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August 5, 2011

Patriotism God Gap: Is the U.S. the Greatest Country in the World?

New data offers evidence for a patriotism God-gap in America. Evangelicals are most likely to think that the U.S. is the best country in the world, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Those with no religion, however, hold a much less rosy view of the country.

Nearly all Americans think they live in the best country on earth. While a majority of Americans believe there are other countries just as great, nine-in-ten say no nation is better. Within this high view of America, there are differences between different religious groups.

Four-in-ten Americans agreed that “the U.S. stands above all other countries in the world,” according the Pew Political Typology poll that asked 1,525 Americans about their view of the United States. Evangelicals (52 percent) were the more likely to hold the view that the U.S. stands above other countries. Nearly all of the other evangelicals surveyed said “the U.S. is one of the greatest countries in the world, along with some others.” Only 3 percent said they believed there were other countries better than America.


This high view of America is echoed by evangelical leaders. For example, just last month BreakPoint's Chuck Colson told listeners “America was -- and is to this day -- different. It was founded on a shared belief.” Colson said this belief was encapsulated in the opening of the Declaration of Independence---”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 of happiness.”

“These are the words that Americans live for -- and if necessary, die for,” Colson said.

Other Christian traditions were less enthusiastic about America's position in the world, but they still saw the U.S. as one of the best on the planet. About 40 percent of other Christians said the U.S. stands alone as the greatest country; around 55 percent said it and some other countries were equally great. As with evangelicals, only a few said there were greater countries in the world.

Those with no religion stand out as being much less likely to see the U.S. as the greatest country. Only 20 percent said the U.S. was the best country in the world. The same percentage said “there are other countries that are better than the U.S.”

These results reflect a patriotism “God Gap” that CT Politics reported on in other polls. In an April Pew poll, evangelicals were the most likely to say that they displayed the American flag on their clothing, in the office, or around their home. Those Americans unaffiliated with religion were the least likely to put the flag on display.


Editor's Note: The Pew Research Center for People and the Press provided Christianity Today with a religious breakdown of questions from the poll. However, CT is responsible for all analysis and interpretation of the results. Pew identifies evangelicals as white, non-Hispanic Protestants who described themselves as "born-again or evangelical." Around 18 percent of Americans are evangelicals by this definition. The margin of error for each religious group is larger than for the sample as a whole. The results are descriptive; religious differences could be due to partisanship, ideology, income, or other factors.


Paraphrasing Keith Green:

If the Church did its job, we wouldn't need poverty programs.

I get surprised ever so often by this site when it puts up stories like this that do nothing to reflect God. If anything, it does more to separate American from there rest of the world. To call yourself a Christian Evangelical and still think that America is the greatest is ironic to say the least. God is not about country. God is about love and everyone is equal in his eyes, including the rest of the world. To publish this is to continue to perpetuate the 'gap' as you call it. Why not just write about God rather than write about things that as Christians we shouldn't even be considering in our walk? I think I am going to change my membership soon for this publication because it's really not worth it to me if an organization that says is Christian and follows God writes things like this, you only encourage the division rather than bring Christians and non-Christians together. You don't reflect love when you publish stuff like this. God be with you.

What's really sad is the widespread perception among evangelicals that there is some kind of link between America's standing and the work and purpose and success of God's kingdom. There is not. Two words: wrong kingdom. I repeat: wrong kingdom. It matters not a whit what America's status in the world is. The kingdom of Jesus Christ does not depend on this in any way and will continue regardless.

Funny thing about about That all men are created equal. It only applied to white land owners.

As an American missionary serving the Lord in France for 40 years, I am appalled how the average American evangelical equates God-Christ with the USA, as being synonymous. A little intelligent reading of the NT, without rose-colored American glass lens, would make apparent that neither the Lord Jesus nor the Apostles were earthly country-oriented. Read Hebrews 11 : 10 and 13 - 16 to get back on track. May the good Lord have mercy on us all.

