March 21, 2017

THE DEEP SHINING CITY:

The Unifying American Story (David Brooks MARCH 21, 2017, NY Times)

The Puritans could survive hardship because they knew what kind of cosmic drama they were involved in. Being a chosen people with a sacred mission didn't make them arrogant, it gave their task dignity and consequence. It made them self-critical. When John Winthrop used the phrase "shining city on a hill" he didn't mean it as self-congratulation. He meant that the whole world was watching and by their selfishness and failings the colonists were screwing it up. [...]

The successive immigrant groups saw themselves performing an exodus to a promised land. The waves of mobility -- from east to west, from south to north -- were also seen as Exodus journeys. These people could endure every hardship because they were serving in a spiritual drama and not just a financial one.

In the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders drew on Exodus more than any other source. Our 20th-century presidents made the story global. America would lead a global exodus toward democracy -- God was a God of all peoples. Reinhold Niebuhr applied Puritan thinking to America's mission and warned of the taint of national pride.

The Exodus story has many virtues as an organizing national myth. It welcomes in each new group and gives it a template for how it fits into the common move from oppression to dignity. The book of Exodus is full of social justice -- care for the vulnerable, the equality of all souls. It emphasizes that the moral and material journeys are intertwined and that for a nation to succeed materially, there has to be an invisible moral constitution and a fervent effort toward character education.

It suggests that history is in the shape of an upward spiral. People who see their lives defined by Exodus move, innovate and organize their lives around a common eschatological destiny. As Langston Hughes famously put it, "America never was America to me / And yet I swear this oath -- / America will be!"

What could be a better example to the world than the way the American people and our system and institutions are thwarting the anti-Christian impulses of Donald and his cronies?

Posted by at March 21, 2017 5:24 AM

  

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