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Proud to be American? Why grateful is a better word

Last week I shared with you the startling results of polling that only about a third of Americans aged 18-24 “were proud or very proud” of being American. I argued that one major reason for this dramatic falloff in patriotism was the infiltration of Critical Race Theory (CRT) into our nation’s public schools.

Richard Land
(Photo: The Christian Post/Katherine T. Phan)

Since then a very interesting column has been published acknowledging the lethal ability of CRT to splinter and undermine everything in American society by William A. Galston, “How Adherents see ‘Critical Race Theory.’”  Galston served in the Clinton administration (1993-95) and is with the Brookings Institution. Having surveyed CRT, Galston concludes, “But one thing is clear: Because the Declaration of Independence–the founding document of the American liberal order—is a product of Enlightenment rationalism, a doctrine that rejects the Enlightenment tacitly requires deconstructing the American order and rebuilding it on an entirely different foundation.”   

That is the definition of a revolution. It seems that Galston, a liberal Democrat, agrees with me about just how radioactive CRT is to our entire governmental system.

However, I wanted to focus on a different aspect of the survey measuring “how proud are you to be an American?” As I read the survey, I found myself pondering the word “proud.”  Is that an accurate definition of what other Americans and I feel about America?

I don’t think so. At least it was not the word I feel most comfortable using. “Proud” denotes something I have done. I had nothing to do with my being born an American.

I can hear some of you saying, “But Dr. Land, you are a conservative Republican.” It is true that I am “conservative” and “Republican,” but those are not the most important words to use in describing me. I am a Christian, an American, a conservative, and a Republican in that order.

As a Christian, I believe that God “knitted” me and “embroidered me” in my mother’s womb and “all my parts were written in God’s book before any of them came to be.” (Ps. 139:13-16)

For me, and for millions of Christians, being an American is a divinely bestowed blessing. Being born an American is like being born on third base in the great scheme of things and being proud of it is like being born on third base and thinking you hit a triple. No, we among all humanity, are the most fortunate of people, to have been, in the providence of God, born “American.”

In the providence of God, having been born American makes me the recipient of a priceless inheritance and a cherished national heritage of commitment to individual human dignity and the freedom to live according to the dictates of our own consciences without governmental interference.

When I contemplate what it means to be an American, I am filled with gratitude and awe, not pride.

If we allow our founding institutions to be undermined by a metastasizing CRT, we will see an America “balkanized” and disintegrate. If we no longer bear common allegiance to our founding documents and founding principles, then why should California and Texas remain in the same country? Why should Alabama and Vermont not separate?

If that happens, it will be a tragedy of unspeakable proportions for the people of the United States. It will also be a terrible tragedy for the citizens of the world.  As Winston Churchill reminded us, it is on the whole that such things must be measured, and America has been a positive and civilizing influence in the world.

Has America been perfect both here at home and abroad? Of course not. However, we have been better than any other nation in standing up for freedom and human dignity for others as well as for ourselves.

Close your eyes and think for a moment about what the world would look like without the United States of America?  Without America, evil people in the world would have run rampant in the past and they would run rampant now and in the future.

Without America, Germany would have won World War I. The Kaiser was not Hitler, but a 20th century dominated by Imperial Germany would have been no “walk in the park.” Then, of course, without America, the Germans and the Japanese would have won World War II, which would have ushered in what Churchill called “a new dark age.”

Without America, the last half of the 20th century would have been dominated by the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union, which would have had terrible repercussions for human freedom and dignity the world over.

As long as America is around, evil people getting up to evil things have had to ask themselves, “If we do this, will the Americans come?” If America disintegrates, or is reorganized as an entirely different country, they will no longer have to ask that question. People the world over will suffer terribly, and the weaker and more vulnerable they are, the more they will suffer.

Am I “proud” to be an American? No. I am grateful beyond words and I understand, “to whom much is given, much is required,” (Luke 12:48). As the recipient of great blessings, I have a responsibility to work for human freedom and dignity both here and around the world. America is a country, but it is also a cause, and the cause is human freedom.

Dr. Richard Land, BA (magna cum laude), Princeton; D.Phil. Oxford; and Th.M., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) and has served since 2013 as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Land has been teaching, writing, and speaking on moral and ethical issues for the last half century in addition to pastoring several churches. He is the author of The Divided States of America, Imagine! A God Blessed America, Real Homeland Security, For Faith & Family and Send a Message to Mickey.

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