American Jesus

So I have written about American exceptionalism before, and so let me begin with a quick review of my take in the first paragraph. Taken one way, the notion is just ten more pounds of idolatrous silliness. Every great nation at the top of its game — and there have been lots — knows how to bask in Ozymandian conceits, and there is nothing whatever exceptional about that. This is as old as dirt, and twice as dumb. There was a time, however, early on, when the greatness of the United States was looming large on the horizon, when the Founders established a form of government built on the rock solid constitutional footing of a profound distrust of Americans. This is because Americanism is no different from all the other forms of mendacity, and the Founders knew we were no different. That kind of humility really is exceptional. Checks and balances, separation of powers, a doctrine of enumerated powers, were not established because they were anticipating a Klingon invasion. Above all else, the Founders sought to defend America from Americans. And looking at the band of miscreants running this goon show of ours now — most of whom were born within these borders, and educated far past their intelligence with your tax dollars — one is hard pressed to say the Founders were unduly suspicious.

Not what we are talking about.
Not what we are talking about.

I say all this to remind everybody that my thoughts on this subject are pure. I am no jingoist, no chauvinist, no nativist. I think that our immigration policies should be wide open. Let them all in — Scots, Irish, Englishmen, Swedes, the whole lot.

Important notice for those who like to hate-read my blog. The preceding was a joke.

I feel the need to remind people of my bona fides on this point because I am going to say a few things now that could be taken the other way. It is no contradiction; these things harmonize.

America is a nation, and no, it is not a nation built upon an idea. That notion is part and parcel of the wrong kind of American exceptionalism. That’s the kind of thing that turns citizenship into an ideology, and we need more nationalist ideology like a hole in the head.

Ideas factor into it, of course, but actual nations are made up of shared heritage, language, laws, customs, geography, history . . . and religious faith.

If America is an idea, then that idea is either right or wrong. If it is right, then everybody needs to buy into it. If it is wrong, then we should sell our stock. If America is an idea, then we are on a necessary collision course with those who may have other ideas.

But if America is a nation, blessed by God in a number of ways, but still simply a nation for all that, then there is no necessary reason for conflict with others. You love and honor your country for the same reason you love and honor your mom. She is yours. You don’t need reasons.

Nationalism is the result when you try to make your natural affection for your people into a god. It is a terrible, devouring god. If a couple of men got into a fist fight in the greeting card section of a store because one of them saw that the other guy was going to buy a “best mom in the world” card, when he did not in fact have the best mom in the world, because the fellow punching him had the best mom, what would we say? One would begin to suspect, would one not, that they were both missing the point?

But there is a mistake in the opposite direction. I have noticed an unsettling tendency among some young Christians, who know that they are not supposed to be nationalists, therefore thinking that they can or should zero out their Americanness. When the project of eradication is complete, we will have “just a Christian.” No, we will have nothing of the kind. We will have a translucent, shimmery thing that will look and act like a wisp of morning mist. Real Christianity lands. Real Christianity disciples nations.

Patriotism, rightly developed, is a duty that falls under the fifth commandment. I am to honor my father and mother, and this extends beyond them in such a way as to include my people, my tribe. Ordinary and ordered patriotism is not just okay; it is a duty, one that needs to be cultivated.

Special notice to other readers of my blog. Whites are not a tribe. Blacks are not a tribe. Americans are a tribe — and that, incidentally, is what currently is under assault. Trump is a demagogue who is playing off the fears created by the assault, but the reality of the demagoguery does not erase the reality underneath the fear. But demagogues can’t save. Only saviors save.

So America is a tribe, a nation, and, as such, the Church is commanded to disciple her. The end point we should have in view should be an obedient nation, not an erased nation.

When France is fully discipled, it will be more French, not less so. When China is fully discipled, it will be more Chinese, not less so. And when America is fully discipled, the same thing is true. The one who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it again.

For those who say that they don’t want anyone to be “more American,” and especially not the proprietor of this blog, I have some difficult news for them. The Lamb is worthy because He purchased men and women from every tribe, language, and nation, and when His redemption is complete, they are all more themselves than when He started. If you don’t have room for that in your heart, it is likely because your heart is already filled up with bitterness — the anti-American kind.

