Americanist as Apple Pie

What makes us [America] exceptional is not our self-interest or the fact that we fight wars or the fact that we fight to win. We are exceptional in our blindness to our use of power. [The religion of] Americanism fools us into thinking that we are acting for high-minded ideals rather than for grubby national advantage. Worse, Americanism mythologizes and sanctifies our not uncommon big-country-on-the-planet bullying and hypocrisy. We protect our favored industries yet demand open doors into small, developing Asian economies. We sing the praises of democracy while sending CIA operatives to overthrow elected rulers. We meddle in other nations’ business in ways that we would not tolerate for a moment if we were on the receiving end. We pile up burning corpses and tell ourselves we are regenerating the world. We can get away with all this because Americanism persuades us that we are invariably, no matter what the cause or how we behave, the global good guy.

Babel-like, we believe we have brought history effectively to its conclusion: American democracy is everyone’s tomorrow. Babel-like, we want everyone everywhere to confess with one lip our American creed of liberty, democracy, and free markets. Babel-like, we are anxious until everyone looks like us – with a McDonald’s in every major city, and a Walmart to boot – or until we can force most everyone to play by our rules. American power in the world might be entirely nonviolent and benign were it not for the third plank of the Americanist creed, the sacrificial consecration of war and violence. Vast and complex as it is, the United States does act consistently in terms of its Americanist convictions, but it is no aberration when it does. When we violently impose our will on the world, we are acting against the better angels of our nature. But we are not betraying our true selves. We are being as Americanist as apple pie.

-Peter Leithart in Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective (2012), pp. 134-135



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