Lincoln
You’d think that if God was willing to put up with this, the Arias trial would be a piece of cake. (David James/Disney-DreamWorks II via AP)

Matt Drudge, Tuesday, pondered on Twitter, “Do you get the feeling God is no longer watching over America?

It’s a predictably inflammatory question. And Twitter is exactly the place to ask it, if you do not want a serious response. If you actually wanted real theological speculation, I don’t know where you’d ask it, but presumably somewhere with more than 140 characters allotted. Then again, the Pope is on Twitter, so perhaps I am misunderestimating the forum’s theological capacity.

But leaving aside the Are-You-There-God? It’s-Me-Margaret feel of the question, I have some concerns.

The idea that God is sitting there squinting at us through some supernal lorgnette like the eyes of T. J. Eckleburg — us specifically, as the USA — well, as a Methodist minister eloquently observed when speaking of sitting out “God Bless America” at ballgames, “I imagine that the God I believe in isn’t interested in dispensing special nationalistic blessings. (Or, perhaps more to the point, blessings for our bullpen, error-free fielding and sufficient run support.) When we ask for blessings to be bestowed only on “us,” we are in danger of seeing ourselves as set apart from the world. Faith is global, and one nation doesn’t get any more or less of God than any other.”

But he doesn’t speak for all believers, as the comments section clearly indicates.

Still, even if you believe that America is uniquely positioned as a city on a hill with a vigorous tradition of belief and a sense of a special providence shaping our ends that goes all the way back to the Founders, well — what happened lately to turn that off? Was it the sense that the NSA already had the Watching Over America covered, as some on Twitter quipped? Did the Most High feel that the position was already occupied, and that He was now free to go catch up on back episodes of “Breaking Bad”? Was it the Arias trial? Was The Lord just fed up with what we’re doing to Amanda Bynes? “That’s it,” saith the Lord. “I’m moving to Canada.” Even the most fickle voters only threaten that. They never actually do it. But somehow the Supreme Being has had enough and moved on?

I realize that this sounds flip, and I don’t mean to sound flip. But it’s hard not to, in response to such an irksome question. You’d think that after the past 200-odd years of American life, God would be able to handle one or two more incidents. Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, a time when brother was mowing down brother and the whole foundation of the nation was being shaken, posed a similar question: “If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him?”

That’s a much better question. If your idea of God is someone squatting over America, something like a supernatural goalie, batting disaster away, then you can ask this question and actually get a negative response. But it seems bizarre to ask it. America is a country full of believers, and I think our belief is less shallow than that. Maybe our share of providence, as far as it goes, lies in the fact that millions of Americans go about their daily lives trying to act in accordance with their beliefs, to treat others as they hope to be treated and to do their best to build a country that feels like a blessing to live in. Or maybe I’m wrong and we’ve irked The Good Lord and he’s heading off to Switzerland for the offshore banking.

Ask a question like this, get the kind of answer he’s received so far.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.