For the last several weeks, this column has offered several critiques about the society in which we live and the culture that defines us. I stand by these critiques and my overarching concerns about the trajectory of our modern liberal world. It should be patently obvious that I do not like the consequences of our increasingly unfair capitalist system and our growing individualist mentality that abhors any notion of community. Both of these are the byproduct of a philosophy born in the Reformation and cultivated by the Enlightenment, which are now coming to their logical end state.
That being said, let me be clear about something: I love my country. Despite my concerns, there is no question that the United States of America remains, as President Reagan once said: “a shining city on a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere”. Our nation may have some serious issues that are long-overdue for some substantive solutions, but here is why these words of Reagan remain true:
- America’s unending devotion to freedom. Although Americans understand freedom differently, with some emphasizing “freedom from” and others “freedom to”, we remain consistently stubborn when it comes to our devotion to it. And this is a great thing. Because without freedom there is tyranny and the world is full of tyrants who want nothing more than to destroy this foundation of freedom that exemplifies Americans. This isn’t to say that our country is perfect. It isn’t. But I dare you to offer another example of a nation that has been a champion for freedom like America. Tell me who has defeated tyranny more than the patriots of this great land? Who has freed people and nations from savagery more than the United States? And what country will offer its sons and daughters for the cause of freedom like America? These, coupled with the fact that 44 leaders (presidents), with widely divergent understandings of freedom, have peacefully passed on this mantle from one administration to the next for over 220 years. Wars have been fought. Blood has been shed. But through it all, the cause of freedom has prevailed.
- America’s faith in “god”. I don’t care whether or not you think this nation was born from a Judeo-Christian ethic. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because the citizens of America remain steadfast in their faith to god. As a Lutheran pastor I take great exception to this civil faith we Americans embrace. I do so because it mistakenly concludes that all faiths are the same. They most assuredly are not. All faiths do not believe in the Triune God of my Christian faith or lead to eternal salvation. But our civil religion remains critical in our cultural narrative that allows those from differing faiths to inhabit the same land and do so without the type of persecution found throughout history and evident today in parts of the world. We pledge allegiance to one nation under god and in so doing, pledge ourselves to an inclusive faith that facilitates the cause of freedom.
- America’s commitment to a strong national military. This is a relatively new commitment in our nation’s history, but one I do not think will waver. We have entered a new era of warfare, where our enemies are difficult to define and battles are fought for years on end, with no end in sight. Until the current enemy of freedom is defeated, which I doubt will happen this side of the eschaton, America must maintain the size and scope of its military. Mine is not a call to intervention in every corner of the globe. But again I ask, if not America, then who? If not the most lethal fighting force the world has ever seen – that is the US military – then what shall become of the freedom we love and protect, and the faith that unites us as a people? Our military is the guardian of freedom not only in this country, but throughout the world. Without it, tyranny most assuredly will triumph.
To critique is easy and I suspect The Emperor’s Chair will continue to offer its fair share of critical commentary about the political and social issues facing our nation. But in the midst of these critiques, I pray we Americans will never lose sight of that which makes us great and never recoil from the fact that our country truly is “a shining city on a hill.”