“This nation is the hope of the earth,” Republican candidate Mitt Romney said in passionate closing remarks at last night’s third and final presidential debate.
The statement for a moment filled me with great pride, and maybe I’m not alone. I suspect most voters like to hear that the country they love really is the greatest on earth.
We Americans have much to be proud of when it comes to our achievements as a nation and the values and principles we strive to uphold. Regardless of who we vote for and regardless of our views, most of us can agree that we want the very best for our country and are genuinely grateful to be Americans. Most of us, I imagine, might even agree that there are a range of issues in this election pertaining to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” both here and around the world that, regardless of whether we vote Democrat or Republican, are important to us, not just as Americans but, more fundamentally, as people of faith.
But this morning, with Romney’s remark still trilling in my ears, I awoke maybe not so coincidentally to read from the Old Testament book of Lamentations (Lamentations 3:13-26) that God is my only real hope.
I suppose any time we begin to mistaken our own selves as the “hope of the earth,” be we Americans, or people of faith, or both, we are in danger of committing a dangerous form of idolatry.
This sort of “Manifest Destiny” understanding of ourselves as Americans runs deep in our blood- maybe almost as deep as original sin.
But this long-standing relationship with our own self-righteousness doesn’t make this sort of thing okay, or par for the course, or acceptable political sound byte material.
The other day at a friend’s birthday party, my son and I got to ride a mechanical bull. That bucking bronco was hard to ride and an act in humility- not to mention a discovery in hip ligaments I didn’t know were there. At the end of the fun, our hostess gave us one forewarning: “in a few minutes, we’re putting an end to the bull,” she called.
When politicians, regardless of their party, make insidious and even ugly appeals to our American savior complexes in the place of the one true God who can save us and our world, it seems to me that we, too, as Christians and people of faith, need to be calling for an end to the bull.