Why Would God Bless America?
by Farrell Till
The ancient Hebrews
believed that their god Yahweh had selected them from all the peoples
on the face of the earth to be his chosen people (Deut. 7:6). This
belief was so deeply ingrained in their culture that their prophets and
clerics predicted that their nation would last forever (2 Sam. 7:13).
They were very wrong, of course, but their chosen-people ideology was
by no means unique. Many other nations of that era also believed that
they were the special people of their gods. In the inscription on the
Moabite Stone, for example, king Mesha spoke of special favors that he
had received from his god Chemosh and the victories over Moab's enemies
that Chemosh had given to him.
I, Mesha son of Chemosh-Melech king of Moab, the
Dibonite. My father reigned over Moab thirty years and I reigned after
my father. I made this monument to Chemosh at Korkhah. A monument of
salvation, for he saved me from all invaders, and let me see my desire
upon all my enemies. Omri [was] king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab
many days, for Chemosh was angry with his land. His son followed him,
and he also said: I will oppress Moab. In my days Chemosh said; I will
see my desire on him and his house. And Israel surely perished for
ever. Omri took the land of Medeba and [Israel] dwelt in it during his
days and half the days of his son, altogether forty years. But there
dwelt in it Chemosh in my days. I built Baal-Meon and made therein the
ditches; I built Kirjathaim. The men of Gad dwelt in the land of
Ataroth from of old, and built there the king of Israel Ataroth; and I
made war against the town and seized it. And I slew all the [people of]
the town, for the pleasure of Chemosh and Moab: I captured from thence
the Arel of Dodah and tore him before Chemosh in Kerioth: And I placed
therein the men of Sh(a)r(o)n, and the men of M(e)kh(e)rth. And Chemosh
said to me: Go, seize Nebo upon Israel; and I went in the night and
fought against it from the break of dawn till noon: and I took it, and
slew all, 7,000 men, [boys?], women, [girls?] and female slaves, for to
Ashtar-Chemosh I devoted them. And I took from it the Arels of Yahweh,
and tore them before Chemosh. And the king of Israel built Jahaz, and
dwelt in it, while he waged war against me; Chemosh drove him out
before me. And I took from Moab 200 men, all chiefs, and transported
them to Jahaz, which I took, to add to it Dibon (emphasis added).
Mesha's belief that he was a favorite of his god
reads like a page out
of the Old Testament, which tells of many biblical "heroes" who
presumably communed with Yahweh and received direct messages from him
(Josh. 1:1; 1 Sam. 10:22; 1 Sam. 23:2). Assurnasirpal, an 8th-century
BC Assyrian king, who designated as his capital Calah, the city
attributed in Genesis 10:8-11 to Nimrod, left an inscription on the
pavement slabs at the entry to the temple of Urta in Nimrud [Calah] in
which he credited to "the great gods" his success in conquering Kinabu,
a fortified city in Hulai, where he killed 600 warriors and burned
At that time, I received
of the land of Isala--cattle, flocks, and wine. To the mountain of
Kashirari I crossed, to Kinabu, the fortified city of Hulai I drew
near. With the masses of my troops and by my furious battle onset I
stormed, I captured the city; 600 of their warriors I put to the sword;
3,000 captives I burned with fire; I did not leave a single one among
them alive to serve as hostage. Hulai, their governor, I captured
alive. Their corpses I formed into pillars; their young men and maidens
I burned in the fire. Hulai, their governor, I flayed, his skin I
spread upon the wall of the city of Damdamusa; the city I destroyed, I
devastated with fire (Crane Brinton, A History of Western Morals,
Harcourt, Brace, & Co., p. 48).
This too reads like a page out of the Bible, where, as I previously
noted in "God Is Pro-Life?" the barbarism of the Israelites, presumably
commanded by their god Yahweh, was described in detail. As the
inscription on the pavement slabs of the Assyrian temple continued,
Assurnasirpal clearly indicated his belief that, just as the Israelites
believed that their god Yahweh directed them to leave no one alive to
breath in their conquests, his gods were guiding him to perpetrate acts
of barbarism on his captives.
And now at the command of the great gods my
sovereignty, my dominion, my power, are manifesting themselves; I am
regal, I am lordly, I am exalted, I am mighty, I am honored, I am
glorified, I am preeminent, I am powerful, I am valiant, I am
lion-brave, and I am heroic! Assur-Nasir-Pal, the mighty king, the king
of Assyria, chosen of Sin, favorite of Anu, beloved of Adad, mighty one
among the gods, I am the merciless weapon that strikes down the land of
his enemies... (Ibid.).
Sin, Anu, and Adad were Assyrian gods who Assurnasirpal thought had
chosen him to be the conquering king of Assyria, so belief that one's
nation had been chosen by the gods was an ideology that was commonplace
at that time. It is a belief that should have died centuries ago, but,
regrettably, it still survives today, where we see it expressed in
God-Bless-America bumper stickers, the same slogan with which many
politicians have long believed that they must end all of their
speeches. We see the survival of this chosen-of-God superstition in the
outrage of those who rail against even the mere suggestion that "under
God," which was added in the mid-50s, should be dropped from the pledge
of allegiance to return it to its original wording that spoke of "one
nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all." We see it in the
support-our-troops and pray-for-our-troops bumper stickers and magnetic
ribbons on the backs of cars. I am writing this on the day that the
death toll of America's troops in Iraq passed 1800. I have to wonder
how many would have been killed if so many Americans who think that God
is on our side had not been praying for "our troops."