There are those who don’t want to disciple the nations, but rather want to deracinate them. They call it ecumenical, but the end goal is not men and women from every nation, but rather ghostly ciphers to haunt the ledgers of the World Council of Churches. It is the genius of vibrant Christianity to produce men like Tyndale, who bring the faith once delivered into particular national cultures in order for the Spirit to see what happens. A lot of messy things happen, but that is the way we were told to do it. We were not told to recruit men and women from every nation in order to have them translated to a higher mystical order, a club with a secret handshake.

So those who want us to all speak an approved form of ecclesiastical Esperanto are not ecumenists, but rather cranks. Test yourself. The Sunday before the Lord’s return, how many worship services will be held around the world?

And how many languages will they be held in? And is this a good thing or a bad thing? The answer is thousands, and it is entirely a good thing. But note that the preservation of languages and accents means the preservation of national identities. This includes, I am afraid, the Americans.

When this process of world evangelization is done, there will be a true unity, but it will not be the unity of mindless conformity. Tolstoy once said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” If you were to travel from place to place on that last  Sunday, looking at all the Christians being happy in “the same way,” their point of unity will not be in liturgy or language, but rather in the laughter.

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timothy
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timothy

Wilson: Nationalism is the result when you try to make your natural affection for your people into a god. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nationalism 1. spirit or aspirations common to the whole of a nation. 2. devotion and loyalty to one’s own country; patriotism. 3. excessive patriotism; chauvinism. 4. the desire for national advancement or political independence. 5. the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations. 6. an idiom or trait peculiar to a nation. 7. a movement, as in the arts, based upon… Read more »

ashv
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ashv

Agreed. As a recent commentator put it, “nationalism becomes an enemy of civilization when it believes that Shakespeare is great because he was English, rather than that England is great because it produced Shakespeare.”

Frank_in_Spokane
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Frank_in_Spokane

The late, great Joseph Sobran wrote this a mere month after 9/11. I didn’t come across it until years later. It clarified many, many things for me, hence I recall and share it often.

See if it makes any sense to you.

“Patriotism or Nationalism?” http://www.sobran.com/columns/1999-2001/011016.shtml

timothy
Guest
timothy

Thank you, it does.

Sobran’s definition incorporates the spiritual reality that is missing from the dictionary definitions.

I nodded in agreement at the “national greatness” nationalists line as I had read Kristol’s “toward National Greatness” essay when it came out. Kristol strikes me as the sort of bloke who would trade countries like trading troph wives.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Thanks. I might have read that years ago, I don’t remember for sure. I used to read Sobran, and I see his point better now than I did then. I want America to be strong enough to defend against existential threats but not strong enough to “project power” everywhere all the time. I believe that’s better for America and better for the world. I say that over and against those who do not want the defending as well as those who do want power.

Benjamin Bowman
Guest

This is glorious news. Amen!

drewnchick
Member

I’d like to split a hair for a moment…not that this is an unusual thing to see happen here. America was founded as a Federation of voluntarily conjoined States. I don’t think, speaking Constitutionally, that this makes “these united States of America” an actual nation itself. It’s still a Federation of sovereign political entities that we call States, but which could just as easily–and maybe more rightly–be called Nations. I think there’s great significance in keeping and using the terminology “Commonwealth of Virginia” or “Republic of Texas.” America is NOT a nation sub-divided into 50 vassal fiefdoms; rather, it is… Read more »

wtrsims
Member

To riff on this, kinda, do tribes magically divided along federally-established boundaries and borders? Wouldn’t an American and a Canadian who live right across the border from one another have more in common than I would, living here in central Alabama, with that same American? How about the subject of abortion? Can cultures that differ on the morality of killing one’s own children be of the same tribe? Is it the case that the pro-aborts are just errant members of our tribe, or are they of a different tribe? Does the doctrine of the lesser magistrate figure at all into… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

I agree there. You can also see many many nations (like, say, India) where language and tribe differ radically between states, much more so than the differences between the different nations in the EU or even, as you say, between Americans and Canadians.

drewnchick
Member

But India is a sub-divided nation. Canada is a sub-divided nation. Australia has “states” which are sub-divisions of the nation. America is different, perhaps unique. America is a Federation of united States (i.e. nations). Had we not lost this but emphasized it, we might very well have more radical differences between the States.

Jane
Member

That’s a great point. I have much more in common with a theologically reasonably sound Nigerian Christian, than with any five foot two, blue-eyed, brown-haired, American leftist.

