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Does America have a destiny? A lot of people think so; it’s part of our culture, part of our heritage.  It’s also the misguided rationale for an extraordinary amount of cruelty, theft, murder, and neglect that has taken place, by the leaders of this land since the Puritans formed the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629.  When John Winthrop gave his famous City Upon a Hill speech to the arriving Puritans (followers of the misguided proponent of “predestination”, John Calvin) he exhorted them to obey all the commandments  so “that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whither we go to possess it”.  The only problem was that this land they came to possess was already taken – it belonged to the Native Americans who greeted the arriving Puritans and helped them survive their first winter.

The Puritans believed that they were following God’s will when they came to America, and it was in the name of God that the elimination of those troublesome original owners of America began. By the early 1800’s their idea of Destiny was almost universally accepted by American leaders and it was used to justify the theft of much of the land from its owners. The idea was even given a name, it was Manifest Destiny: God’s will made clearly known to all.  President Andrew Jackson was an ardent subscriber to this theology/philosophy of American Destiny, and it was this “knowledge” that empowered him to take the final step in the theft of America: the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This piece of legislation gave the U.S. government the authority to remove Native Americans from their land and resettle them west of the Mississippi River. By 1837 about 25,000,000 additional acres of land, formerly occupied by Native Americans, had become available for white settlement and the introduction of slaves.

It seems that Andrew Jackson was well pleased with himself and never doubted for a minute that he might have done the wrong thing. Does this mindset remind you of a much more recent President?  Does any recent President come to mind who seems to believe that he is carrying out some Divine Destiny? Does any President come to mind who seems to have no conscience, who can watch citizens of our own country drown and do nothing, who can launch a “Shock and Awe” blitzkrieg against Iraq without a valid cause? What about a President who can order American soldiers into battle and then, when they return wounded and broken, allow them to be poorly treated or even ignored by a failed VA medical system? Do we have a President who truly believes that nothing is his fault because everything is the will of God?

From the Puritans to George Bush there is one thing, one concept, one mistaken belief that has informed too many of our leaders and has been the cause of centuries of injustice: the belief that they and this country have a God-given Destiny and they know what it is.  It is this belief that they are doing the will of God that allows them to sleep at night, knowing that in doing the will of God they could not possibly be sinning.  The idea that one can know one’s destiny is all a grand delusion.  This concept of individual and national predestination was clearly enunciated by the teachings of John Calvin in the 1500s – although there is no doubt that some form of such beliefs were held by various leaders for millennia before.  It has been America’s grand delusion, but the time has come for Americans to recognize it for what it is: the contamination of the noble American ideals of liberty, equality, and justice by errant, self-serving, religious beliefs.  It is because of religious errors like this that our Constitution demands that we separate Church and State.  The brave rebels who brought forth this country out of English domination and tyranny knew one truth very well:

Our forefathers may have been able to build a “city upon a hill”; but that does not mean that our elected leaders are  “the light of the world”.

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