Paul L. Caron

Sunday, November 19, 2023

American Christians And The Anti-American Temptation

Russell Moore (Editor in Chief, Christianity Today), American Christians and the Anti-American Temptation:

HorseshoeIf any political idea in American life has proven itself over the past several years, I can’t think of a better candidate than the “horseshoe theory”—the notion that, at their extremes, Left and Right bend toward each other, sometimes as to be almost indistinguishable.

One of the ways we can see this is in a bleak and darkening view of the United States of America. The question is not so much whether extremists of the Right or Left seem to hate America these days as much as it is the question of why. ...

Some initiatives such as the 1619 Project have gone beyond the well-established truth that slavery and systemic racial injustice were the original sin and ongoing struggle of the United States. They argue that slavery is, in fact, what the founding was actually about in the first place—therefore making American racism unaccountable to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and rendering it irredeemable.

If this is a “culture war,” then one would expect the Right to defend such traditional values as patriotism of the “America: Love It or Leave It” variety. And yet, we see, if anything, an even bleaker view of America from the more radicalized sectors of the populist Right.

Damon Linker detailed the dark worldview articulated by the “illiberal” intellectuals of the Right, prompting New York Times columnist Paul Krugman to ask, “Why Does the Right Hate America?” The concept of a “Flight 93” view of an American project that should have its cockpit charged and plummeted to the earth is indeed quite a bit of a change from “It’s Morning Again in America.”

Indeed, the sort of Christian language of the United States as slouching toward Gomorrah or as a new Babylon sounds more fitting for a leftist critique of American “imperialism” than for those who once heralded a kind of civil religion that seemed to confuse, if not merge, piety with Americanism.

I found myself asking not long ago, “How did the ‘God and country’ Christians become so unpatriotic? Why do so many self-proclaimed ‘Christian nationalists’ seem to hate their own nation? Why do many progressives seem dismissive of any progress?”

This actually should not perplex us. Psychologists have a category for disordered personalities that idealize and then discard. The person whose spouse is expected to meet all spiritual, emotional, and physical needs—to be the perfect “soulmate”—is usually headed for divorce. The parents who build their entire lives around their children’s accomplishments usually end up estranged from them, or even hating them. We cannot love that which is important but not ultimate if we expect it to be ultimate. ...

A Christian view of humanity should free us to differentiate between a claim to perfection and an aspiration to that which is “more perfect.”

Every era is shot through with grace, and every era since Eden falls short of the glory of God. We can love our parents or our children or our spouses not in spite of the fact that they are flawed but precisely because they are not intended to be our gods.

We can, those of us who are Americans, love America—with all of its flaws and failures—precisely because we don’t expect it to be the kingdom of God.

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