The Roots of American Idealism: Part 2
Jan 18, 2007
The American experiment in the New World was a partial success for the world of white settlers, but it was a near disaster for the native Indian population.
The American settlers brought with them their native cultures from the European countries, but the dominant Christian culture at the beginning was the English variety. In the north it was English Puritanism, and farther south in Virginia it was the culture of the Church of England. Still farther south and in the west, of course, the culture was more Spanish Catholic, but for many years this was outside the sphere of the American government and so it enjoyed little influence until later.
It is common for each nation to feel a sense of national destiny that has religious roots. The Bible's concept of a "chosen people" was given to Israel in ancient times. But as we have already shown in recent articles, God "chose" many nations to rule Israel and the rest of the Western world throughout history. More recently, the news has reported negatively of the strong sense of national destiny in the mind of the President of Iran. Certainly, Saddam Hussein's belief that he was the reincarnation of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon manifested his particular sense of destiny.
The American sense of destiny was of two kinds, represented by the two main colonies in the early 1600's--Plymouth, Massachusetts and Jamestown, Virginia. The colony in Plymouth was formed by the Pilgrims and Puritans, who had a separatist mentality. They were escaping England in order to enjoy freedom of worship that was being curtailed by the Church of England. To them, the Church of England was just the younger brother of the Roman Church.
The Jamestown colony, on the other hand, was an English colony that was established in the name of Christianity (i.e., the Church of England) largely for business purposes.
These two colonies formed two competing and often conflicting visions and senses of American destiny. To some, the American Dream was to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. To others, the American Dream was economic prosperity in the name of religion. Neither group was perfect, of course, and both were still products of the Old World in many ways. The idea of self-rule and the democratic process distinguished them from the monarchies of Europe, but these ideas really applied only to white Christians.
All others were usually treated differently. The American destiny was to conquer all "heathen" people and civilize them with Christianity. The problem was not nearly as severe among the English colonists as it was with the Spanish conquerors, but it was all too similar at times. When the English poet, Rudyard Kipling, wrote his poem, The White Man's Burden, published in 1899 in McClure's magazine, he captured both the English and American sense of destiny in regard to the non-white people of the world.
Kipling's poem was written in the context of the Spanish-American War, in which the United States took control of Cuba and the Philippines. In fact, the subtitle of the poem was The United States and the Philippine Islands. So we are not left to speculate on the application. Essentially, it was the idea that white people had a responsibility to rule others in an enlarged Christian Empire.
This Christian Imperialism was largely derived from the example of Israel's conquest of Canaan, but with Christian motives. From the beginning, America was said to be the "New Israel." Church leaders found their destiny in Scripture, identifying with Israel. This was applied sometimes positively, but too often negatively. They were still too much influenced by the ideas of militant Christianity to shake loose from the Old Covenant method of conquering Canaan.
I have shown in the past how Israel was offered a spiritual sword at Mount Sinai on the day God spoke the Ten Commandments. This was celebrated under the name of Pentecost in later years. If the people had accepted that spiritual sword, their conquest of Canaan would have taken on an entirely different character. But they refused to hear, and thus refused this sword from the mouth, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. They were left only with a physical sword, by which they conquered.
In taking Israel's conquest of Canaan as their example, rather than the New Covenant's mandate in the Great Commission, the American sense of destiny was shaped by the Old Covenant rather than the New. And this led to a belief that other people had to be conquered by the sword, rather than converted by the demonstration of the power of the Spirit.
This is how America became a Christian Nation, rather than the Kingdom of God. American Christians were yet imperfect, lacking both a knowledge of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit as demonstrated in the book of Acts. As an American, I can certainly appreciate the measure of freedom that our founders gave us, although these liberties have greatly eroded over the years. However, these liberties were not truly applicable to non-white peoples except through much tribulation and bloodshed.
As I showed in my web logs about a year ago, and in my March-April 2006 series on The Prophetic History of the United States, the Declaration of Independence had to be expunged of its anti-slavery statements before the delegates from the southern states would sign it. The same occurred in writing of the Constitution and later laws. In the following decades, this became the most divisive issue in American life. Would the American dream include slavery of non-white people? Would liberty be limited to white people only? Was America a nation where white people would rule over non-white people?
We fought a great Civil War in the 1860's that decided the issue politically, but even then slavery was merely replaced by racism. The open Civil War simply became an internal "Cold War." Only in the 1960's did this really begin to change, and even then the change was not without conflict and hard feelings that persist even today.
We must, therefore, ask ourselves if the American Dream is to establish a Christian Nation or to establish the Kingdom of God. Is it to be based upon the Old Covenant or the New? Is the American sense of destiny to bring ALL of creation into the glorious liberty of the children of God? Who is called to rule, and what does rulership mean? Who is called to rule over whom? Is the call to rulership based upon genealogy or upon character?
These are fundamental questions that must be confronted by any aspiring overcomer. I have set forth my views on this in many ways in the past year. If you are a new reader, I suggest that you read the past web logs in the order in which they were written, for they tend to build upon each other, line upon line. You need to know this, if you hope to rise above Passover and Pentecost and begin thinking according to the Feast of Tabernacles.
It is enough for a Passover believer to focus upon his own little world and his own personal relationship with Christ. It is enough for a Pentecostal believer to evangelize others in order to put more people under the authority of the Church. But a Tabernacle believer must know how God intends to set creation free. He or she must know Jesus' definition of rulership and not be governed by man's definitions as mentioned in Matthew 20:25-27.
" (25) . . . You know that the rulers of the Gentiles [ethnos, "nations"] lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. (26) It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, (27) and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave."
This is the second part of a series titled "The Roots of American Idealism." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones