Just one country?

Kosuke Koyama – RIP

The late Japanese Christian theologian Kosuke Koyama (click HERE for NYT obituary) said, “There is only one sin, and it is exceptionalism.”  Koyama was baptized during the bombing raids of Tokyo in WW II. As the bombs exploded and the building burned around the church, Kosuke’s pastor looked him in the eye. “Kosuke,” he said, “You are a disciple of Jesus Christ. You must love your enemy… even the Americans.”Koyama first saw the myth of exceptionalism in the Japan of his youth where the Emperor and the Divine were hand-in-glove. Japan was an exceptional people that could not fail. In his later years, following his retirement from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, “Ko,” as his friends called him with great affection moved to Minneapolis.

During the 15 years I knew him, he shared his greatest sadness that the ideology of exceptionalism he had experienced as a  boy in Japan he now saw in the United States.

Today in 2012 political candidates cunningly appeal to the myth, believing that doing so  will rally true believers to cast their votes for them as the truest believers in America. Steve Shoemaker sent this piece today.

Verse – Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL May 2, 2012

The U.S.A. actually  is just one

country out of quite many “under God.”

It would be wrong to think the summer sun

shines only on our farms.  In other lands

the children grow as strong and bright as here,

and elders have respect around the world

(in fact, in many places they don’t fear

such loneliness and high cost of health care.)



Other countries are also free and brave, and have fine soldiers ready to defend

their shores.  It’s sweet and seemly that we give

our lives to save our families,  friends and land,

but we must not think we’re exceptional

and forget, too, the international.

The Germans at the Service Club Meeting

Pledge of Allegiance

Five visitors from Germany were guests of an international service club recently where my friend Steve Shoemaker is a member.After the meeting, they asked Steve some questions.

Why ask Steve?

For starters, he’s 6’8″ and he’s up for Club President soon…unless he’s impeached before taking office for his Letter to the Editor.

Dear Editor,

Five folks from Germany recently visited central Illinois as part of a local service club program to improve international understanding.

At one point they asked me about something they did not understand:  why do Americans begin so many gatherings with a ‘”patriotic” song, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer?

As foreign visitors, of course, they felt excluded from at least the first two–often at events designed supposedly to welcome them…  And if from a non-Christian religious tradition, they felt excluded from all three.

Perhaps especially because they were from Germany, remembering the horrors of two world wars begun partly from excessive beliefs in the superiority of their nation and religion, they were sensitive to expressions of exceptionalism at U.S.A. sports events and service club meetings.

Can we welcome others better by showing the American virtue of hospitality, finding rituals that affirm the equality of all, and treating others the way we wish to be treated?

Steve’s an affable chap and hard not to like. At the next meeting Steve and some of the members had a nice chat. There’d been some conversation, they had a different opinion, they said, and the good thing was they were all free to disagree.


Click HERE for a quick history lesson on the evolving text of the Pledge of Allegiance.

What do YOU think? Chime in with a comment to expand the discussion. I’ll send them to Steve for the next meeting.