United Statesians have always claimed to live in a nation blessed by God–white Americans interpreted the near complete destruction of certain Native American communities by smallpox as a sign of God’s blessing, believing that God had cleared the land of its previous inhabitants just for them; white American confidence in this same blessing in turn was seen as license to acquire even more land, even if it meant killing Native Americans in the process.
And lately, especially since 9/11, the phrase “God Bless the USA” or “may God Bless the USA” has become a prominent part of the nation’s public discourse. Presidents Bush and Obama have ended every speech with this phrase.
But, is it true? Does God Bless the USA? Similarly, is it reasonable to even hope or pray for this?
Thankfully, the New Testament, echoing much of the thinking of the Old Testament, is very specific about whom God blesses. In Luke’s Beatitudes, Jesus says:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.
Similarly, in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In other words, God’s blessing is not bestowed upon whomever asks for it, but upon the poor and those who do justice to the poor. So, only to the extent that the United States is poor, merciful, just, meek, and peaceful can it be justified in expecting or even asking for God’s blessing.
However, I do not think that the richest nation on earth can be said to be poor. Nor can a nation with the biggest army in the history of the world be said to be meek. Nor can a nation that acquired its land by stealing it from and or killing those who previously lived on it be said to be just, meek, or peaceful.
It would seem therefore that in expecting/asking God to bless the USA, we are not in any way speaking of or to the God who is the Father of Jesus Christ. We seem to be speaking of and to a completely different God, one whom Scripture does not know.
As Luke’s gospel makes it clear, from the God of Jesus Christ crucified, a nation like ours receives not blessings, but woes.