God Bless the Whole World — No Exceptions

I saw a bumper sticker saying “God Bless the Whole World — No Exceptions” this morning on the way to work. Ignoring context, it seems like a nice message. After all, similar to the beauty pageant contestant’s wish for “world peace,” wishing for God’s blessing on the world would seem admirable.

However, we live in context. This bumper sticker is being presented as an alternative to the “God Bless America” bumper stickers. I suspect that someone with a “God Bless the Whole World” bumper sticker plastered on his car believes it is wrong, maybe even “un-Christian,” to ask for God’s blessing on America.

I disagree. After all, when I learn that a friend or family member is going through difficult times, my response is not, “I’ll pray for everyone in the world.” No, I respond, “I’ll pray for you.”

Think about it. Suppose you tell a friend you’re going in for surgery, and he responds, “I’ll pray for everyone in the world — no exceptions.” How would you feel? What message would you get from your friend? Probably that he doesn’t value you, your relationship, and that he doesn’t see anything special about you.

Intentional or not, that’s the message the driver with the “no exceptions” bumper sticker is giving America.

Update: Rather than delete posts I no longer agree with, I hope my comments below show my slow change of opinion. Change is good.

<3

Author: Brent Logan

Engineer. Lawyer. WordPress geek. Longboarder. Blood donor. Photographer. More about Brent.

26 thoughts on “God Bless the Whole World — No Exceptions”

  1. I wish I could find the article I’m thinking of but Google is failing me at the moment. Basically it explained how the concept of nationalism came to supplant the original loyalty of people to their own region. Patriotism comes from the root pater indicating the immediate connection one has with their homeland. In the past this loyalty extended only to the regions where one lived and the people with whom one either interacted, or at least shared a common culture. However nationalism subverted these natural loyalties and accrued them to an entire nation-state. I think it is valid to take a step back every so often and ask if these deep-seated loyalties are directed where they ought to be. In the case of the United States I believe that as a country it has provided a lot of value both to its inhabitants and to the world. However it is not perfect and to blindly follow the state is a known way to get oneself into an ethically sticky spot if you aren’t careful.

  2. CA, I agree. America is not perfect yet I in spite of its defects, I still value America and believe it is a special country. Fortunately, most of what American’s dislike about America can be fixed by replacing those who hold positions of power.

  3. I think you are looking into this way too far.

    There are people who are so ready to point fingers in the name of God with messages like.. God doesn’t love you because you are gay… God doesn’t love you because you commited a crime… etc etc…

    I believe this says God loves you, you are worthy of his love no matter what situation or life you may be involved in.

  4. Okay, I’ll try to relax and interpret this bumper sticker merely as a statement regarding God’s universal love, with no political message intended. I just have a hard time not being cynical sometimes (most of the time).

  5. I have this bumper sticker in my car as well as flag of my native country. I do ask God bless the whole word. There so many places on Earth that really need God’s blessing. I know that America is already blessed, while other countries are so not.

  6. Alena, thanks for your comments. You are one more data point showing that my initial thoughts on this bumper sticker were wrong (at least for a sizable number of people who display this bumper sticker).

    God bless you! ;-)

  7. I saw this bumper sticker around and had to have one for myself. We’re all God’s children, and of course I pray for His blessings on America and on my loved ones, but I think it’s good to remember that our loved ones should include all creation everywhere. Love thy neighbor is hard enough sometimes, let alone love thine enemies, and I’m not perfect at it, but I’m putting the sticker on my car to remind me and anyone driving behind me :D that that’s the goal…

  8. I think that this message points out the selfishness and arrogance other countries see in American attitudes. Not a political or religious observation, I think this message calls the attention of people’s everyday attitude, the way we care about the whole world. I’ve been to many countries not blessed the way America is blessed, and trust me – those experiences could change the attitude of the worst arrongant in the world.

  9. I have the nicest commenters. None but me sees any cynical or political statement in the bumper sticker. You guys are awesome!

    I just can’t get past the “No Exceptions” line…

  10. Okay, here ya go, dude. If God blesses the whole world, no exceptions, and if people (yeah, us Americans, too) would cut out the idea that one way of communing with our higher power is the “correct” way, if we, as the people of the earth, stopped supposing that one nation is “right”, if we all just listened to God for a minute, and did as God says, and loved one another — and accepted that God would bless the whole world, no exceptions — perhaps we’d find ourselves in a more peaceful place than we are presently, with fewer Darfurs, for instance.

    Yeah, I know, the cynic in you is going to say that I’m naive or too idealistic. And you’re going to come back with a paragraph or two in defense of that notion, maybe even complement me for my deep thoughts. I blog too. I know the drill.

    You’re just reading way too much into a simple bumper sticker that expresses a simple, gentle idea.

