Having lived during the eight years of a George W. Bush presidency I have come to have an almost allergic reaction to that deeply biblical phrase, “A city set on a hill.”
America is a city set on a hill!
That has been part of the religious rhetoric of America from its beginning, but I’m not sure that any president employed the phrase more often than Bush.
Of course, it wasn’t just the pretentiousness of it all that got under my skin.
Empires are always pretentious, and they always make exaggerated world historical claims for themselves.
That’s just the way empires are.
No, it was that this bit of pretension was also blasphemous.
Jesus said, “you are the light of the world,
a city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
President Bush appropriated that language for America.
America is the light of the world,
America is a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden.
And all of this justified,
provided deep sacred legitimation
for Bush’s foreign policy,
based as it was in deceit.
I know, I know, maybe this weekly Wine Before Breakfast meditation is degenerating into a bit of a political rant.
And I know that it can be pretty cheap and easy for Canadians to poke fun of American rhetorical excess.
But what are we to do when we hear Jesus talking about a city set on a hill and the voice of George W. Bush insinuates itself into our consciousness?
Maybe we need to hear how audacious this language was coming from the mouth of Jesus in the first place.
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