To all you over-spiritualistic kill-joys having a red, white and blue conniption fit...Why is the USA great? Because we help others in need; we send missionaries (even to France of all places) because of our strong Christian heritage which everyone now wants to deny. The USA is by no means perfect but neither is any other country. If Christians are proud of their country, so what? There is nothing wrong with national pride. To those who have not a patriotic bone in their body or those who see a Nazi behind every flag waving American...we are not the ones who have a problem with patriotism.

When our astronauts look down at the earth it doesn't look like a classroom globe with lines on it. All of those lines are drawn in the minds of human beings. I am grateful to be an American. But sometimes I think that some elements of conservative Christianity really see their religion as Patriotism, their scripture the Constitution and God their servant to gain their personal aims. This whole earth is the object of God's love and concern. And to claim that any one nation in todays world is more favored than another many be promoting a Christian heresy.

What defines us as Christians is not which flag we wave, but what work we do to solve the world's problems, not just our own. We can be proud to be Americans but we shouldn't be arrogant about it. Being proud Americans should result in us helping the less advantaged peoples of the world. We can follow Jesus's example by declining every invitation to war and by helping to feed, clothe and heal the millions of people in need. People will admire America for that kind of service. This should be our first duty rather than celebrating our patriotism through hubris and expressed and implied claims of superiority.

Many of us from other countries in the world are nauseated and appalled at the patriotic garbage we see coming from the US.
It is a natural thing to love your country of origin but it must always be to God that we have our allegiance.
I find it incomprehensible that Christians can bear arms against each other. My own father (a Latvian) fought as a Christian in the second world war with the Germans against the Russians. What a mixed up war that was! Reflecting on his experiences led me to become a pacifist very early in my journey.
As such I am also appalled at how many Christians in the US seems to find some biblical justification for the bearing of arms.
Eph 6:12 - For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

“[T]he U.S. stands above all other countries in the world,” in the Pew Forum Poll is a serious misprint. Two words must have been left out. What it really should have said is, "The U.S. USED TO stand above all other countries in the world." It's really as simple as that. America has fallen or is falling into the gutter on almost any demographic or standard of measurement you can name. All it really took to get where we are today was 20-30 years of rotten teaching in the public schools, greed, the need for instant gratification, and a lot of non-parenting in the home front. Add to this such factors including that there is hardly an ethical bone left in this country. Can you teach morality, can you teach excellence? I believe you can, and I've seen it, but no one does it anymore. I spent the extra time and effort when raising my children; they turned out to be fine, well-mannered, hard-working educated adults, not victims, whiners or parasites. And I do realize there are a few bright spots left in the States, but they are nowadays largely overshadowed by the swill, greed and selfishness. I'm almost totally divested now and just about out the door. I can name for you several nations that are NOT on our continuing downward spiral. Wave the flag and thump your chests all you want. The rest of the world is laughing at us. Even the Mexicans are going home.

Neil: It's interesting that the generation that didn't fight in WWII instead of vilifying their parents and the countries that saved their parents and your generation don't feel it's necessary to thank the countries that saved you & them. The U.S. DIDN'T start WWII but it ended it to save it's own future and it's Mother countries, Britain and Franch. If Britain hadn't held on until the US could get there, you guys would be Nazis right now and not any religion except Nazism. Your Father didn't fight because he wanted to, he was dragged in thanks to the Nazis just like everyone else, he wasn't fighting as a Christian because the Nazis would have killed him if they thought that. The next time Europe starts a war to destroy itself, the US WON'T be there because of liberals and pacifists like you who have the same attitude in this country as you.

When Israel obeyed and honored God, He used them, protected them, guided them and consistently blessed them. When they turned their backs on Him, they got into trouble, often being overcome. The pattern holds in this country today. We are in apostasy and so we should expect troubles. Should the nation, especially our leaders, seek God's ways, His blessings will come.