I am not trying to sound flippant about this, just realistic. In "God
Is Pro-Life?" I pointed out the obvious inconsistency in this slogan
and in the way the Bible depicted this god who is supposed to be
"pro-life." I see the same kind of inconsistency in the slogan Pray for
Our Troops and the reality of the casualty figures that keep mounting
as this war drags on. If God were really on the side of American
troops, would praying for them even be necessary? If God were really on
the side of American troops, would there have been any casualty numbers
at all? Asking this may not be as out of order as some superpatriots
may believe, because a little-known biblical story indicates that when
God is really with an army, all of them will come back home safely. In
Numbers 31, the God who many in our country believe is on our side in
times of war, commanded the Israelites to invade the country of Median.
The invasion was carried out, and the Israelite army killed all of the
male Midianites (Num. 31:7), brought the women and children back as
captives (vs:9-11), and then killed all of the captives except for the
virgin girls (vs:17-18). After all of these details were related, the
claim was made that when the soldiers who had returned from battle were
counted, "not a one of [them] was missing" (v:49). I would say that
this story--if it could be believed--would show what really happens
when God is with an army. I have to wonder, then, why 1800 of our
soldiers have been killed in a war in which so many people in this
country believe that God is on our side. If no one had prayed for U. S.
troops in Iraq, would this God who is on their side have allowed 3600
or 5400 to be killed instead of the 1800 who have so far died?
The belief that God is on the side of a particular nation is, of
course, rooted in religion, but apparently few Christians who hold to
this belief ever take the time to consider how inconsistent it is with
the Bible, which is the basis of their religion. Those who cling to
this belief hang on to it with one hand and to the Bible with the
other, not realizing that if God does indeed favor one nation over
others, he violates the principle, enunciated many times in the Bible,
that says that he does not show partiality.
Deuteronomy 10:17 For Yahweh your God is God of gods
and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not
partial and takes no bribe....
2 Chronicles 19:7 Now, let the fear of Yahweh be
upon you; take care what you do, for there is no perversion of justice
with Yahweh our God, or partiality, or taking of bribes.
Acts 10:34 Then Peter began to speak to them: "I
truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation
anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."
Romans 2:11 For God shows no partiality.
Galatians 2:6 And from those who were supposed to be
acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to
me; God shows no partiality)--those leaders contributed nothing to me.
Colossians 3:25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back
for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality.
1 Peter 1:17 If you invoke as Father the one who
judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in
reverent fear during the time of your exile.
Now with these texts in mind, consider the incongruity in the two
# God shows partiality to no one.
# God favors the nation of X over other nations.
Let X be any nation--Israel, Spain, Italy, France, Canada, the United
States; it doesn't matter, because to say that God favors Israel or
France or the United States over all other nations would mean that the
Bible is inconsistent. I don't think that very many Christians,
especially those who are conservative in their beliefs, want to accept
The irony of a nation's believing that it has been "chosen of God" is
seen in the fact that other nations believe the same thing. We saw
above that the Assyrians, like the Israelites, thought that they were
favored by their gods, yet these nations were sometimes enemies on the
battlefield. How is it possible for "God" to favor both sides engaged
in mortal combat? Well, the answer is simple: it isn't possible. This
can be seen in the fact that both the Americans and the Germans in
World War II thought that God was on their side. German soldiers even
wore belts that had Gott Mitt Uns [God with us] stamped on the buckles.
This German buckle had the Gott Mitt Uns inscription stamped around
images of an eagle perched on a swastika, and it clearly indicated a
belief that God was fighting on the side of the Germans. I can remember
hearing a speech by President Franklin Roosevelt made on D-Day 1944 in
which he prayed for God to be with our soldiers who were fighting on
the beaches of Normandy. Despite the prayer, 9,000 American soldiers
were killed in an assault in which God was presumably with the invading
army, and the Germans, who thought that God was with them, lost 20,000
during the invasion. In these statistics, we see again the irony in
this misguided belief that God is on the side of certain chosen
nations. Allied forces landed on Normandy, thinking that God was on
their side, as they were fighting German soldiers who thought that God
was with them. In Iraq today--even though hundreds of our soldiers are
being killed--many in this country believe that God is on our side as
our soldiers fight Muslim "insurgents" who think that Allah is on their
side. What a testament to human ignorance!
When I hear the God-bless-American slogan bandied about, I can't help
wondering why God would want to bless this country any more than, say,
Canada or France or Australia or Japan. Although not the highest in the
world, we do have a high incidence of violent crimes in this country
compared to others. The murder rate here is 0.04 per 1000 people
compared to just 0.01 in Canada, Iceland, Italy, Germany, New Zealand,
Norway, Denmark, and the much maligned country of France, and the rate
is so low in Greece, Indonesia, and Japan that it doesn't even
statistically register. We provide lucrative markets for drug cartels
and pornography peddlers, and we have a country that now has arguably
the most corrupt administration in my 72-year memory, which promotes a
policy of helping the rich and turning blind eyes to the plight of the
less fortunate. This policy is completely contrary to very fundamental
principles of Christianity that were discussed in detail in "The
Morality of the Christian Right."
Why would God want to bless a country that has so many official
policies that run completely contrary to fundamental principles of the
religion that his son presumably died to establish? The answer is that
he doesn't. The notion that God favors one nation over others is an
ethnocentric belief, born in a superstitious age, that has managed to
survive beyond its time. It is an ideology that has caused more human
grief and misery than I care to think about.