Walter Brueggemann
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, c2014


American Exceptionalism seems to rise as a contentious topic every major election cycle: It is dangerous political heresy to suggest anything other than that America is the bright “city on the hill” meant to lead the world. Into this context, the long-time brilliant and wisely pastoral biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann, stepped in 2014 and attempted, through his biblical scholarship, to give us all a more accurate sense of our true religious situation and the way forward.

His book, Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks, describes how ancient Israel lived by a similar mistaken belief in its Exceptionalism.That false ideology, Brueggemann shows us, was shattered by the Babylonian conquest, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Exile of its leaders. That painful confrontation with Reality opened the way for the people to express Grief, thereby eventually freeing up prophetic Hope and a future to emerge.

Brueggemann suggests that the attacks of 9/11 in the U.S. provided the kind of shock experience for the U.S. that the Babylonian conquest and exile did for Israel. They had the kind of impact, he thought, that could break through our ideology of Exceptionalism and start us as a nation down the path of conversion. Nearly two decades later, it is clear that 9/11 did not accomplish that.

What might accomplish it?  How long will it take until the nation will seriously engage upon the path of conversion and faithful recommitment to embracing Reality, expressing our Grief as a nation for the destructive sins so deep in our history, culture, and psyche; and to praying for the prophetic emergence of Hope for and dedication to building a New Creation? We wait in fear and expectation….

Despite this miscalculation on the impact of 9/11, this is first-rate biblical theology yielding wise pastoral guidance for the U.S. in these times. Buy, read, pray, preach and share this book. It is a clear prophetic call to the conversion to which God is calling us for the wellbeing of the human family and the planet itself. There’s no time to waste.


James E. Hug, S.J.


For a fuller review and discussion of American Exceptionalism, its underlying true reality in America’s three original sins, and the redemptive process Brueggemann lays out, turn to the blog post, a related post  “The Path to Reclaiming the Nation’s Soul: Biblical Wisdom for 21st Century America” in this website’s Truth that does Justice blog.