By Richard Watkins
With the Fourth of July just around the midnight hour, there will undoubtedly be a flurry of red, white & blue, stars & stripes, firecracker popping, jingoistic yeehawing from sea to shining sea.
We are bound to see a representation of George Washington riding on a surfboard or Abe Lincoln four wheeling it on an ATV. Maybe Thomas Jefferson redeclaring that the people of this country “…were endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit to Party!” tossing a beer to Teddy Roosevelt as they resume their volleyball game surrounded by scantily cladded women.
Ah, but ain’t that America?
Even more, I expect to hear the phrase “God bless America” said, sung, shouted, screamed, screeched, squawked and squealed over the purple mountain’s majesty and across the fruited plains.
And as well He should.
If there was ever a time for God to “bless” America, it’s right now. We are a mess and certainly could use a hefty helping of the holy Spirit to come our way.
In this time of blaming and scapegoating, arguing and harassing. Accusing, insinuating, and incriminating. With all the cultural disconnect and civil unrest. With such political discord leading to economic downturn. The blatant expression of antisemitism and xenophobia. The rise of fascism and authoritarianism. The constant acts of terrorism. Mass shootings. Hate. Wickedness. Malice. Deceit. Evil. If God doesn’t invoke divine favor upon the U. S. of A. and I mean soon we are headed straight to hell in a handbasket. We will not pass Go, and we will collect $200.
To many, America is the greatest country in the world. The shining city upon the hill. The new Jerusalem. It is the best at everything because God has and continues to shed His Grace on thee. Which is why we have no problem chanting “We’re number one,” even though, in actuality, we aren’t. According to the 2021 Legatum Prosperity Index, out of 167 countries and territories ranked on a variety of factors including wealth, economic growth, education, health, personal well-being, and quality of life, the number one ranked country was Denmark, followed by Norway and Sweden. The United States was ranked 20th. And “We’re number 20,” just doesn’t have quite the same ring.
What a shot to our collective Star-Spangled Banner, huh?
When somebody says, “God Bless America”, they say it as though it were a foregone conclusion. That it has already happened, and they are just expressing fact. They are not asking for God “to” bless America as much as they are saying God “has already” blessed America. It’s understandable though. I mean, how many of us, when we pray, actually ask God as opposed to tell God? It’s “God, give me this job” and not “God, could I please get this job?” Or better still “God, if it is your will for me not to get this job, let it be and show me your plan for me so I can pursue that.”
What was once termed American Exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is inherently different from other nations, has long since faded away. Now, all we have left is American Egocentrism; the inability to accurately assume or understand any perspective other than one’s own. It’s the thought that only America should blessed. That America has a monopoly of God’s blessings. But here’s the thing: if those asking for God to Bless the U.S. are truly Christians (which they must be because why would an Atheist ask God to bless anything?) wouldn’t it be prudent to ask God to bless more than just America? What about Bolivia? Or Namibia? Or Kiribati? Why be so selfish to limit it to America? After all, did Jesus limit his healings and blessings to just to just his Jewish brethren? No. Jesus healed, forgave the sins of, and thus blessed Greeks, Romans, Samarians, Syrians, Syrophoenicians and Geraseneans. Jesus is not some gameshow host, who, at the judgment of nations, will ask “What’s your name and where are you from?”
When we were teaching our boys to pray when going to bed, at the end, they learned to say: “God bless everyone who loves us, and helps us, and takes care of us”. Pretty standard, right? But then they add “Y todo el mundo”. Translated: Everyone in the world. Not “Y todos en los Estados Unidos de América”.
Jesus told the apostles “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” He didn’t say “just those people living in Des Moines”.