Creation is always divine and often brutal. Even the explosive violence of science’s Big Bang Theory is expressed in reverential overtones: “The Universe was formed by a colossal explosion . . . . In the first millionth of a second after the Big Bang, the Universe expanded from a dimensionless point of infinite mass and density into a fireball about 19 billion miles . . . across” (Oxford New Concise World Atlas, 3rd ed., 2009, pp. 18-19). Creation stories, like myth in general, are outward projections of inner worlds involving a fantastic force or sheer willing of the world into existence. A continuous cycle of creation and renewal is common to the mythic theme.
The recurring burden of bringing about and maintaining world order falls first and foremost on the United States. America’s creation story is almost too familiar to be recognized as such. President Obama, for instance, draws on the just war doctrine to legitimize the war on terror, a doctrine that traces back to St. Augustine, who developed it after Christianity was adopted as the state religion. Augustine’s aim was to ease the tension between the early church’s pacifist leanings and Imperial Rome’s continuous need for soldiers. He linked the secular order to sacred myth.
The Christian God created order out of chaos. “In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was God. All things came into being through Him . . . . The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:1,3,5 NRSV). He (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) set his people on a quest of faith: In God we trust; may God bless America. The quest of faith promises to end in a just and peaceful order, a deliverance from evil. The way is fraught with trouble and temptation, but His kingdom will come and His will shall be done on earth as in heaven.
God and country merge in a sacred rite of salvific warfare—the power of the militarized state in the service of God’s creative will. Military power transforms myth into political realism. The quest for world order blends national security and the pursuit of material interests with the divine promise of freedom and democracy. Political prophets keep the nation morally and militarily armed and call the people to account when they stray from the path of salvation.
The God of peace is America’s war god. The recurring struggle to overcome satanic forces and bring about a new world order will someday end in a final battle, when the devil will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur” (Revelation 20:10 NRSV). This may be bad theology, according to peace activist Jim Wallis (God’s Politics, 2005), but it is the war state’s secular religion. Not every soldier wears the cross into battle. Yet, even in this age of reason and enlightenment, most of us accept the necessity of war as a reality of the human condition. Our fabled hope, our quest of faith, is that America’s just wars eventually will end in the everlasting grace of peace.