Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest Post #2: National Exceptionalism and Religion

 Guest Post #2 from our friend Zach. Anyone who wants to submit ANYTHING is welcome! Videos, photos, cartoons... we want it!


The US really has one export that it has traded on for about the last 150 years that has driven it like no other.  Regardless of what we sell or what we make, the thing we have really been selling since we got to the Pacific is the idea that the United States of America is special.  We have pulled people here in droves, and still do today with the promise that somehow this country, this place, these people here are going to give them a better shot than they had back home.  I will get to the merits of the idea later but right now it's the manifestation of this idea that gives me pause. Every country believes it's special somehow and that's fine.  They wouldn't have developed themselves as a country if they didn't. Where this becomes dangerous is when it's God telling you you're special.  Right now in the world there are three perfect examples of the dangers of God picking one nation over another.

1: Iran.
Iran is considered the world's only theocracy (I don't know why the Vatican isn't considered one but whatever).  President Ahmadinejad is only the head of the government.  The head of state is the Ayatollah Khamenei is the actual leader of the country and NOTHING gets done without his say so.  He had to certify the last contentious elections and Ahmadinejad serves at his pleasure.  Under the theocracy, Iran has alienated the larger international community, taken steps to develop nukes, and oppressed the freedoms of its people and their rights to choose their own leaders.  All unilateral actions taken without regard to the larger world in which they reside because Allah is on their side. 

2: Israel. 
Israel is not technically a religious state.  However, any Jew who steps on their soil is immediately a citizen, and they are preparing legislation right now to force all non-Jews who want citizenship to sign a loyalty oath.  A Christian or Muslim or Atheist born and raised in Jerusalem could potentially lose their citizenship if they didn't sign.  The Jews like to refer to themselves as the chosen people and if that doesn't smack of divine exceptionalism, I really don't know what does.  It is evident even as far as Jews of OTHER nations are concerned:  ex.  I have a very close devout Jewish friend.  We often get into debates about Israel.  In the last one she said something that disturbed me to the point that I have spoken to her little since (to my own discredit).  Debating the flotilla and the "ground Zero Mosque,"  she accused me of anti-semitism and then said that she would "Support Israel whatever they did, because it was the [homeland]."  This girl loves the US and would never show it such blind deference nor should she nor anybody.  This type of support can only be engendered by God and is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.   

3: Speaking of Extremely Dangerous...The USA. 
Since Manifest Destiny there has been a sense that the US should be an empire.  We quail at calling it that but displacing entire native and colonizing populations in a land grab to take hold of an entire continent really reeks of such an attitude.  Our last president spoke openly of being "Chosen by God" to lead us through the trials we face and Reagan liked to refer to Russians as the "Evil Empire" indicating that we were inherently good.  Conservative with a simple and unexamined view of the Constitution, tend to have an equally simple and unexamined view of the Bible.  What they believe in is God's will and they believe in America. This perspective is dangerous because America doesn't have to do anything to BE exceptional aside from be the place where these people live and can vote Republican. We can claim to be against Torture and Nation building while doing THOSE EXACT THINGS, yet we are the USA and God says we are special.  We can act out of fear and protectionism and seal our borders and kick out all the illegal immigrants without exception (even if they were brought over the border as infants and have never known any other country but ours), but we are the land of opportunity: open the poor, the tired and the huddled masses, because we are the USA and God says we are special.  We can forget the poor and accept a prosperity gospel despite it being EXACTLY the OPPOSITE of what democracy, our country and CHRISTIANITY are founded on, because we are the USA and GOD says we are special.

I believe the US is special. We can provide opportunities. We can welcome all who love peace and we can say whatever we want.  But like it or not we are not alone in these things anymore. We are special because we a nation strong enough to be able to stand by our ideals.  We are powerful enough and brave enough to stand firm and say WE DON'T TORTURE in the face of fear stay fast to that. We are special because we have the power to say WE BELIEVE IN FREEDOM FOR ALL and fight to expand those freedoms at home and abroad. We are special because we have the wealth to say NO ONE SHOULD GO WITHOUT BASIC NEEDS.  And work to pull people out of degradation and poverty. We are special because we have the influence, the wealth, the strength and the avenues in place to lift not just other nations but our own towards ever greater heights.  But if we don't use those exceptional qualities, if we don't constantly strive to be better and less compromising for the good of all.  If we rely on some god to tell us that we're special.  We won't be anymore. 

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