In the United States, despite a Constitution that mandates the separation of church and state, religion and politics have become inseparable. To lend authority to their views, presidential aspirants of both parties regularly press God into service. They know what he intends.

So the claims made by Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in a recent speech at the Citadel managed to be both striking and unexceptionable. “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers,” Romney announced. “America must lead the world.” Absent the “clarity of American purpose and resolve, the world becomes a far more dangerous place,” with freedom itself in jeopardy. To avert this catastrophe, Romney declared, “this century must be an American century,” with the United States economically preeminent and wielding “the strongest military in the world.”

Whence do these insights derive? “Why should America be any different than scores of other countries around the globe?” Romney asked rhetorically. His answer captures the essence of our present-day civic religion: “I believe we are an exceptional country with a unique destiny and role in the world.”

The Hebrew Bible provides no evidence to support this proposition. Nor do the teachings of Jesus Christ and his disciples. Yet the American Bible incorporates a de facto Third Testament, which validates this assertion of American uniqueness. That testament, fashioned from a carefully tailored rendering of the 20th century, recounts the story of a new chosen people serving as God’s instrument of salvation, leading humankind onward to the promised land.

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