According to a new survey commissioned by PBS’s Religion and Ethics Weekly and the United Nations Foundation, 61% of those polled believe that America is “uniquely blessed by God” and that we should “be a model Christian nation to the world.”
I searched the detailed report of the survey but could find no definition of what the survey meant when it asked about America being “uniquely blessed.” I suppose the definition was left to whatever the person answering the question thought being “blessed” was all about.
When we consult Jesus on what it means to be blessed, it seems that America’s blessings are mixed at best and nothing terribly “unique.”
Jesus, in Luke 6, said we are blessed when we are poor. The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world. It’s true we have poor people living in our nation, but they don’t seem especially “blessed” in the view of most Americans. It would seem that to be “uniquely blessed” by God, one must be poor. Strike one for America.
Jesus also tells us that the blessed are hungry. While there are certainly hungry people in our country, the United States wastes more than 113 tons of food a day. We can’t exactly be called a “hungry” nation and therefore are not “uniquely blessed” in this category. Strike two for America.
In Matthew 5, Jesus is emphatic that those who are “uniquely blessed” are peacemakers in the world. The United States has hardly sowed the seeds of peace anywhere in this world—launching pre-emptive wars against nations who may or may not be threats to our national security. That also lets us out of being meek—another marker of blessedness. We’re also counted out of special blessings on the subject of mercy. Ask those in Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Bay about America’s capacity for mercy. Strike three, four and five, America.
There is hope for America, however. Jesus says those who are uniquely blessed “weep.” Certainly, America is in an economic downturn that has many people weeping for the lives they once enjoyed. Hopefully, we will learn the hard lessons of this time of weeping and one day laugh when we rebuild an economic system that is more just to the poor and disadvantaged.
We are also blessed because “men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil” (Luke 6:22). Our nation’s name is deeply hated around the world because of our hubris and callousness toward those we have deemed “enemies.” Hopefully, we will use this blessing to realize the depth of our country’s arrogance and seek to rebuild our goodwill in the world.
Perhaps one day America will be “uniquely blessed” by God when we learn to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God in the world as Micah 6:8 advises. At that point we can claim to be the “model Christian nation to the world.” Until then, woe to us when we bow to the false blessings of the world: wealth, greed and pride.