Friday, September 18, 2015


Over of late, after reading some of Dr. Brueggemann’s writings, I have been exploring mentally the idea of exceptionalism; a state of being in which you have an attitude that you are exceptional to others and thus have a special pass on rules/accountability that apply to the masses. This idea of exceptionalism is a great divider. It sets up demarcated boundaries between people, nations, political parties, religions, races, sexes - it is a destructive force that promotes policies that reek of injustice, violence and oppression. An exceptionalism mentality strikes a profound blow against the other to whom one thinks you have some exceptionality. For example our political conversations in today’s world around immigration, where the promise of a wall to keep others out of our “beautiful country” smacks of exceptionalism. The idea that as Americans we have the "god given right" to boss or bully other nations around to our way of thinking economically and politically and by so doing disrespect their capacity to be contributing members of a global family is but a product of this country’s exceptionalism. And perhaps even more to the point, (and I know that I am walking a very tight line here) for American politicians to take the moral high ground by saying that other nations who would be “less responsible” with nuclear capabilities smacks of exceptionalism, reinforcing the idea that our moral capacity is higher than yours. Actually, I think the more morally high ground would be that all nations with weapons of mass destruction would convert their arsenals into instruments that promote life. The Bible is full of stories of God’s expanding, evolving embrace of humanity, even as Israel was billed as a nation that was of special interests to Yahweh. But that special interest can slip easily into exceptionalism, which can then easily slip into exclusionary election by God and that idea easily slips into “we are justified in doing whatever we please.” The Bible as a whole pushes against exceptionalism because it understands the harm that can be inflicted on others by those thinking they are the “exceptional ones." The Bible pushes ultimately toward God’s care and embrace of the whole of the world – the concept is know as shalom. Religions, when they think of themselves exceptional because of God’s special endorsement – at the expense of the well being of neighbors, then God is greatly diminished and the neighbor’s human worth is greatly compromised. As we listen to the political rhetoric of today – I invite you to ponder the harm and division promoted by the idea of exceptionalism.

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