Q & A: Ross Douthat on Rooting Out Bad Religion
Alas, he cites Lincoln:
How has Christianity historically tempered nationalism?
The idea that America has some distinctive role to play in the unfolding of God's plan is compatible with orthodox Christianity. But it should be tempered by recognizing that America is not the church. It's fine to see ourselves as an "almost-chosen people," as Abraham Lincoln put it, but if we decide we're literally chosen, then we've taken a detour away from a healthy patriotism towards an unhealthy nationalism.
Lincoln was not an orthodox Christian, but we can look at his second inaugural address as a model for how Christians should think about these issues. He was open to the idea that history unfolds in a providential way, that the American Civil War could have theological as well as political significance.
But he tempered that by emphasizing that providence and God's purposes are mysterious. He emphasized that God simultaneously passed judgment on North and South alike, that the war is a chastisement rather than a pure apotheosis of the American idea. If you're too confident in assuming that America's and God's purposes are one, you tiptoe toward idolatry.
Clyde Wilson, More Dubious Notions