I saw a poll the other day that saddened me. I don’t remember the particulars, but the gist of it was that a shocking number of Americans are not proud of their country. They don’t believe that the United States of America is worth celebrating.
They’re wrong, and let me tell you why.
Has any nation ever been more blessed by God in the way of natural resources? It boggles my mind when I think of the breadth and depth of bounty that God created in the fifty states. Our original claim to fame was being the breadbasket of the world, and we still are. While Kansas may be boring to drive through, most nations the world over would die for land so fertile, flat, and farm-ready. If you look at a map of the Lower 48, most of what you see is arable flat land with rich soil.
Just about any type of vegetation can and does grow in this country: fruits, vegetables, lumber, flowers, grain, you name it. God gave us that.
But America’s natural bounty goes deeper than what can be grown on the surface. Our underground resources are almost embarrassingly abundant: oil, gas, coal, minerals, even gold. It seems as though there have been large deposits of just about everything on this continent.
And then for us modern city-dwellers who have never had to worry -- like most of the world’s population still does -- with “trivial” things like food and fuel, there’s the thing that’s the most obvious: sheer beauty. Mountains? We’ve got ‘em! Beaches? We’ve got the best in the world. Forests? Check. Rolling green pastures? Yep. Deserts? You bet. Swamps, rivers, and lakes? Oh yeah. Tundra and frozen landscapes? Absolutely. No wonder the US is one of the most visited countries in the world.
So at the very least we should be proud of this nation because of what God has blessed it with physically. But there are some more things that make the United States unique in the history of the world. Lots of countries have ample physical bounty. Russia, for instance, is our equal in many categories of natural resources.
But a providential occurrence gave this nation a unique opportunity. Unlike most countries, the United States was founded on principles. We started as a nation based on documents, not personalities. And those documents set forth ideas. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, all set forth the basic tenets of freedom, liberty, and the rule of law. They recognized that we are citizens whose rights come from above, not subjects whose rights are on loan to them from their rulers.
It is that freedom and liberty -- freedom to think, speak, worship, own land and property, to set your own course -- that tapped America’s greatest resource: its people.
America is known the world over as the land of opportunity. And for good reason. It is! Here’s something we who live in comfortable 21st century America need to be reminded of: Throughout the history of the world, from ancient days through the present time, most people in the world have not known freedom. Oppression and limitations were and are the order of the day, not liberty. Billions of people are in countries that lack or squander their natural resources and are trapped in poverty. Hundreds of millions of people live under tyrannical regimes. They do not have the freedom to speak, to worship, to study, or to own property. There is a reason people for three hundred years have fled to America. We may think it’s our wealth, but it’s really not. It’s our freedom.
And what has that freedom produced?
Because of the freedoms afforded in this country, it was Americans who invented or developed the cotton gin, the telegraph, the wheat harvester, the light bulb, the public library, the sewing machine, telephone, television, radio, the motion picture industry, the automobile, the airplane, and the computer.
All of the people who invented or developed those things were from families who came here from somewhere else. Thomas Edison, who effectively created the 20th century by singlehandedly inventing the lightbulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture, was of Dutch heritage. But nobody in Holland invented those things. America, with its freedoms, was a more hospitable place to invent than Holland was.
Steve Jobs, a more recent example, was the son of a Syrian man. As everyone reading this knows, Jobs went on to invent or develop the personal computer, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, among many other things. Those things were not invented in Syria. They were invented here, the country where innovation flowers best.
My point is not that Americans are by nature better than any other people. That’s not biblical. Biblically speaking, we are all created in God’s image and equal at the foot of the cross, all equally guilty of sin and in need of a Savior. What I am saying, though, is that America, more than any other place, is the place where a Dutchman (like Edison) or a Syrian (like Jobs) or a person from any other country, can come and have the freedom and liberty to be all that God created him to be.
Lastly, I want to point out that as citizens of the United States we have much to be proud of historically.
Sometimes children are born with horrific health problems and often they are able to have some kind of surgery or treatment to immediately fix the problem. But there are other ailments that doctors realize cannot be addressed right away because to do so would endanger the child’s life. So, they must wait until the child is healthy enough to survive the traumatic corrective surgery. When a person is born with and overcomes that kind of disease it is a cause for celebration.
America was born with a horrible disease, the scourge of slavery. The founders knew it was a problem -- most of them did not have slaves and those who did were not proponents of the practice. But they also knew that in order for the new union to survive they would have to wait until this fragile union of states was strong enough to handle the radical surgery needed.
So, ninety years after the Declaration of Independence, the United States of America underwent its most painful period: the Civil War. Finally, with the defeat of slavery America was finally able to live up to its real promise. When a nation is born with but overcomes a disease like slavery, it is a cause for celebration.
When the world needed to be made safe for democracy, America stepped in and helped bring to an end the first World War.
When the world needed to be saved from the threat of German and Japanese aggression, America stepped in and helped bring to an end the second World War.
When the spread of totalitarian communism threatened the globe, America stepped in and hastened its end.
All of these things came at great cost to America. It has been said that America is the only country that goes to war not to add to its empire but to spread freedom. That has certainly been the motivation behind the American electorate in all of these instances.
And when the world needs help -- relief from floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons, and tidal waves -- Americans step in with gusto. In most countries it is the government that does the giving. But as much as the American government gives away it is not uncommon for private citizens to give more. For instance, in 2008, the government gave developing nations $24 billion -- but individual US citizens donated a whopping $35 billion. The more liberty a country has, the more productive and generous the citizen.
America gave the world the automobile, the airplane, the internet, more medical breakthroughs than any other nation, the personal computer, the iPhone, jazz, rock ’n roll, movies, radio, and television. We’ve landed on the moon, led the way in space exploration, and sent our troops in harm’s way on behalf of other countries countless times. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said, “Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All people who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation.”
We haven’t just spread technological advances, either. Because of the freedom and prosperity we have at home, Americans have been the chief sender of Christian missionaries for decades, spreading the ultimate message of freedom and liberty, the gospel.
Our example of self-government and freedom for all has spread around the world. Though oppression is still the daily reality for hundreds of millions around the world, the rise of democracy can be traced to our flawed and fascinating founders and the brave steps they took in the 1700s.
The United States of America has much to be proud of and Americans should all be proud of their country. Obviously there is always room for improvement. It’s up to us to make this country the best it can be and continue, as our predecessors did, to keep up the fight for America to be the land of liberty and the rule of law.
Here’s what the prime minister of Australia Julia Gilliard said a few years ago to a joint session of Congress: “Americans can do anything. Americans helped free the world of my parents’ generation. Americans inspired the world of my own youth. I stand here and I see the same brave and free people today. I believe you can do anything still. There is a reason the world always looks to America. Your great dream -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- inspires us all … Your city on a hill cannot be hidden. Your brave and free people have made you the masters of recovery and reinvention.”
God is the source of all that is good and He has mightily blessed this country. May He continue to bless the United States of America, and may those of us who know Christ continue to serve Him first. It is only by doing so that America will continue to be great.