I became an American citizen in 2010. That same day, I registered to vote and voted. I love this country with a love that I have found only immigrants have. There’s a reason my family came here.
That reason is that the United States is a good country—dare I say it, an exceptional nation.
What is exceptional about the United States?
To my family, the United States offered an opportunity for prosperity and belonging that our home country, Australia, simply didn’t offer. As devout Christians, we didn’t quite fit into a country whose love of beer borders on idolatry. More importantly, Australia tends to prevent people from rising too high—we call it tall poppy syndrome. My father summed things up for me as we watched the 2012 election swing in President Obama’s favor: “we didn’t come here for this.” And by this, he meant socialism.
I love this country because it is my country. It is more than simply my country, though; it is a worthy object of my love. My love is rooted in what the United States is and what it strives to be.
From the beginning, our nation was conceived in liberty. We committed to the “self-evident truth” that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” In other words, our government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Even as we uttered these truths, we did not always fully enact them. Our nation has failed in a thousand ways, from our treatment of Native Americans to our treatment of slaves to the modern horrors of abortion.
Yet, our nation remains exceptional—and not just for its ideals. We have been a nation for 245 years. In that time, we have had one civil war. Even that civil war was unique. No one debated whether President Lincoln legitimately won the election; instead, they debated whether certain states could leave the Union because they disagreed with his stance on slavery. There have been no wars of succession in the United States.
We have had the same constitution for 232 years. France is on its fifth republic since then. In just the last century, Spain, Germany, and Italy fell to fascism. Russia, China, and many smaller countries became communist. Since 1947, India has been the world’s largest democracy—but nationalism at home and strife with Pakistan continue to threaten it.
Our government is remarkably stable. We are a nation of more than 325 million people. We have seen successive waves of immigrants transform our population and culture. Technology has changed us too. Through it all, we have, providentially, prospered and remained united.
I sometimes find myself worrying that our republic is too large, too divided. Or that we have done too much damage to a limited, representative government for it to survive. Or what God’s justice will mean for our sins.
Then I remember that my fears are not unique. The men who framed our constitution shared those fears. President Lincoln lived those fears. Our nation is an old house, battered and weathered by many a storm. It may need renovation or remodeling. The house withstood the earthquake of slavery, the hurricane of secession, and purifying fire of the civil rights movement. It stood because its foundations are solid, framed by some of the wisest architects to live.
Christianity and the natural law tradition are part of that foundation—even if the United States is not today or was not ever a Christian nation. The principles that laws must be just, that all men are created equal, and that governments are accountable to God and those they govern are Christian ideals. I don’t believe God ordained the United States any more than He ordained any other gentile nation. I do believe righteousness exalts a nation. When you build on the changing sands of the popular philosophy of the day, any storm could topple your house. But when you build on the solid rock of Christian principles, your home, your nation, will stand stronger.
Our history reminds us of our blessing, even while calling us higher. You don’t have to share my faith to see our republic’s prosperity and the beauty of its ideals. Those ideals are worth defending and worth striving for. We who love this republic have a duty to make a more perfect union.
Dan Gibson, a graduate of the E.A. Morris Fellowship for Emerging Leaders, is an attorney with Stam Law Firm in Apex. His practice focuses on civil litigation and appeals.