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The Rev. Lynn is a longtime specialist in caricaturing traditional Christians as exploitative, aspiring theocrats, so naturally, he blithely links American exceptionalism to his favorite bugaboos. Evangelical Left activist and Emergent Church guru Brian McLaren, in his commentary for The Post, was little different in his grave concerns about believers in America’s special role, most of whom he discerned are prone to “a sense of national superiority, entitlement, smugness, and inflated self-importance.” McLaren offered his own standard Religious Left interpretation of exceptionalism as exempting America from high ethical standards:
It’s wrong for other nations to torture people, but America is an exception. It’s wrong for other nations to develop and discharge nuclear weapons, but America is an exception. It’s wrong for other nations to violate standards of just war theory, but America is an exception. It’s right for other nations to bear responsibility for environmental stewardship, but America is an exception. It’s right for other nations to uphold the highest standards of human rights, but American is an exception.
McLaren, like much of the Religious Left, subscribes to his own brand of Jeremiah Wright-style exceptionalism, portraying America as often uniquely evil, the focus of global injustice, and worthy of ongoing divine damnation, not the recipient of blessing or tool of providential destiny. Agreeing with McLaren, and then some, was Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Arun Gandhi, an Indian journalist and pacifist who frequently joins the American Religious Left for sundry protests. In his own Post op-ed, Gandhi angrily rebutted American exceptionalists as “ignorant and arrogant,” spouting “negative drivel,” professing a “special connection to God,” whom they portray as “vile, vicious, angry, hateful and intolerant,” while He chooses a “handful of people to commit atrocities against fellow humans.”
Gandhi likens American exceptionalists to South Africa’s Boers, who “claimed to be the special emissaries of God sent to save the Black heathens, kill and subjugate them, plunder the land and its resources, enslave and dehumanize people of color and rule over everyone with God given right to commit every conceivable evil under the sun.” The pacifist observed: “They too committed what the world now recognizes as atrocities in the name of God.” Beneficently, Gandhi hopes “God intervenes to bless the American conservatives with some wisdom and humility,” and that He rescues them from their “mission to save America and the world from the liberals.”
Providing a corrective to the Religious Left’s angry stereotypes about American exceptionalism was Los Angeles Rabbi David Wolpe, whose Post commentary noted that America remains the “greatest hope for those who are oppressed and shackled throughout the world,” America was the “most important combatant on the side that was both right and victorious” in the 20th century’s wars to “overcome successive tyrannies that enslaved humanity,” and America uniquely combines a “rich religious legacy with the best of the enlightenment,” creating “technology and innovation,” and is premised on ideals rather than tribalism. The rabbi concluded that America’s destiny is “critical to the fate of humanity.”
Almost all Americans are exceptionalists. Most, like Rabbi Wolpe, see American exceptionalism as an aspiration for good. Sadly, much of the modern Religious Left can imagine America only as exceptionally bad.
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