dynamics that shape the narrative of this country. Evangelical Christians were not only responsible for the rise of the Trump administration and the Jacksonian-like nationalism complementing the new administration, but they continue to shape the relationship between religion and nationalism. Biola students and other young Christians nationwide need to re-evaluate and challenge new interpretations of American Exceptionalism — the idea that the United States is a special nation endowed with the duty to spread the virtues of American values.

A nationwide re-evaluation

The rise of Trump also saw the rise of a language glorifying so-called traditional American values. Our generation will be responsible for challenging the marriage between religion and nationalism in the modern era. Helene Sinnreich, a scholar of the Holocaust and director of the Fern and Manfred Steinfeld program in Judaic Studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, wrote in an article published by Truthdig on the parallels between 1930s Germany and the Trump administration. According to Sinnreich, nationalist slogans such as “Make American great again” are not much different to the ones used in the past by dictators. Sinnreich continues, “‘America First’ not only has American Nazi historical roots, but it is eerily close to Hitler’s slogan ‘Deutschland über Alles!’ (Germany Above All.)”

Yes, Christians should emulate the bravery and confident convictions of Christian theologians such as Karl Barth, Albert Schweitzer and Dietrich Bonhoeffer — individuals who all resisted against Nazi Germany and the subservient German Christian Church.

Ignoring reality

Should Christians uphold the Winthropian notion that the United States is a “city upon a hill?” Is this country special because of the economic prosperity incurred by American Capitalism or great because of our unique political institutions?

When Christians say the United States is a special nation blessed by God, we are ignoring the reality of history and the world around us. If the United States is an exceptional nation, a society founded on ideas such as liberty and equality, it will not force a poor southeastern Asian nation to pay a $500 million debt after bombing the country during the American war in Vietnam. Recent news indicated the Trump administration will continue its plan to charge Cambodia to pay a 50-year-old debt the country incurred after the United States conducted an illegal and genocidal bombing campaign — a conflict that created the factors which led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge.

Students and American Christians need to stop perpetuating the myth of American Exceptionalism — the idea that the United States is a special nation blessed by God. All human beings, regardless of the area they live in and the social constructs called border that define nation-states, are precious and deserve the grace of God.

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