Luke
Guest
Luke

You are speaking of what America WAS, not of what it IS. Ideals aside, we clearly no longer actually live in a confederation of self governing states. We live in a single nation of 50 provinces, more or less wholly ruled by a national (not federal) government, the apex of which is an unelected judicial oligarchy which wields full authority. Can this change? Sure. but not by simply fixing something that is broken, but rather by replacing something that is wrong. Changing it will take more than just “voting in the right people.” At present, no elected position has the… Read more »

ashv
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ashv

That model of organization went out the window in the 1860s. It’s not coming back.

ZekeThe3rd
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ZekeThe3rd

“America was founded as a Federation of voluntarily conjoined States” – yes, true. But something changed along the way. Someone has noted (probably Ken Burns) that up until the Civil War, the common parlance was “The United States ARE…”. And after the war, the common parlance changed to “The United States IS…”. A move from plural to singular. No more primarily a collection, but primarily an entity.

Luke
Guest
Luke

And thins have changed still again in the last fifty years. Indeed, in 2015 we not only saw SCOTUS inventing laws without even trying to pretend they are merely interpretations of existing laws anymore, openly and plainly just decreeing new laws without pretense. But perhaps more significant and less appreciated, we then saw Congress, when faced with executive overreach, run to a federal judge with a lawsuit rather than exercise their own constitutional authority. This was, I believe, the final handing over of all remaining authority that the legislative branch had fully to the Judicial branch. While we have been… Read more »

Will G
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Will G

We need a moratorium on immigration. Trump came out swinging on the subject – which no one else did – and has a loyal following because of it. Now why is he a demagogue? I would call it responding to the voter’s wishes. Great article otherwise.

insanitybytes22
Member

Trump is pretty much alpha gaming the suppressed anger of the electorate, that is why he has a loyal following. It is somewhat entertaining, but the “voter’s wishes” he is responding to are not about sound and reasoned policies at all. Yes, Trump came out swinging, and the simple act of swinging is very seductive to many, but it is not what I would call good leadership.

Will G
Guest
Will G

Why is it “gaming” or “demagoguery” to respond to voters wishes to stop immigration? I see no one else willing to take it on as the top issue. What does Trump have to gain? I get not liking the 3 wives, casino money, bling everything but he does always come out on the side of looking after Americans which is kind of a nice quality for someone looking to run the joint. He may not be a serious Christian but he is no enemy to Christians.

ashv
Guest
ashv

The USA government has worked very hard to suppress and neutralize previous outbreaks of democracy; Trump is a threat of its reappearance.

insanitybytes22
Member

Hmm, this is interesting. I tend to think of it as love, we have to love our country, forgive her flaws, hold tight to the ideals we will far short of, and perceive her as superior to all others. Not superior in a negative, dominating way, but the way one’s husband might be perceived as having superior worth and value. Either America is a Christian nation or it isn’t, either we have something valuable to offer or we don’t. We simply cannot be perceiving ourselves through egalitarian eyes, because we are just not the same as say, Somalia. People die… Read more »

ashv
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ashv

It’s important to remember that 19th century nationalism arose out of liberalism and ultimately is incompatible with the idea of Christendom. Opposition to globalism today can look awful similar to it, though, and it takes work to not confuse the two.

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
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40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

Special notice to other readers of my blog. Whites are not a tribe. Blacks are not a tribe. If words have any meaning, white Americans most certainly are a tribe, and so are black Americans. They’re by no means the only tribes in America, but they are tribes by any definition of the word. When you say that Americans are a tribe, but white Americans and black Americans aren’t, you’re simply redefining a word to mean something radically different than its common and historical meaning, in order to grind an ideological axe. A tribe refers to smaller divisions within a… Read more »

Moor_the_Merrier
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Moor_the_Merrier

How would you rewrite it?

“Special note, whites are a tribe and blacks are a tribe but American tribalism should trump them both”?

Dave
Guest
Dave

If you live anywhere except in America, tribe doesn’t mean black or white. Americans are poorly educated and quick to jump the gun. For example in South Africa where many are black, they do not distinguish between black and white as tribes. The tribes are Zulus, Hottentots and so on rather than a black tribe or a white tribe. Additionally, if you go to America’s large cities, you will note that the black community is not homogeneous as various neighborhoods do not want others visiting their areas. Hence the large number of murders and shootings in places such as Chicago.… Read more »

Jane
Member

And continuing on the theme, Afrikaners and British Colonials do not consider themselves one tribe by any stretch of the imagination.

