Our #1 Idol – The United States of America

By Graham Glover

The United States of America has become our idol. It has become our god. Our worship of it, or at least what we think it should be, consumes us. I dare say it defines us. We talk about what it means to be a good American all the time. Our devotion to living out what we perceive to be the “American Dream” is the benchmark of our success – its fulfillment is what we strive to every day.

We may claim to put God first. We talk often about the importance of family and friends. But nothing beats the U.S. of A. It is our priority. In everything.

We worship this idol in different ways. For some, it’s an obsession with the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. We treat these rights as though they are divinely inspired, inerrant words of truth given to the Founders of our great nation by God Himself, never to be changed, never to be altered. As we continue to define that which is good, right, and moral, we look first and foremost to these sacred civil texts. The rights contained therein have become our commandments, which we believe must be preserved at all costs. (This isn’t to say I’m not a supporter of the Constitution. I am. So much so that I took an oath to support and defend it, against all enemies, foreign and domestic). But we should never forget that the Bill of Rights, that the U.S. Constitution, is not the means by which we understand what is good, right, and moral. For these are but human creations, meant for a certain people in a particular time. They most certainly are not eternal, either in their purpose or in their ability to be changed. But when we worship them, when we look to them to define us, they become an idol that supplants anything else.

Others make America their idol through the continual cry to “take our country back”. This chorus typically makes its way to the top of the charts every four years, emanating from whichever political or social group is not in charge of things. It’s common refrain to “Make America Great Again” is nothing new, just a different spin on a tired slogan of harkening back to a time that our nostalgic memories think is ideal. But no such time exits. There has never been an ideal time in our nation’s history. There is no “going back”. What was, will likely never be again. And that’s ok. Or at least it should be for those that recognize our nation is not, never has been, nor ever will be perfect. America, for all of her glories, is a nation with many scars. To naively think we can return our country to something that is only a figment of our imagination, is nothing other than a sorry excuse for idol worship. It is to wish for something that doesn’t exist, to put our hope in something that will never be. It is to elevate a false idea of a nation to something of a utopia. It is the act of worshiping the state.

And for some, America has become an idol through the asinine belief that our nation is “city on a hill”, set to forever be the light to an otherwise dark and troublesome world. The idol worshipers believe that America is great not just because of her Bill of Rights, her Constitution, or her idealism – she’s great because she’s been set apart by God. To them, America is the “New Jerusalem”, given to the world to set it free from tyranny and oppression. This isn’t to say that America is not a beacon of democracy in a world ripe with terror or that she isn’t the last superpower to champion a particular notion of freedom. Rather, it is to say that America is not divinely set apart. America is not the means by which the Gospel will be spread or God’s Kingdom will come again. America is just another country in the long history of the world that may one day cease to exist. To put the survivability of our nation first or to think that without its preeminence we will somehow suffer, is to worship a false idol, an idol that gives no lasting sustenance – no eternal glory.

To make America our idol by worshiping her temporal texts, her false nostalgia, and her misplaced primacy, is nothing other than to make her our god. And America is no god. Not now. Not ever.

11 thoughts on “Our #1 Idol – The United States of America

  1. I must have missed some stuff. I’ve never heard anyone talk like that, not Christian people anyway. That’s not to say that someone doesn’t, but this is pretty cynical commentary. We’re supposed to honor and be subject to government as given by God (though full of sinners, and thus not always very good in itself). We’re supposed to be free, though you could argue about what constitutes that freedom. You’d have to be a total doofus not to want good government, if you have any authority to work on it (that’s just good stewardship – and I don’t mean money). And everything a Christian does should be constituted from the substance of faith, including what is pursued for the good of the neighbor (I think good government is in that, too).

    If someone wanted government to be aligned with Christian ethics, that seems good to me (because Christian ethics are good for people, we believe). Ducking the constitution’s prohibition on establishing religion, is probably not reasonable in this country; but holding to that freedom seems good to me.

    Where have you been hearing this kind of talk?

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  2. Don, I’m trying to suggest that the average American Christian puts more faith, places more trust, relies more upon, talks more about, understands himself/herself more by: what it means to be an American vs. what is means to be a Christian. I guess I could have entitled the article: How Civil Religion has Replaced True Religion.

    I’m not saying being an American is a bad thing, it most assuredly is not. I’m not saying a Christian shouldn’t care about their country, they most certainly should. I’m saying I think we have made America: who it is, what it may become, etc. more important than the faith we claim to have.

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  3. I agree with the comment that the author’s point of view is perhaps much too cynical. It is true some people put our country on a pedestal, but most of us can see our collective flaws and understand that no country in the history of the world was, or is perfect. I think, as a nation, we are a bit polarized and people find themselves in either a liberal progressive camp, a conservative camp, or somewhere in between. I belong to the VFW. The group I belong to are really decent and patriotic men, and most are religious Christians. Some of these guys fought in 3 wars. Some of the younger vets have made multiple tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. None of them are extreme, or hyper nationalistic to the point of being blind to our national faults as a country and a people. I remain an optimist. No country is perfect. We should get on our hands and knees and thank God we live here, that we have food, relative security, and more freedom than many people. When you hear someone complain too loudly about this country, tell them they do not have to stay….they can exchange places with somebody now living in North Korea or Somalia.

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    1. John, well said. Not trying to be too cynical, just responding to a phenomenon I see a lot these days.

      As a fellow member of the VFW, I’m glad to hear of your experiences there and echo your thankfulness to God for our faith and our nation.

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  4. Well, Graham you did it again! There is merit to your point as all I have to do is look at the Trump flag waving, tobaccy chewing, rednecks who more often than not disgrace the nation by sewing the flag as a patch on their worn out jeans.

    Yet, no doubt this commentary would stoke a fire of rebuke. I get your point. You are correct. Let God be true and every (nation) a liar. But I did so enjoy seeing the O-riginal Star Spangled Banner and those famous documents you mentioned during our last visit to DC.

    Ours is a great nation and I know that you know that. We’ve both done time in other lands for more military and ministry service. But our nation would do well to see God Almighty as God and not our government or even our heritage.

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