Messianic Nation: A Christian Theological Critique of American Exceptionalism (Cavanaugh, 2005)

I want to distinguish between two broad types of American exceptionalism, one with Judeo-Christian roots, and the other with its roots in the Enlightenment. There is of course much mixing of the two types, but they represent two quite distinct ways of approaching the question of exceptionalism. The first explicitly appeals to Christian theological concepts such as the election of Israel and God’s providence. The second appeals to Enlightenment concepts concerning the universal applicability of the American value of freedom…. My basic argument is that when a direct, unmediated relationship is posited between America and a transcendent reality – either God or freedom – there is a danger that the state will be divinized.