The Greatest Nation on Earth—Peter J. Leithart (1959 – )

Peter J. Leithart is Senior Fellow of Theology and Literature at New St. Andrew’s College, Moscow, Idaho, and author of a number of books on theology and literature. In a book written in 1993 against the backdrop of the U.S. “culture wars,” he acknowledges the many-sided attack on Christian values in contemporary society. He then reminds American Christians that they have much to be thankful for: they inhabit the greatest nation on earth, the hope of the world. But there is a twist in his encouragement.

Truly we face a vicious attack from powerful enemies in high places. And yet in the midst of the battle, we are very blessed. Despite the war, we can give thanks. We constitute the greatest nation on the face of the earth. She is in fact the greatest empire that has ever existed, truly the “last great hope of mankind.” We enjoy a degree of justice and liberty, prosperity and peace beyond the imagination of any other people. We have an unsurpassed heritage, boasting many of the greatest thinkers, artists, and leaders in all of human history.

Indeed, despite the present conflict and turmoil, we will overcome our adversaries and endure forever. No matter how powerful our enemies, no matter how vicious their attacks, we will rise up to advance across the globe, and other nations will, like birds seeking refuge in a spreading tree, find security in the shade of our branches. We will defeat any and all enemies, within and without, in our cosmic warfare.

Do these last statements surprise you? Have I lapsed into the overheated rhetoric of an extremist patriot? I assure you that I am completely serious, and I believe every word that I have written.

But perhaps that little pronoun “we” has confused you. You may have assumed that “we” meant “we Americans” or “we conservative Americans” or “we right-thinking” Americans.” What I have been describing is in fact not the United States of America, but the church, the priestly kingdom and holy nation of God (1 Peter 2:9). Men and women find true liberty, peace, and joy only in the church. She is the original melting pot. Only citizens of heaven have access to true riches and enjoy true security. The kingdom of God is the cosmic tree in which the nations find shelter. It is the church against which even the gates of hell shall not prevail.[1]

[1] Peter J. Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power: Rediscovering the Centrality of the Church (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1993),7-8.