Does a higher power, if one exists, “shed his grace on thee,” as the lyrics of “America the Beautiful” proclaim?
And if so, does this make the United States of America the greatest country in the world?
“Nearly all Americans think they live in the best country on Earth. While a majority of Americans believe there are other countries just as great, nine in 10 say no nation is better. Within this high view of America, there are differences between different religious groups,” the magazine noted.
To this end, Christianity Today suggested the existence of a “patriotism God-gap in America.”
Among those surveyed, evangelicals were the most likely to think the United States is No. 1.
“Other Christian traditions were less enthusiastic about America’s position in the world, but they still saw the U.S. as one of the best on the planet. About 40% of other Christians said the U.S. stands alone as the greatest country; around 55% said it and some other countries were equally great. As with evangelicals, only a few said there were greater countries in the world.”
“Those with no religion, however,” hold a much less favorable view, according to the magazine.
“Only one in five of those without religious beliefs said the U.S. is the best country in the world, an equal percentage agreeing that ‘there are other countries that are better than the U.S.’ ”
Not everyone is enamored with equating religious conviction and patriotism. Consider these excerpts from the comments that followed the Christianity Today article:
“To call yourself a Christian evangelical and still think that America is the greatest is ironic to say the least. God is not about country. God is about love and everyone is equal in his eyes, including the rest of the world.”
“What’s really sad is the widespread perception among evangelicals that there is some kind of link between America’s standing and the work and purpose and success of God’s kingdom. There is not. Two words: wrong kingdom. I repeat: wrong kingdom. It matters not a whit what America’s status in the world is. The kingdom of Jesus Christ does not depend on this in any way and will continue regardless.”
“When our astronauts look down at the Earth it doesn’t look like a classroom globe with lines on it. All of those lines are drawn in the minds of human beings. I am grateful to be an American. But sometimes I think that some elements of conservative Christianity really see their religion as patriotism, their scripture the Constitution and God their servant to gain their personal aims. This whole Earth is the object of God’s love and concern. And to claim that any one nation in today’s world is more favored than another may be promoting a Christian heresy.”
Flying the flag is among the easiest ways to display patriotism. Is it also an expression of religion?
In an article titled “Flag Desecration, Religion and Patriotism,” Temple University associate law professor Muriel Morisey suggested that for proponents of a constitutional amendment, “the American flag is the equivalent of a sacred religious icon, comparable to Christianity’s crucifix, Judaism’s Torah and the Quran of Islam. No court has designated patriotism as a religion for Establishment Clause purposes, but in every other significant respect it operates as a religion in American culture. Regardless of the religious beliefs we profess, we simultaneously practice patriotism.”
That said, a “God gap” may exist in the flying of Old Glory as well.
A Pew poll taken March 30-April 3 suggested that 78% of religious people display the flag on their clothing, in the office or at home, while 58% of nonreligious do likewise.
Evangelicals were the most likely to say they displayed the flag; those Americans unaffiliated with religion the least likely.
As to the religious identity of the nation, 62% said the United States is a “Christian nation” in a survey of 1,000 adults done a couple of years ago for Newsweek, while 75% of Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey also done in 2009.
And earlier this year, writing for the CNN Belief Blog, Boston University religion scholar Stephen Prothero analyzed the religious affiliations of those elected to serve in the 112th Congress and concluded: “Is this a Christian nation? No way, says the Constitution. But U.S. voters are telling us something else altogether.”
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