American Exceptionalism: “To Whom Much Is Given”

“America is exceptional because her founding principles are exceptional.”

-WFA President Julaine Appling

Weekly commentary from WFA President Julaine Appling:

“So, did you enjoy going from your warm house or apartment to your warm church yesterday so that you could freely worship the Lord with other believers?  How was the technology?  And I’m guessing you even had a choice as to which Bible you would take to church with you.  You probably were dressed pretty nicely, too, and had a decent breakfast—or if you didn’t it was your own fault. I’m pretty sure you also rode in a vehicle that you own or are purchasing.  You may have even gone out for lunch after church.

The foregoing pretty much accurately described how my day went yesterday.  Now maybe your situation is vastly different from mine, but I can tell you I am distinctly middle-class by just about any economic standard, just like the vast majority of Americans.  I’m definitely not wealthy but I’m also not poor.  The truth is, statistically, in comparison to the rest of the world, you and I are wealthy.  In fact, we are pretty exceptional.

Recent studies, even those after the economic crisis started, continue to show that an American who is at what we call the “poverty line” is in the top 14% of the global income distribution.  Think about that.  That means a person we say is poor in America is wealthier than 86% of the rest of the world.

That statistic all by itself ought to bring some perspective to all of us. We are blessed, truly blessed.  We are exceptional.  American Christianity is really very unlike Christianity around the world.

For well over 100 years, American has been, humanly speaking, the primary means by which the world has heard the Gospel.  And it has not been our wealthy who have been completely responsible for this.  It has largely been middle-class people who work hard, attend church faithfully, and give their tithes and offerings each week who have been the financial powerhouse behind sending missionaries around the world, printing and distributing Gospel tracts, translating the Scriptures into foreign languages and more.

Our incredible affluence, even in tough economic times, is unheard of in most of the rest of the world. Our way of life is truly foreign to most people. This is all part of American Exceptionalism.  American Christians are part of the American Exceptionalism.  Exceptionalism doesn’t mean we are inherently better than others; it means we are different from others—we are exceptional. I am convinced that we are exceptional here in this great country because of how we were founded.

Our forefathers who settled Plymouth Colony in 1620 and became the strongest influence on our system of government and way of life, did not risk their lives to come to an unknown land because they heard about the better economy in the new world or because they thought the job prospects were better or the crops were improved.  No, they risked their lives for religious freedom—for the opportunity to rear their families and live their lives according to the dictates of their conscience and the teaching of the Word of God.

When they established this country, the principles and values they put into practice—principles and values largely based on the Bible—became part and parcel of this country, including being part of our founding documents and form of government.  Out of these values and principles came, for example, self-government, capitalism and free enterprise and limited government, all of which contribute to economic prosperity.  Make no mistake: America is exceptional because her founding principles are exceptional.

Today we are still relatively free and relatively prosperous. We’re still able to help the persecuted church worldwide and we are able to send the Gospel around the world. But, mark my words, as we move further and further from our founding principles and show less and less exceptionalism, we will have less prosperity and less freedom, especially for the middle class, and eventually, this profound change will show up very dramatically in how we evangelize the world—and our own communities.

Next Sunday as you prepare to go to church remember how very exceptional you are in comparison to the rest of the world. Reflect on how very blessed you are. And then remember that to whom much is given, much shall be required.”

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