Steve H
Guest
Steve H

language is constantly grouping things together, and perhaps “tribe” is not the best word. However we certainly speak in terms of “whites”, “blacks”, “Muslim” and “wall-mart shoppers”.

drewnchick
Member

Wal-mart shoppers are definitely a tribe all to themselves!

Ben
Guest
Ben

“….nations are made up of shared heritage, language, laws, customs, geography, history . . . and religious faith.” Who determines what the shared heritage, language, laws, and customs should be? If the ruling class wanted to make Spanish the official language of the U.S., what logical rebuttal could you give them? Aren’t we supposed to follow Romans 13 after all? Rand Paul actually said he didn’t believe modern day Iraq was a legitimate nation because its geographical boundaries were drawn up by the West with no consideration given to the mutually incompatible religious factions within that region. Is Rand Paul… Read more »

ashv
Guest
ashv

You are confusing “government” or “country” with “nation”.

Ben
Guest
Ben

What’s the difference between a country and a nation?

ashv
Guest
ashv

A country is a location. A nation is a group of people.

drewnchick
Member

I think I agree with that distinction, ashv. And this is why I prefer to use the term “country” when referring to these united States of America versus the term “nation,” which she is not. Of course, “federation” is the more correct term, so I reckon I’ll stick with that, mostly.

Lance Roberts
Guest

Actually, as others have mentioned, America is a conglomeration of the States, and the States are really those with shared everything. At least they started out that way.

adad0
Member

Ben Question: “Who determines what the shared heritage, language, laws, and customs should be? If the ruling class wanted to make Spanish the official language of the U.S., what logical rebuttal could you give them?” God rebutts Ben question: God determines these things. “Genesis 11:7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” Ben Statements: “I’ve found that there are no answers to any of these questions…… I don’t want to sound arrogant, but this cannot be rebutted.” (They can be rebutted, easily.) Wilson Word Grounded Principles: “I presuppose the world as… Read more »

Ben
Guest
Ben

So why don’t you rebut what I said then?

Yes, I have heard of girls. I just want to make sure not to sound arrogant so I don’t scare them away with my towering and perhaps intimidating intellect.

adad0
Member

Ben: “So why don’t you rebut what I said then?”
“A” dad: I did, but you didn’t get it.

Also, you forgot to put a smilie emoticon, ; – ) , behind “ferocious intellect”! ; – )

Ben
Guest
Ben

Actually, I edited it to say “towering” and “intimidating” so as not to sell myself short.

adad0
Member

Free emoticon. ; – ) use it! ; – )

Steve H
Guest
Steve H

THAT hyper-technical prose…again

adad0
Member

Unsupported declarative statements again!
A Word grounded response to weak over statements is not ” hyper-technical “, it’s more like generous! ????

Daithi_Dubh
Guest
Daithi_Dubh

I’d tighten up on the “tribe” definition, but still largely agree with this article, Pr. Wilson. In fact I believe it’s about the best I’ve read! Thanks!

Jim
Guest
Jim

America is an idea, but the uSA is a federation, and the 50 states are the nations. The uSA was never meant to be a nation, but a federation. America has always been an idea of freedom. William Barrett Travis wrote from the Alamo to the “Americans throughout the world” in reference patriots.

drewnchick
Member

Been sayin’ that for a few years, Jim. Glad to hear someone else who understands this.

Joshua Walker
Guest
Joshua Walker

A

ashv
Guest
ashv

I am all in favour of those who wish to see America redeemed and set on the right path again. But chiefly I hope that y’all can use your influence to encourage America to LEAVE THE REST OF US ALONE and let us seek to glorify God on our own terms and in our own way.

drewnchick
Member

Gotta love a guy who uses the British spelling of “favor” in one sentence and the Southern contraction of “you all” in the next. :-)

ashv
Guest
ashv

Noah Webster was a Yankee. ;-)

Nord357
Guest
Nord357

…and NOW I have coffee coming out my nose!

Jonathan David White
Guest
Jonathan David White

Wow. I think that the diversity of disagreement on your post, Doug, goes a long way to demonstrate how little consensus there really is on what America “IS.” I think you struck a nerve and I think there’s some gold in some of the responses down here. I would be interested to hear you write a response to some of the more cogent arguments.

adad0
Member

” If you were to travel from place to place on that last Sunday, looking at all the Christians being happy in “the same way,” their point of unity will not be in liturgy or language, but rather in the laughter.”

JDW, Wilson’s final point above, addresses all cogent and non-cogent arguments.

