by Steve Lancaster 2/19/14
Frederick Jackson Turner proposed in the 1890’s that the frontier was the embodiment of the American character. He presents the frontier as a special element of the American experience; however, it is not the physical frontier but a more ephemeral concept of the people that make up the special nature of America.
It is a grace that America offers to the world without thought of reimbursement or thanks. For the radical part of the world, America is the Great Satan, the home of the infection of globalization, the blight on the environment, the Grim Reaper of aboriginal cultures, the carrier of bleak industrialism, and the offender of imperial exploits on every continent.
To billions of others it is an object of special grace. Whether one subscribes to the notion or not, America’s grace defines one of the world’s great dividing lines, perhaps the most important. Violent hostility to America measures the victory of the American principle, and the ascendance of America’s influence in and on the world.[pullquote]Two of the most odious political systems ever, Nazi and Communist have been destroyed by America. It is a sacrifice that most Americans accept as the cost and responsibility of that special grace given to America from the God of Israel.[/pullquote]
”Special grace is the grace by which God redeems, sanctifies, and glorifies his people,” as Wikipedia defines it. There are nearly 1 billion more Christians in the world today than in 1970 including at least 100 million Chinese. In Africa and Asia converts almost all are the result of American evangelical missions, both Protestant and Catholic, to those countries. Missionaries who teach not only the Gospel, but by example demonstrate principle of what America is to the world. It may be provocative, but it is not implausible, to speak of a special grace for America, because hundreds of millions of Christians around the world look toward the United States as the repository of such a special grace.
Americans define themselves by inalienable rights received directly from God and not from the convention of elites in education or government. We derive our notion of redemption as the direct inheritors of the special grace of the God of Israel. These concepts have been adopted by new Christians in the Global South and Asia
What Jackson misses is that love of people for the idea of America and even today is a transformative experience for new legal immigrants. This experience surpasses the wistfulness new immigrants in the 1890’s might have felt for their former homelands. The new immigrant, regardless of religious connection, absorbs and is transformed or born again by the special grace of America and is just as passionate as the resident of two hundred years heritage.
Lincoln called Americans an “almost chosen people”. Most Americans would agree. From founding, we have sought to be a “shining city on a hill” and the journey is challenging. For all the trauma and havoc America remains a nation that endeavors to order society according to divine, natural law, rather than human dictate.
The frontier that Turner proposed that was defined and closed was, in reality, just opening; because the frontier is the model of America. In the last 100 years billions of people have been freed from totalitarianism because of the practice and example of America. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died to bring freedom to these billions in every part of the globe. Two of the most odious political systems ever, Nazi and Communist have been destroyed by America. It is a sacrifice that most Americans accept as the cost and responsibility of that special grace given to America from the God of Israel.
Millions seek to come to America, to emulate America, to love America and acknowledge the special grace of a nation founded not on ethnicity, language, or culture but on the special nature of the individual and individual experience. This is the true frontier of America and its future. When the world no longer views America as exceptional, or we do not view ourselves as exceptional then perhaps the frontier will truly be closed. • (883 views)