Christian journalist Dan Wooding, founder of ASSIST News Service, said the following on his Facebook page the other day:
Dear friends, as an immigrant to the USA and now a US citizen, I wonder if I could make a plea to my Christian friends here in the United States to tone down your attacks on other American believers who have different views to yourself. We at ANS are featuring stories about our courageous Christian friends around the world who live (and sometimes die) in such dangerous situations and I wonder what they must make of all of this anger here? They never complain, but consider it a privilege to live for Christ and maybe we can learn from them.
I couldn’t agree more! I’m getting questions about the tone of the current presidential election season from both students and fellow teachers here in Elektrostal. We’re both publicly American and publicly Christian here, so we’re acutely aware of the impression being made worldwide by the hot rhetoric.
Candidates seeking voters’ approval often appeal to our tradition of “American exceptionalism,” that the USA is uniquely blessed by God, with a unique mission in the world. In the heat of the campaign, candidates compete with each other to be the most patriotic, the most ready to issue ultimatums and smack down countries and leaders we don’t like. These politicians—and their cheering supporters—may not realize what kind of impression this makes in the rest of the world. And when Christians add fuel to this rhetorical fire, it can be pretty awkward for Americans in Christian service abroad.
Let’s respond to Dan Wooding’s plea by encouraging reflection and moderation in this political season. It may help to reflect on what American exceptionalism originally meant: that we were to be a “city on a hill,” showing the world what it was like for citizens to live in a covenant of biblical ethics and mutual love. Take a look at John Winthrop’s great sermon of 1630, “A Model of Christian Charity,” and see how Winthrop combined his vision of greatness with a plea for modesty and faithfulness, ending with a clear warning: if we should break faith with God over this covenant of love, God will in turn humiliate us, making us a “story and by-word throughout the world.” This original exceptionalism was based on blessing, not boasting; may our political behavior likewise seek to bless.
Contributed by Johan Maurer, Reedwood Friends