There is a great deal of confusion with regard to our ultimate loyalty, which ought to be to the Kingdom of God. We can be grateful for the blessings of living in the USA, but we should never consider it our ultimate home or worthy of our highest allegiance. In Matt. 4, Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world & offered them to Him. Jesus rebuffed the offer, but this story shows that the kingdoms of this world belong to Satan, although, as Rom.13 points, ultimately they are under God's authority --a paradox. But there is one "greatest nation," & that is Israel, which has accomplished amazing feats in a very short period of time, because the Jews are God's Chosen People, and He is with them, even though they have been regathered in unbelief -- a situation which will change some day when Romans 11:26 is fulfilled.

Of course, the United States is the greatest country. And my dad can whip your dad. My husband makes more money/has more status than your husband.
My kids are cuter/ smarter than yours. My sports team is better than your sports team, even if the final score says differently. My industry/technology beats yours (or would if we were on a level playing field.) And God likes me more. Also I'm more humble.

America is certainly not perfect. But by any objective measure, its ideals, and the extent to which it has pursued, is continuing to pursue, those ideals, both in America and in other parts of the world, are unsurpassed.

Anyone who wants to recite all of the "defects" of America, and yes, there are many, should also be willing to sit and listen to a much longer recitation of the benefits of our constitutional government, uniquely (at the time) founded on a Biblical understanding of God and man, and the good things that America has accomplished in the past 235 years. (E.g., who bailed out Western Europe twice in the last century, and spent billions of dollars from 1945-1989 to prevent a Russian invasion of western Europe?)

Why do people from all over the world want to move to the US? Because we're such awful people? Yes, some Americans become expats in other countries. But that number is miniscule compared to the number who would like to move to the US.

God has blessed America in many ways. But America is only a nation state, created by fallible people and of fallible people. We are told to look at the mote in our own eye before judging our neighbor. Our military and economic policies primarily benefit our worldly status. We invaded Iraq- and have done little to help Iraqi Christians. We supported the Afghan 'freedom fighters' against the Russians- and then promptly left Afghanistan to the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden- because Afghanistan was then of no worldly value to us. And America is afflicted with a heavy dose of 'in God we trust'- money, that is. If the US is chosen by God- then it is to be a humble servant of the other nations and peoples, as Jesus was.

"The next time Europe starts a war to destroy itself, the US WON'T be there because of liberals and pacifists like you who have the same attitude in this country as you."

Why is Europe going to be fighting a war, again?

The sad truth is that an over blending of God and country often leads to a type of civil religion that waters down the faith and over exalts politics. Me thinks that we already have this here.

There is a wonderful movie called "Sycamore:The 9/11 tragedy" which explains how 9/11 was a warning from God of greater judgment coming upon this wicked nation. You can watch it on youtube. It shows the parallels between Israel and and America and how our leaders on 9/12 quoted from the bible a passage meant to give hope, but in context was a scripture of condemnation to a proud and rebellious people. There is something wrong with being patriotic. It is a sin. It is a sin to pledge allegiance to anything but the kingdom of God. It is sin to even swear an oath to protect and defend the constitution, read James 5. You Christians have divided allegiances who are patriotic. If we are Abrahams children we are called to do the works of Abraham. What was his call? To leave his land, people and fathers house. We are to separate from national ties, ethnic ties, and family ties in order to become Christians. If you were truly Abrahams seed you would desire to do the work of Abraham. We are to be sojourners and pilgrims, ambassadors for the kingdom of Heaven in the midst of a perverse and crooked Generation.

The US is not the greatest nation in the world. It is a passing fancy. Jesus told us Christians to come out of Babylon, come out from among them and be separate and He would receive us. Until you come out of your political ideology and patriotism..God cannot receive you into the one true kingdom that IS the greatest in the world. The Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Yeshua the Messiah, or to the Gentiles Jesus Christ. Have we forgotten, there are only two kingdoms in this world, the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of Light. There is no in between

Whether or Not is the Greatest or one of the Greatest is irrelevant, at least to me!

As a christian I belong to a Kingdom!

When Jesus comes back to Earth from Heaven, He is going to finally establish a Kingdom; His Kingdom!

Next subject please!

In general, I think Americans are no better or no worse than anybody else. American patriotism is very similar to many other nations' patriotism, in that many nations tend to think of themselves as better than any other. If you're British, or German, you can hardly point fingers at America. During the height of the British Empire, many British people thought they were by far the most superior culture, society and people on earth, and some British people no doubt thought that they had a mandate from God to spread British culture; were we right? I really don't think so!

