Does America think it's better than everyone else?

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Does America think it’s better than everyone else? “Hubris”

In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance. Hubris is often associated with a lack of humility, though not always with the lack of knowledge.

“We celebrate American exceptionalism, everything that makes the United States the greatest nation on earth.”

The term “American exceptionalism” is not a new one; it’s often traced back to Alexis de Tocqueville and the belief that our economic underpinnings were extraordinary.

In recent years, however, the term has grown and evolved as American politicians have trumpeted it with increasing frequency.

If you want to run for political office these days, holding to such a theory is almost a prerequisite. “There is no denying it,” GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain wrote in The American Spectator, “America is the greatest country in the world.” But are Cain and his compatriots correct about America being exceptional, and if so, is it something we should be shouting from our star-spangled rooftops?

On the one hand, few deny that America is special. We are the most charitable country in the world. Each year, Americans voluntarily donate hundreds of billions of dollars to churches, non-profits and humanitarian agencies. We are one of the freest countries in the world. Americans can worship whatever god they choose whenever they choose, and no one here can force his wife to cover her face in public.

The conditions are better in America. Unlike much of the world, clean water is a readily available commodity and the average wage is much higher than most of the world. No wonder a recent Yahoo poll found that 75 percent of Americans believe the United States is the “greatest country in the world.”

I do think America is great. In our sinew and our spirit, we are a great people living in a great nation. That's why countries look to us when drafting constitutions and forming governments. That's why we spend so much time debating immigration, not emigration. This is a wonderful place to live, and many citizens of other nations are clamoring to come here while our citizens largely stay put.

Yet, even though I believe America is exceptional, I am not an “American exceptionalist.” Why? Because the former is rooted in objective facts and the latter is built upon bad theology and is counterproductive.

“Exceptionalism” has been adopted by the right to mean that America, alone among the nations, is beloved of God, Many who comprise the religious right have long held that America has somehow achieved special standing with God. Working on a fundamental belief that obedience to God

brings blessings and disobedience brings curses, these thinkers believe we've earned God's blessings through historical obedience. However, this is rooted in several false beliefs, such as America being founded as a "sacred Christian nation" and the misapplication of Old Testament passages addressing ancient Israel to modern America.

This theology has many effects, most of them advantageous only for exceptionalist politicians. It keeps their detractors from saying “boo” about anything America does unless they want to be labeled “unpatriotic,” or worse, “ungodly.” After all, what God has built up, humans should not tinker with.

I love America, I fought for this country and shed blood for it and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. But I also recognize the many difficulties in our country that aren’t so exceptional. We maintain a relatively high murder rate for an industrialized nation, and we have a high rate of prisoner execution. Our educational system is failing to compete with other nations, and continues to work against disadvantaged children in poor communities. An ideology that is constantly used as a tool to quiet those who want to deal honestly with our problems is a broken one.

The difference in believing America is exceptional and American exceptionalism is significant. Believing America is exceptional recognizes our blessings, like every good and perfect gift come from God. It emphasizes God's grace rather than America's greatness. The latter assumes our nation has claimed favored status with God and often yields a don't-you-wish-you-were-like-us attitude.

Why is this important? Accepting that America is exceptional due to God's unmerited favor breeds the virtues of gratitude and humility. But a belief that America is the recipient of divine favoritism, on the other hand, breeds arrogance and triumphalism—an arrogance that robs one of any claims to being truly exceptional.

159:3.3 In bringing men into the kingdom, do not lessen or destroy their self-respect. While overmuch self-respect may destroy proper humility and end in pride, conceit, and arrogance, the loss of self-respect often ends in paralysis of the will. It is the purpose of this gospel to restore self-respect to those who have lost it and to restrain it in those who have it. Make not the mistake of only condemning the wrongs in the lives of your pupils; remember also to accord generous recognition for the most praiseworthy things in their lives. Forget not that I will stop at nothing to restore self-respect to those who have lost it, and who really desire to regain it. 

      Rickey H. Crosby ( Petitor Veritatis)