America! Exceptional! For Goodness’ Sake!

As I went through public school, I heard all about America the melting pot, the New World refuge for victims of persecution or economic hardship, the “city on a hill” of democracy. In church I heard all about how our Christian founding fathers wanted a nation where they could freely worship God and do what was right. In both I heard about America’s founding principles regarding life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The common theme that I heard in school and in church was the exceptionality of America: in the history of the world, there has never been a nation state quite like America.

America is exceptional in that people could be proudly Arab, Basque, Chinese, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, German, Haitian, or any ethnicity and yet be American. For instance, if you want to go to China and be Chinese, you have to be Chinese to be accepted as Chinese; if you want to go to Kenya and be Kenyan, you have to be able to name your tribe. In America we have ethnic enclaves flying foreign flags and all are proudly American. Broadly stated, one of the distinguishing features in America’s national narrative is that everyone is originally from somewhere else and somehow they all live together peacefully.

While I am not acquainted with the current state of political discourse in this election season, I believe that there is thunderous debate regarding the exceptionality of America as a nation. On the Republican side of things, it seems that the debate fights a lot over just how Christian America is or is supposed to be. I recently saw this video posted by Joe Carter over at First Things, and I got to thinking about the exceptionalities of the United States of America, and I want to posit a historical counterexample to America’s exceptionality.

In the video referenced above, a speaker highlights America’s founding principles and holds adherence to those as the thing that makes Americans truly American. Another nation founded upon certain governing principles was the Soviet Union—equal distribution of wealth, jobs, food, and worldwide socialist revolution for all. In the founding of the Soviet Union, there was a revolutionary vanguard of people who had a vision of a socialist future. They pushed the whole nation to be where they wanted it to be, and the Soviet Union was born. The Bolsheviks pushed class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat into the national narratives of the Soviet Union’s constituent states. Perhaps their failure came in their attempts to extend the national narrative to other nation states; whatever the case, many nations have been unique in the history of the world, but they fail when they conflate national narrative with foreign policy objectives.

America has a unique national story, but it is not the world’s story. It is America’s story. For all of America’s exceptional qualities, those are true of America, for America. For American Christians, we have to understand when we are being good Americans and when we are being good Christians; we need to not be bad Americans while trying to be good Christians, and vice versa. We as American Christians have to be able to shift gears when we transition between politics and religion. While the American government has many tools to influence the world, the American government is not our tool to influence the world. America is indeed exceptional; America is indeed an example to the world; America is indeed a force for good. That said, America needs to be good for its own sake, for the sake of goodness and for the sake of the country.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is gone: Long Live the Muslim Brotherhood?

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down this morning, and there’s no way to know what will happen next. While one should, on principle, welcome the departure of a tyrant, the fact is the Egyptian people might very well become less free now that Mubarak is gone.

That’s because—as anyone who has paid attention already knows—it’s likely that Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organized political force, will now take the reins. The Muslim Brotherhood ‘s supreme goal is the worldwide institution of Sharia law, and to say that they are dedicated to this goal is to insult them by understating their devotion.

Sharia is fundamentally anti-democratic. The Brotherhood has a history of manipulating democracy inorder to bring about its ultimate downfall, so don’t let the specter of free elections convince you of the group’s virtues. The Brotherhood might take leadership in Egypt violently, or they might do so democratically; either way, the danger to Egyptian freedom is very real.

And so is the danger to you. Because, despite what National Intelligence Director James Clapper would have you believe, the Muslim Brotherhood is no friend of the United States: it is one of the world’s most deadly radical terrorist groups. Consider, just for starters, their self-proclaimed motto:

Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.

The word jihad here does not refer to an internal struggle for holiness, and dying in the way of Allah has nothing to do with dying to self—at least, not for the Muslim Brotherhood. It surely does mean something like that to the millions of moderate Muslims who do not wish to see you dead, but there’s a reason those moderates are not part of the Brotherhood.

James Clapper told House Intelligence Committee members Thursday that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.” The claim is so baldly false as to be nearly humorous, as is Clapper’s insistence that the Muslim Brotherhood has “no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.” As John Podhoretz points out,

This is one of the most reckless and irresponsible statements ever made publicly by an American official at a critical and delicate moment. If one of the key figures in the making of the administration’s foreign policy is already making excuses for the Muslim Brotherhood, the president needs to signal immediately that the United States does not view this evil and destructive force with rose-colored glasses. Hard to say how Obama can do that in a way that will be meaningful and still allow Clapper to remain in his office.

Clapper’s office has since offered a clarification, stating that Clapper is aware the Brotherhood is not a secular organization, but not before U.S. academics had a chance to defend his claims—proving that, even in the United States, Brotherhood ideology has already taken root.

Who knows—perhaps Egypt will come out alright. Perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood will not take leadership. I pray so. But realize, as you cheer the fall of a tyrant, that your Egyptian friends are not the only ones in danger here.

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On the Importance of Advancing Liberty and Free Markets

My good friend Julia Kiewit recently submitted the following to a fellowship. I thought it was a concise, accurate view of the relationship between liberty and free markets. There is much more that could be said about liberty and free markets, especially with regards religions place in relation to these two. Nonetheless, this brief response gives the “gist” of it and is worth a read:
Societies structured around liberty and free markets are important because they recognize the truth about human nature.

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