In order to form “a more perfect union”, family, nation or church, a sense of humor (a common denominator of functional, godly humanity) is a must.

Healthy laughter is a monument to unity. ; – )

Steve H
Guest
Steve H

“Special notice to other readers of my blog. Whites are not a tribe. Blacks are not a tribe. America is a tribe”
I don’t think I fit into the “other readers” category, but I don’t really follow the use of “tribe” here. It seems that America is a nation, having multiple tribes within. There are certainly white tribes, black tribes, actual native tribes and A Tribe Called Quest.
What am I missing?

Jane
Member

He means that all whites do not form a single tribe exclusive of any other tribes; all blacks do not form a single tribe exclusive of other tribes. E.g., it makes no sense to say that “the tribe” of every white person is simply “whites.”

Not sure I follow on the “America a is tribe” part either, though.

Steve H
Guest
Steve H

“any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc.” -the Internet
Race would seem to fit a bit and certainly better than America. But I agree that not all whites make up some club where we all share the secret hand-shake and fezzes. That is unless you went to Yale…

wtrsims
Member

Or you’re a Shriner

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

What if DW had written:

Reubenites were not a tribe. Levites were not a tribe. Israelites were the tribe.

We’d all be a lot less reticent about calling DW out for the absurdity of his PC posturing.

Well, not all of us. In fact, some folks on here would no doubt be gushing about what a profound insight DW had shared with us.

NathanaelStrickland
Guest
NathanaelStrickland

“Whites are not a tribe. Blacks are not a tribe. Americans are a tribe”

American churchians have become almost as proficient as Communists in their obfuscating attacks on the meaning of words.

antexw
Member

How would you categorize or not categorize in terms of ‘tribe’ Americans, blacks, and whites without obfuscation?

NathanaelStrickland
Guest
NathanaelStrickland

Tribe, in the context used by Wilson, has always been and will always be a racial/ethnic term referring to people sharing an identity based on common lineage.

Before 1965, and even afterwards, everyone understood that “American” meant “white person”. Which is why the two non-white groups of any size in the US had modifiers attached to their tribal names – African-Americans and American Indians.

Wendell Wilkie
Guest
Wendell Wilkie

I don’t know if it’s still the case, but as recently as ten years ago the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language, pretty much the final arbiter of what words mean, was catching flak because it defined “American” as “an American citizen of European descent.”

antexw
Member

Well, that use is historically one definition of ‘American’. But, as Noah showed in his 1828 dictionary ‘white’ or ‘those with Euro ancestry’ hasn’t been the only sense for referring to someone as ‘American’.

Dictionaries show what words have meant, but they don’t show what words morally “ought” to mean. They are a historical document, not a morally prescriptive arbiter despite them being arbitrarily used for prescriptive/arbitrative purposes (e.g. as a rudimentary pedagogical tool for grading, spelling bees or an objective standard for Scrabble, etc.).

NathanaelStrickland
Guest
NathanaelStrickland

Well at least you’re honest that it doesn’t mean what you think it should. You can continue your efforts to redefine words to fit modern liberalism, but I’ll continue to define them the way they really are.

antexw
Member

Here’s a modified version in brackets of my comment to you that didn’t seem to get approved (the link to Webster 1828 is taken out so maybe this will be permitted). {But, not everyone before ~1965+, certainly not Noah and his many disciples, believed ‘American’ only to mean ‘white’ the only synonym or definition of American (whereby the second definition the application of those with Euro ancestors is an expansion to the original ethic usage): [the link was here]. Also, Noah’s first definition uses ‘Pertaining to’ which evinces historical linguistic sense of ‘American’ in more contexts than ancestry (e.g. geographically… Read more »

Luke
Guest
Luke

…says the guy inventing newspeak words like “churchians” ;)

NathanaelStrickland
Guest
NathanaelStrickland

If you can’t figure out the difference between changing the meanings of old words on a whim versus invention of new words to aid in clarity, then that’s on you.

Luke
Guest
Luke

Well…this is a little awkward. I actually agree with your point about the consistent, objective use of words. My comment was intended to be a friendly jibe acknowledging and commending what I THOUGHT was an intentional and delightfully witty use of irony on your part where by you argue for the objective use of words while jokingly utilizing a bit of cliche, vague, definitionless, post modern drivel like “churchian”. The play seemed to be a nuanced piece of literary-theory humor which I thought was just fantastic!…until you came back on and tried to actually defend it as SERIOUS. Now, I… Read more »