In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth is written by Richard M. Gamble, Hillsdale College professor and Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Today we focus on the final chapter, The Once and Future City.
For those wondering if Marco Rubio is the future of the Republican Party, you may be interested to know that he continues the “city on a hill” myth:
In his maiden speech on the floor of the Senate in June 2011, the freshman Senator managed to combine John F. Kennedy’s “watchman on the walls of world freedom” and Henry Luce’s “American century” with robust exceptionalism and Reagan’s shining city. At the end of his speech, he rejected the idea that America had reached the limit of its wealth, power and influence and was about to be surpassed by “new shining cities.” He accepted the costs, he vowed, of “keep[ing] America’s light shining”…
In a nation of so many professing to be Bible-believing Christians, why has there been so little objection raised to the political appropriation and misuse of a biblical metaphor?
Nothing seemed strange about an American dressed in biblical imagery to a generation of Christians taught to read their nation’s history as a manifestation of the special relationship between their land and their God. Since the 1970’s, such bestselling books as The Light and the Glory and its sequels had turned the events of American history into proof of the finger of God in history.
Gamble then proceeds to give the example of the American Patriot’s Bible, which can, of course, be bought in a camouflage cover. He doesn’t mention the prevalence of homeschooling resources that do the same thing.
We’ll conclude with Gamble putting Christian faith and patriotism in a healthier perspective:
Christians owe a proper degree of allegiance to their nation. Christians ought to love their earthly home with well-ordered affections. But they must be on guard against idolatry in whatever form it takes. They must not give to Caesar anything that belongs to Christ and his Church no matter how much they love their country. In fact, a proper love of their country will keep them from ascribing any untruth to the thing they love. In Christian theology, it is simply not true that America is the city on the hill, not now, not ever. To see to protect America from this falsehood is not to do her any dishonor. Quite the opposite. It spares her from delusion. Proper love refuses to cooperate with the effort to divinize America.
…The more self-conscious Americans in general become about using the metaphor, and the better they know the story of how the city was turned from a biblical metaphor into a national myth, the more likely they are to abandon it as a tired emblem of their collective aspirations as a people. If this is so, then it presents an opportunity for Christians to “take back” the metaphor, not for Reagan or the Republican Party, not for social justice or another liberal cause, but for the church to which it originally and exclusively belonged.