American exceptionalism springs from one causative factor that stands alone and above all others. At inception our founding fathers proclaimed that we should be “one nation under God.” Since ancient Israel’s covenant with God at Sinai, no nation in history has been so bold, courageous, and yet humble enough to willingly place themselves under the almighty hand of God.
In order to actually live within the confines of such a bold proposition, our nation agreed to shoulder some very heavy burdens. These burdens became tests of our national will and of our individual expression of free will. To begin with, our founding fathers, who hailed from different faiths, beliefs, and philosophies, found it necessary to set aside various doctrines and dogmas and establish what was clearly foundational to all Christian denominations.
The essential elements that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution rest upon are:
- There is a Supreme Being.
- That Being is the source of certain inalienable rights which no government can infringe upon.
- The Bible is the word of God.
Two huge obstacles lay directly in the path of our new nation which would prove to be difficult tests for as long as the United States existed or until the return of Jesus Christ to this earth.
The first major obstacle is religious tolerance while still recognizing the preeminence of Christianity. Acceptance of basic Christian foundational beliefs left open a wide range of Christian thought and doctrine. This was essential in order for the many denominations to co-exist peacefully, unlike their European brethren. This allowed each denomination to live their faith feeling that they were the most correct in their worship of God, while at the same time not condemning others.
A universal tenet of Christianity is that of conversion. Conversion of necessity requires free moral agency, acceptance of Christ, and then personal growth in truth, knowledge, and character. Often this is process is described as being Judeo-Christian ethics and morals. Therefore since conversion is a process of free will acceptance, the founding fathers realized that all religions and philosophical persuasions must also be allowed to live in America without hindrance or repression, with the hope that multitudes would willingly convert but would be under no compunction to do so. However, the founding fathers in no way envisioned a nation that would alter the course of its Christian direction.
The second huge obstacle would be the burden of moving a nation of imperfect people in the direction of constant improvement morally and ethically. The standard of measure was understood to be Judeo-Christian values derived from “the Good Book.”
You see, to be a “nation under God” growing in obedience to Him by becoming people ever more like Him (that is, in His image and likeness) requires great effort. This effort must be expended by the majority of the citizens and by the duly elected government that serves the people and directs the ship of state. This unique way of life requires that the majority pleases the God under whom they profess to exist. Otherwise it all falls apart. This has placed enormous burdens upon the Americans to constantly strive to improve. The world has watched in amazement as America has dealt with natural disasters, war, and national calamity. People as diverse as the world itself have successfully met every grave challenge with unity and resolve and character.
It is even more amazing, even awe-inspiring, how America has dealt with its flaws. In turn we have dealt with slavery, racism, child labor, women’s suffrage, and many other thorny issues. How America dealt with her flaws while protecting individual liberty is what made her a shining light to the world. These gargantuan efforts are the real source of “American Exceptionalism.” When these efforts cease or to the degree they diminish, American Exceptionalism will wane until it ceases altogether.
America’s great wealth and power do not stem directly from her exceptionalism, but rather from God’s blessing as reward for her exceptional efforts at goodness.
Our Perilous Tipping Point
At the moment America sits astride a tipping point, a fulcrum in which half desperately want to cling to “a nation under God” and half no longer care to cling to that concept. I strongly believe the latter half has within it a small minority who want to derail the American dream and uncouple her from her Christian roots. In order to do so they must confuse, mislead, bribe, and coerce the half that live without the firm convictions upon which our country was founded. A critical stratagem is to divide the two halves in any way possible to prevent a majority from coalescing that would once again shoulder the burden inherent with being “one nation under God.”
It is my belief, and the belief of the Great Lakes Church of God, that this great nation will respond to this crisis with the firm resolve to do right and to be as good a people as we can, thus ensuring for ourselves and our posterity the blessings of Almighty God!