American Christians and the Anti-American Temptation

Christians can love America—with all of its flaws and failures—precisely because we don’t expect it to be the kingdom of God.

This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

If any political idea in American life has proven itself over the past several years, I can’t think of a better candidate than the “horseshoe theory”—the notion that, at their extremes, Left and Right bend toward each other, sometimes as to be almost indistinguishable.

One of the ways we can see this is in a bleak and darkening view of the United States of America. The question is not so much whether extremists of the Right or Left seem to hate America these days as much as it is the question of why.

Over 15 years ago, then-candidate for president Barack Obama’s campaign was rocked by a videotape of sermons from Obama’s pastor, Chicago preacher Jeremiah Wright, in which Wright spoke of the September 11 attacks in language reminiscent of that of Malcolm X after the John F. Kennedy assassination, as “chickens coming home to roost.”

Wright denounced the idea of “God bless America,” replacing it with instead a call of “God damn America.” The controversy proved to have no staying power—not because most Americans would agree with Wright but because almost no one really believed that Obama himself held to such views. In fact, Obama repudiated his pastor and left the church.

Wright’s bleak view of America was not unusual for a specific strand of the further reaches of the American Left, at least since the Vietnam era. Counter-culture protesters, after all, once burned American flags and referred to the country as “Amerika,” equating the United States with an imperialist dictatorship.

In more recent years, some initiatives such as the 1619 Project have gone beyond …

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