One of my favorite books is Heaven by Randy Alcorn. It tries to put together a detailed, in-depth, cogent theology of Heaven, something few to none have ever done (Alcorn found, in his studies, that systematic theologies composed of multiple volumes often devoted only a page or two to Heaven).
One of Alcorn’s notes is that apparently Heaven will have nations. The Scriptures say that the nations will bring their treasures before the Lord.
My pet Hebrew student tells me that the word used is goyim, and doesn’t mean ‘nations’ so much as it means ‘non-Jews’, thus making that verse a verse about how the whole world, Jew and gentile alike, will bow before God in the last days. And maybe he’s right. But the concept got me thinking: if there are nations in Heaven, if Earth 2.0 has different peoples, what will they be like? At the time, I was more concerned with Japan. Lately, political matters have drawn my thoughts homeward.
I was recently reading an article by an American expatriate in Mexico. He was contesting the idea that the average I.Q. in Mexico is significantly lower than that of America, claiming instead that it is Mexico’s culture that holds it behind the First World. Mexico, he holds, remains backward because the vast majority of the population maintains a peasant mentality from a bygone age, where moving and growing and innovating and discovering aren’t even considered as options: people simply assume for the most part that their lot in life is to get married as soon as possible and to start producing the next generation and trying to feed it.
He notes that the latest wave of innovations (good and bad), Google, Microsoft, Facebook, what-have-you involve principles that Mexicans can handle and understand — plenty of software pirates in Mexico, teaching illegal copies of Windows 7 to fetch updates from Microsoft’s servers without alerting Microsoft — but that these things were invented in America. Not always by Americans, but usually by Americans, and always in America.
Not always by Americans. That part struck me. It’s like the place has a spirit.
A spirit caused by its colonization. America is where the cranks, the wackos, and the heretics went. America was initially settled by outcasts who became outcasts because they were wacky, weird, and prone to novel ideas. The unifying mark of the original colonists was not that they were WASPS, but that they were Snake Handlers.
And once we had ourselves a country and started looking around for immigrants, who came here? Not just Snake Handlers. People looking for hope. People gambling everything on a long shot.
I once had a teacher explain the ‘superiority’ of other countries to America like this: Other countries play Chess. Americans play Poker.
That’s apt, and deep, and touches on a lot of key vibes in culture, especially when you throw the East and its preference for Go into the mix. But forget that. Let’s just look at the American side.
We play poker. Chess has variants, sure, but poker is variants. It’s wild. Random. Winning a game of poker is as much about luck as skill, and nobody would play it for money unless they had hope. Faith in the long shot.
Our favorite stories are underdog stories. We haven’t been the underdog in over a hundred years, and yet every war story we invent pits a small heroic rebellion against a vast empire.
Japan and England have a lot of beauty to them, and once I wished I could’ve lived there. And maybe some day I will, for a time.
But for all my pessimism about the future of my country, for all my thoughts that our choice this November amounts to Obama Vs. Mitt Clinton, and that voting for either amounts to volunteering to give up your freedom…
In Heaven, if there are countries and nations, discrete states of the King of All’s kingdom, America will be the nation of lunatics and inventors. Of cranks mixing random chemicals in their bedrooms to see what will happen. The visitors in Heaven will be glad that their perfect bodies will take no injury, as they dodge out of the way of some explosion that goes off just as the open the door. And the man they wanted to see will come stumbling out in a cloud of black smoke, coughing and laughing and saying “Have I got something to show the Most High!” In Heaven, America will be the land of the wizards and alchemists, the launch pad for the rocket ships.
It’s the right country for me.