America's Exceptionalism

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America has long been praised for being a prosperous country with a special role on the stage of world politics. There is no doubt that America displays exceptionalism as a nation. However, there is debate over the reason for America’s exceptionalism, and Christians question how the church should respond to this exceptionalism. In chapter four of Migrations of the Holy: God, state, and the political meaning of the church, William T. Cavanaugh explains some of the theories surrounding America’s role as an exceptional nation. One theory in particular contends that the reason for this exceptionalism is America’s foundation on Enlightenment ideals of freedom and human rights, which is not only a desire of citizens of the United States, but it…show more content…
Cavanaugh compares this zeal for creating free markets and establishing new democracies to the missionary zeal that the church used to have for spreading the gospel (Cavanaugh 94). He notes that while the zeal to spread Christianity has died down substantially, the zeal for spreading democracy has not. This indicates, Cavanaugh says, that the United States is in actuality making freedom an idol (Cavanaugh 96). Ironically, Cavanaugh states, instead of worshipping a god, Americans too often worship their freedom to worship a god (Cavanaugh 96). This point is a striking observation that is worth exploring. As Cavanaugh has stated earlier in the book, fighting and dying for the sake of freedom is a highly honored action, and shows that freedom is worth sacrificing to in the same way that a god is worth sacrificing to (Cavanaugh 42). However, this idea seems to contradict the former point that there is an empty shrine. It seems that the reality of the situation is that the shrine at the center of democracy is not empty, but centers around the worship of freedom. It is important to note, however, that if the shrine is indeed filled, it is crucial that the citizens do not realize that the shrine is not empty. The feeling of freedom that the citizens enjoy is a result of their belief that they are free to define their own idea of transcendence. In…show more content…
The key idea here is that America claims to know what is best for the world and is not afraid to enforce its policies militarily (Cavanaugh 95). Cavanaugh uses the examples of military operation code names “Infinite Reach” and “Infinite Justice” and the advances made in military technology to show that the government seeks omnipotence and omniscience (Cavanaugh 95). Although it is probably true that the United States, in playing its godlike role, wants to attain omnipotence and omniscience, the argument that these code names actually signify omnipotence and omniscience is weak. It is a bit of a jump to link the names “reach” and “justice” with “power” and “knowledge”, respectively. Another point that Cavanaugh concludes about America’s “godlike ambitions” is that the government conveys theological ideas about itself without explicitly using theological language (Cavanaugh 96). Thus, the United States portrays itself as a god that deserves loyalty and sacrifice of the citizens without the general public realizing
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