Ok, I admit it. Yes, I listen to Minneapolis Public Radio. I love talk radio, and I love their stories as I drive here and there, sometimes 5 minute drives, others 45. Their topics, most of the time, provide a nice distraction from the kids and being with others who are facing old age.
I don’t always agree with what I hear, but the other day a particular statement really got to me. A caller said something to the effect that since we are the best country in the world, we should be able to get this economic issues right.
My by-line will never include expert in economics, politics or history. Yet I know a thing or two through my degrees in International Relations, Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy and a Masters in Divinity (includes church history & politics). Reading history, especially American history, traveling & living around the country and world, and knowing a lot of people…I figure I have as much right as anyone to have an opinion. And when it comes to categorizing the USA as the best country in the world, I cringe.
I’ll skip the historical (if necessary) propaganda that fed, if not originated, this claim. I’ll even skip the political discussions where even Alexis de Tocqueville would have expressed reservations. And I’ll skip the increasing number of studies that compare the education systems, class mobility and crime between various countries.
Instead, I will refer to scripture: You must have no other gods before me. Do not make an idol for yourself -no form whatsoever – of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. (Exodus 20:4).
When I hear any references to the USA being the best, I cringe because I hear a strong tinge of idolatry. The USA is put on a pedestal, put above all else on the earth and in the sky. Setting it above other countries, leads to misconceptions of superiority, of infallibility, of even a divine right to impose our ways on others.
Making idols blinds us from the truth, whatever shape the idol takes. We idolize an individual, and their sins are ignored – even when they are in plain sight. We idolize a goal – money, fame, success, perfection – and we can lead ourselves and others from God’s path.
God warned us about idols. Whenever we place something above God, we are putting ourselves on track to blind ourselves from seeing God’s Truth.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of the United States. I am extremely honored to be the descendent of many men and women who founded towns in the 1600’s, helped set the framework for our independence, came here with nothing to make a life for themselves and their families, fought for the country, and in many other ways contributed to this country. Yet, I am not blinded by our mistakes, including those my ancestors were party to.
I look at our world today, and truly wonder what my children will face. What will my husband and I have to face in just the next few years?
Our country may do some things “better” than others, but other countries do things “better” than us. May God help us see God’s Hand at work everywhere and anywhere in the world, and not be blinded by what we regard as the “best.”
Gracious Lord, you have given us so much, including the Word. Lord, help me to discern when you are at work, when you are showing the way, rather than when human assumptions. We are so limited in our knowledge and understanding, while You know all, because You created and are all! Help us raise our children so that their ability to see your work in the world is not limited by human distinctions. Amen.