“Is the United States Superior to Other Nations?”
“American Exceptionalism can be a touchy subject because some think the term means that the U.S. and Americans are better than everyone else,” McFarland says. “That’s not the true definition, however. America is looked at as ‘exceptional’ because of the manner in which our country was built and the precepts on which our government was founded. When a leader chooses to circumvent those longstanding processes for his own gain or goals, the ‘exceptional’ nature of our founding is lost.”
In his book, McFarland highlights ten issues that are so emotional, in-depth and complicated that even Christians can’t always agree on how to handle them—especially when talking about these ideas among friends and family and in churches.

“…(I)n no way does American Exceptionalism imply that the United States is better than other countries,” McFarland writes in Chapter 2 of “10 Issues That Divide Christians.” “I certainly do not believe that for some reason America is entitled to favor before God; based on the trends of recent decades, I would say that what America deserves most from the Lord is the severest judgment! We have certainly shown ourselves to be exceptional in terms of our disregard for righteousness and obedience to God.

“Americans murder babies for convenience and elect leaders who may be bought off by whatever lobbying group has the deepest pockets,” McFarland continued. “Our culture deconstructs the family, and influential celebrities have deemed promotion of alternative lifestyles to be the cause du jour. I agreed with the letter writer that our nation is far from the righteous ‘city on a hill’ referenced by Puritan lawyer John Winthrop nearly 400 years ago.”

McFarland shared that the term “exceptionalism” was used hundreds of years ago by French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited America and wrote, “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no other democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.” The freedoms of religion, press and free speech; the opportunity to vote for elected leaders; the freedom to travel; and the ability to conduct business freely struck de Tocqueville as unique from the European experience. His reference to America as “exceptional” especially resonated with the American people, finding its way into the fabric of American society and the speech of ordinary citizens and elected officials alike.

“Despite economic downturns and rampant immorality,” McFarland writes, “many Americans still agree there is something special about the United States and its way of life—‘something’ that sets it apart from every other nation on the earth. Yet others regard American Exceptionalism as an elitist view, claiming that America’s decline is near or that the nation’s alleged imperialism will soon serve as its defeat.”
In Chapter 2 of “10 Issues,” McFarland list some facts that show that America may have indeed lost its Exceptionalism. For example, the United States has:

•  the highest poverty rate
• the greatest inequality of incomes
• the lowest score on the UN’s index of “material well-being of children”
• the worst score on the UN’s Gender Inequality Index
• the highest expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP, yet at the same time, the highest infant mortality rate, the highest prevalence of mental health problems, the highest obesity rate, the highest percentage of people going without health care due to cost, the highest consumption of antidepressants per capita, and the shortest life expectancy at birth
• lower scores in comparison to other countries in math, science and reading
• the highest homicide rate and the largest prison population per capita
• the highest carbon dioxide emissions and the highest water consumption
• one of the largest ecological footprints per capita
• the largest international arms sales

“While many of these trends certainly should concern American Christians,” McFarland says, “does this mean America is no longer exceptional? Was it ever?”

Five ideals once made America “exceptional” and therefore open to the blessings of God:

1.America was founded on religious principles.
2.America offers religious freedom.
3.America has a large Christian population.
4.America has often served to bless others.
5.America has been a friend to Israel.

“One major question remains,” McFarland writes. “If America is exceptional—if God has uniquely blessed America—so what? What relevance does it have for how we live in the United States today? How the question is answered ultimately depends on not a political position but a personal one.”

McFarland continues that there are three concepts Christians should keep in mind when debating American exceptionalism, the country’s founding principles and processes, and the potential blessings of God upon the U.S.

1.If America is exceptional, then we can give praise that we live in a land of opportunity that has been blessed by God’s divine appointment. We dare not take our liberties for granted but should regularly give honor and thanks to the Lord for the freedoms we have to live how we like, to worship freely, to travel, to conduct business and to share the gospel with others in our land and beyond. We must live intentionally aware that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (Jas. 1:17) and seek to “make the most of every opportunity” (Col. 4:5).

2.If God has uniquely blessed America, it is important that we consider how to keep America in the position of being exceptional. While we must be careful to note that we do not deserve God’s hand of blessing, we must realize that His hand of blessing could be removed by the sins of the nation. We are called to live holy lives (see Rom. 12:1-2), to live as salt and light (see Matt. 5:13-16), and to call others to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38).

3. We can call on the Lord for further times of blessing. Scripture is clear that God draws near to us when we draw near to Him (see Jas. 4:8). II Chronicles 7:14, a verse spoken to the nation of Israel long ago, finds relevance in our nation still today: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

In “10 Issues That Divide Christians,” McFarland challenges Christ-followers to drill down to the biblical core of 10 current issues—such as abortion, pornography, evil and suffering, pornography and environmentalism, among others—and he echoes the biblical invitation in Isaiah 1:18: “Come let us reason together.”

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