Make America Great
Rev. Renita Green
“Make America Great Again” is popular political rhetoric these days. This phrase begs the question, “When was America ever great?”
I have never understood the European sense of entitlement to everything that could be conquered. I have never understood why I was supposed to be proud to be an American—or a white American, specifically. This land was acquired through acts of terrorism: lies, deceit, betrayal, murder, and forced assimilation. Young men and women are sent into foreign lands to ensure “American values” (white male power) that are enforced while leaving veterans suffering and impoverished at home.
Every atrocity in this country has been caused by the system of white supremacy—genocide, slavery, illiteracy, poverty, decimation of the family, introduction of addictive drugs into communities, mass incarceration, consumerism, and the list goes on and on. While a war on poverty is needed, a war on impoverished people has been declared. WEB DuBois said, “To be a poor man is hard but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.” A majority of impoverished whites are so enamored with the hope of the salvation of white supremacy that they do not even recognize how American political and social systems contributed to their demise.
To be great is to be exceptional, above ordinary, superior in quality or character. By definition, America has never been great. We are living on land stolen from the Natives and built on the backs of Black and Brown people who were stolen from other lands—people whose blood is crying out from the soil. America has never been a great country—it has always exploited the poor and weak for profit. America has never been a great country—it has always started and contributed to wars in order to reinforce and spread the tyranny of white male supremacy. America has never been a great country—it has always done injustice, hated mercy, and walked arrogantly without our God.
In many ways, America is better than most; however, better than the worst does not make a country great. In his last speech, Vice President Hubert Humphrey stated “[T]he moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. ”
The church has a role in insisting that America work toward greatness. As Christians, we must elect leaders at every level of government who have a testimony of doing justice. We must be educated and informed of the ballot initiatives and the impact such measures will have on the children, elderly, and those in the shadows of life. We must vote for mercy. We must insist that America shares her wealth with the world for the sake of mercy and not power. Faith leaders must guard against receiving personal platitudes in exchange for diminishing the gospel. When tempted by position, power, or purse, we must draw close and walk humbly with our God.
No, America is not great. But we can be if we, “Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly…with our God” (Micah 6:8).