Former megachurch pastor Rob Bell has recently declared that he rarely uses the term "American" anymore when describing himself or others.
In an interview with the popular digital publication Downpebbles, Bell said he preferred not using the term "American," believing that United States citizens should go beyond selfish titles.
"I don't actually use the word 'American,' because I think Amerigo Vespucci would be mortified that a country with very strong codes of in-and-out was started in his name," said Bell.
"I don't have a problem with the word 'American' per se, but I feel it oftentimes gets in the way. It implies membership in some big sort of cumbersome system, like a grand experiment in democracy or something like that. That just turns people off."
Bell went on to explain to Downpebbles that when someone talks of being an American, they are really just "trying to bolster their own fragile ego."
"I have met oodles of people who love apple pie, pickup trucks, and voting who would NEVER EVER consider themselves 'American,'" continued Bell.
"On the other hand, I've met people who call themselves 'American' but are actually from other countries like Mexico or Canada. The Founders would want us to go beyond these forms, to let go of things like national identity."
Bell went on to add that the Founding Fathers "would have wanted something more revolutionary than a distinct national identity."
The former megachurch pastor's comments come off the heels of his recently released book Geography Wins: America, Non-America, and the Fate of Every Country.
"We are moments away from America no longer being on a map. The culture has already drawn this conclusion," read the book's introduction.
"The United States will continue to become more and more irrelevant if it keeps trying to justify its laws by quoting a 300-year-old document written by a bunch of old white men."
Bell's comments have stoked a great deal of controversy in Christian circles, with Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas expressing dismay at the claim.
"Bell's comments are pure liberal hypocrisy, pure and simple," declared Jeffress as he passed out baseball caps with the phrase "Make America Great Again."
Jerry Falwell Jr, president of Liberty University, called Bell's comments "Anti-American" and ordered students to carry more concealed firearms.
The appeal to American history also infuriated Dave Barton, who denounced what he called Bell's "erroneous" interpretation of American history.
"It is obvious that the Founders considered the term 'American' to be perfectly acceptable. Bell is off base," noted Barton. "Trust me, I know a thing or two about having a clearly biased view of American history."
A United Methodist Church spokesperson was contacted for this story, but they declined to take a position for fear of advancing schism within the mainline denomination.
"It is important to note," said the UMC spokesperson, "that United Methodists are not of one mind as to whether or not there should be an America."
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