Economically, and in other ways, America leads the world, and they are certainly the richest and most powerful nation on earth. Culture-wise, American modern culture is desired and aped all over the world, from American rock and pop to fast-food and the ubiquitous Coca Cola. Is this a bad thing? No, I don't think it is! Does any nation really have the right to claim superiority over any other; I don't think they do! If Americans, and especially American Christians, want to lead, they like all of us, should learn to be good servants!

The question of which is the greatest country in the world is meaningless. What are the criteria? How do you decide between different criteria? Wrapping the gospel in the flag - whichever flag - ultimately demeans the gospel.

The problem with the idea of America as a Christian nation is that we are inviting God to judge us for all the things we do wrong - like killing millions of unborn babies - because we are a "Christian nation." Why be eager to put on a burden Israel couldn't bear either? We are called to be faithful believers and look forward to God's kingdom regardless of what nation or government we live under. We Americans are so attached our country, our fickle liberties, our guns, cars, and private property that we forget God has something much bigger in store for us.

Speaking of Israel, I have to balk at the idea that they are the "greatest nation." The church, Jew and Gentile alike, is God's chosen people and the inheritors of the blessings of Abraham. Modern Israel the nation-state bears more similarity to the Israel that continually broke their covenant with God and rejected Christ, and Christians are totally mistaken when they act as though God as two separate plans for the Church and Israel. I seem to recall Paul in Galatians saying that the former distinction between Jew and Gentile was done away with in Christ... of course God loves Israel and wants them to be saved, but in the aftermath of Christ they are on the same footing as any other people group.

The great nation in the past tense yes... present tense no! America at one time was a moral nation but today it exports depravity in the form of entertainment and it exports destruction, death by wars based on lies and deceit that advances Satan's order on other nations!
We at one time were a light of freedom for Christians all over the world. Today we are the New Babylon! The United States of America no longer exists, it is an authoritarian regime. Congress signed their last right to govern through the purse to the super committee that consist of the dictator in chief Barry Soetoro and 6 selected senators and 6 congressman.

So in other words, now we're not lifting up the name of Jesus Christ, we're simply tooting our own horns, saying "Look how patriotic we are," and hoping that the "Christ" in our name "Christian" will be enough to point people to the Cross?

When did the flag replace the Cross as the symbol of American Christianity? If that is in fact the case, then we've got a serious problem. Much as I love Old Glory, no one will find eternal life by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Where is this data from? I've looked through that report before and I'm not sure where the information is coming from. I see that question posed but it's answered in terms of political affiliation. Also under demographics, of those polled, I don't see where it shows religious beliefs. Also the word you're looking for is nationalism not patriotism.

the study appears to be fatally flawed. Were education levels, income, geographic location with in the US, and amount international travel controlled for? I doubt it.

I wonder if evangelicals and atheists of the same educational level and exposure to world history and news feel differently about their country,

I also wonder whether evangelicals and atheists WHO HAVE DONE ABOUT THE SAME AMOUNT OF TRAVELING ABROAD feel differently about America.

Without considering these factors, this article is flat-out misinformation.

The analysis that you make on the religiousness of U.S. Americans by composing an equation between patriotism and religious affiliation within the Christian faith is quite puzzling, and resulted in much thought. One might think that being socially conservative automatically awards a patriotic title. Patriotism I feel has much to do with how the perception of one’s sense of community, its history of accomplishments and failures, and one’s acceptance and fully appreciation of both. By tagging conservative and/or traditional Protestants to the topos of patriotic individuals, you are leaving out something as important and critical as the acknowledgement of belonging to a community, and the attachment to a common history and a common acceptance of its virtues and evils.
Believing that the United States is the best country in the world, I believe, falls short to describe and brand conservatives. One could probably make a similar argument by comparing persons with low educational achievements, and argue similar conceptions of “America being the best” tied to ignorance about some of the least proud moments of our history.