In April 2009, President Barack Obama said, "I believe in American
exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British
exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
This reflects a basic misunderstanding of what American
exceptionalism means. It doesn’t mean that Americans are exceptional
people (although in many respects we are). It means that the values our
Founding Fathers expressed in our founding documents are exceptional!
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit
founders established American exceptionalism when they established our
truly unique form of government—one in which they accomplished what no
country had done before or since. First, our founders put the people in
control rather than themselves or royalty, a rare feat in itself. But
they also grounded the rights of the people in God while still
guaranteeing religious freedom and avoiding religious persecution. That
was and remains truly exceptional.
The founders recognized that religious governments get their
charge from someone's sacred scripture while secular governments simply
codify the beliefs of whoever happens to be in power. Both types have
significant disadvantages: religious governments frequently experience
doctrinal struggles and often create an environment of intolerance
toward those of other faiths; and secular governments — since they are
based on nothing more than the personal opinions of their rulers — have a
tendency to lose stability and violate the rights of the people when
corrupt rulers take power. Our Founding Fathers wanted to avoid these
In England, mandated government religion led to acts of
religious intolerance that violated unalienable human rights. The
Founders wanted to ensure that the citizens of this new nation did not
make the same mistake as their mother country. They realized that since
God doesn't force anyone to adhere to one set of religious beliefs, neither should the government.
On the other hand, the Founders were Christian people with a
proper understanding of human nature who thus recognized that absolute
power tends to corrupt absolutely. So neither did they want the
instability and abuse of power characteristic of a secular government.
As a result, they brilliantly developed the perfect third alternative to
the religious-secular dilemma. Instead of creating their own secular
system or adopting laws directly from a sectarian religion, the founders
wisely based the United States on the Moral Law (“Nature’s Law” in
Jefferson’s words), which comes from God.
It is critical to recognize that our Founders based our
government and moral rights on a theistic God, not on someone’s
sectarian religion. This Moral Law is consistent with Christianity but
does not require adherence to Christianity or even knowledge of the
Bible. In fact the Bible itself says that even those who don’t have the
Bible know basic right and wrong because God has “written it on their
hearts” (Rom. 2:14-15).
In this respect, one could say that the country was founded on
Christian theism, but the founders did not mandate the observance of
Christianity. So even though most of the Founders were orthodox
Christians who believed the Rights of the people came from God, they did
not insist that every citizen believe in God; they simply saw no way to justify those natural moral Rights unless God exists.
Indeed, if there is no God then there is no standard beyond
humanity, and morality is just a matter of human opinion. In other
words, without an unchanging standard of Good (which is God’s very
nature), then murdering Jews, for example, isn’t really wrong. Without
God, it’s just your opinion against Hitler’s. And without God, you only
have “rights” that the government decides to grant you.
The founders knew that human rights are unalienable precisely
because they come from God, not government. They also knew that
government's proper function is not to create rights or to settle
theological debates, but, as they wrote in the Declaration of
Independence, it is “to secure [the unalienable] rights” of the people.
But what happens when our leaders fail to secure our rights and
our exceptional form of government? The Declaration has a
recommendation: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes
destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to
abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on
such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall
seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.“
Do we need abolish our “Form of Government?” No, just the
leaders misleading it. We don’t need a “transformation” envisioned by
Obama, Reid and Pelosi. We need a restoration to the vision of
Jefferson, Adams and Madison. That’s why concerned Americans don’t want
to abolish our “Form of Government” but simply restore the exceptional
one we had by voting out those who want to transform American
exceptionalism into European socialism. But that will only happen if we
replace them with the right people—people who are more like our
founders than Obama. Today we call them conservatives.