Saturday, February 20, 2016

Does American Exceptionalism Mean Worshiping The State? - By Douglas E. Baker

The fusion of theology and public policy has been evident from the earliest days of the American Republic. With language lifted from the Bible, the United States could best be understood in terms of an extended sermon with various applications from notable preachers disguised as presidents. American exceptionalism – with all its various implications both past and present – is historically and thematically explored by John D. Wilsey’s book, American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea.
The United States could best be understood in terms of an extended sermon from notable preachers disguised as presidents.
Probing the history of an idea as vague as American exceptionalism requires skill both to discover and interpret the words dotted across the history of American political writing. This is especially true of presidential rhetoric. The founding documents of the United States possess a bilingual capacity to fuse ideas radically opposed to one another in terms that can please all perspectives simultaneously.
For those who believe the American vision emanates from the political theory of John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution provide the grammatical and syntactical evidence for an Enlightenment-based vision free from the tyranny of religious despots. Conversely, for those who believe America is a fulfillment of biblical prophecies and typologies, there is ample evidence for a logical progression of such ideas throughout the American experiment.
What Wilsey accomplishes with a deft hand is identifying similar categories within the religious history of the United States where the language of the Bible has been used for political purposes. The idea of American exceptionalism is largely drawn from the Bible. The political concept itself cannot be accurately understood apart from understanding key biblical texts (2 Chronicles 7:14 as an example) and their influence at various times in American history.