--that is the question that is often raised in our discourse about American politics today.
Some will say that there is no doubt that God’s hand has been on America from the beginning, guiding this great country to be a light of freedom in a dark world. Some go so far as to perpetuate the myth that America was founded by Christians to be a Christian nation, but that secularists have taken over (therefore we Christians need to “take America back for God”). Others tread closely to believing that since God has ordained our nation to be the Christian light in the world, whatever we do in our foreign policy has God’s stamp of approval on it.
Others will say that America is a humanist political experiment in liberalism. Some go so far to say that religious belief is, in fact, dangerous to American politics. Others tread closely to being anti-American in their critiques of our country, echoing the sentiments of those who most vehemently oppose American policies in other nations.
This is a tension. But, like so many of the issues that face us, can we not just say it’s “either/or,” but rather say that it’s “both/and”?
As a Christian, I can affirm that America has been providentially positioned to be a light for good in the world. There is an analogy to the nation of Israel: America has been positioned by God to be a blessing to the other nations. But I can also say, in the same breath, that this does not mean that God has chosen America as his special nation as he did with Israel. God has made no special covenant with America; the New Covenant is made with His Church, not with our nation, or with any other nation.
I can also say that the analogy to Israel also goes this way: Like the nation of Israel, we need prophets that will rise up and point out the injustices of our political system, our domestic policies of taxation and spending, and our foreign policies that force our will on other nations.
So, I contend that it's a “both/and” thing: God is sovereign over all nations, including ours. He has placed America in a leadership position in the world to be a light of goodness to the rest of the nations.
But we had better be careful not to be too confident that we are on God’s side in our policy decisions; we had better humbly remember that our nation’s leaders are mere fallen men and women. As Abraham Lincoln said, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”
We had better also remember that our nation was founded on concepts from John Locke’s political theories as they were practically implemented by the American founding fathers (who were mostly Deists).
It is both “God has providentially placed America in its position of power and influence” and “We Americans are given the responsibilty to govern justly and to make policy decisions based on reasoned deliberation and democratic pluralistic consent.”