    Now, the bumper sticker that sucks is the one that says “No Osama, No Obama, No Chelsea’s Momma”. Guilt by association and character assassination is the hallmark of the current conservative portion of our political spectrum, sadly. But the person who coined that particular swift boat attack should be ashamed.

  11. @RMGondella – The cynic in me has been overpowered by all the wonderful loving optimism of my commenters. In fact, I think I’ve come over from the dark side. ;-)

    Let’s go one step farther. God wants to use us to bless the whole world.

  12. I think about this issue every time I hear a political candidate (including many I regard as enlightened, such as Barack Obama) end a speech with “God Bless America”. I have tried to synthesize my idealist and political realist sides, and offer the following tag lines, no charge, to any candidate who cares to use them: “And as we ask Gods blessing on all the peoples of the Earth, God Bless America”; or more concisely, “God Bless America, and all the peoples of the Earth”.

  13. i think the bumper sticker was trying to convey the message that everyone deserves god’s love; straight, gay, black, white, muslim, christian…anyone and everyone. it’s a good sticker.

  14. I’ve had this bumper sticker on my car for years. People have stopped me to ask where to get one, honked and hollered thru the window that they love it, and told me it was great to see such a loving bumper sticker.

    Gosh, I just got it because I liked it. Now with all this hoopla about how nice it is, I had to buy another one when I had work done on my bumper.

    Brent, you seem to be the rare guy who can actually change his mind. Hey, have you no principles? ;) Thank you.

    1. l.ford, you flatter me. :-)

      I must admit: I can’t seem to feel the objection I had to this bumper sticker earlier when I wrote this post. Oh well. Maybe we do mellow as we age.

  15. I know this is almost five years after you first posted your comment about the “God bless …” bumper sticker, but I can’t resist (and this from someone who rarely posts comments online). I first saw this bumper sticker eight years ago and liked it. I think you missed the point. To me the message is let’s not go too far in targeting particular groups for special treatment (entitlements). If anyone is offended by that, I would have thought it would be the multicultural crowd, the folks that argue that some (usually an ethnic, racial or gender group) deserve special treatment because they were “victimized” in the past. To me, the bumper sticker says, “yes, there is power and privilege, there are winners and losers, there are the fortunate/less fortunate, all of this by dint of circumstance as much as individual initiative, but all deserve the bless of ‘God,’ whatever that means to each of us.”

    1. Larry, almost five years ago means I’ve had a lot of time to think about this bumper sticker. I’m no longer offended by it. Where I used to see it as predominantly anti-nationalism, I now see it as predominantly a-nationalism. Nationalism is besides the point when it comes to God’s blessings.

      Could there still be some anti-nationalism sentiment intended? Sure, and that’s okay. We confuse / combine religion and government at our own peril.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. :-)

  16. I’m reading Brian McClaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy and in the last chapter (3, I think) he talked about the Gospel in relation to Genesis 12:1,2. It lit me on fire.

    Instead of focusing on just getting my own sorry butt into Heaven – or keeping it out of Hell, McClaren says the Gospel is bigger than that. The Gospel is about blessing all of God’s children – whether they accept His love and “plan” or not. It isn’t exclusive, it is inclusive!

    You too have captured the beauty of this generous principle!

    1. I think you abbreviated the title. The listing I found is, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN. ;-)

      The book sounds good. Looks like I need to add it to my Interesting Books page and download a sample portion to my Nook.

      1. Yup, even McClaren says he tries to ignore that whole title – especially after the colon.

        This is a book I think I could have written – if I were smarter and more articulate.

  17. Sorry, Brent, but I think the “God bless” statements and the statements about praying for people who ask for it are two quite different situations. If there is truth in “God so loved the world…” then “God bless the whole world; no exceptions” is an extension of that teaching. God’s love is not the exclusive possession of any nation or people.

    1. James, you’re absolutely right. Where I originally saw a political statement, I now see an inclusive, apolitical statement. See my slow change in the comments above.

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. Merry Christmas!

  18. Brent — I realize your post is old, but I wanted to express my admiration for your willingness to hear people who disagree with you and even to say you were wrong. Congratulations!

    I found your post because I was searching the web for another one of these stickers. I had one on a car I no longer own, one on the car I have given to my elderly mother, and one on the car I drive. My nephew, getting his first car now wants one of his own.

    I was amazed to see someone take offense at even a universal blessing. But it is, as you say, hard to get past the no exceptions, because we cling to our exceptions, our hatreds, our desire for vindictive justice against those who are clearly not deserving. But no exceptions means no exceptions; it certainly doesn’t mean “except America.” And of course, we send up special prayers for our sick friends and those we love.

    The point is to not forget to pray for those we usually forget, for those we don’t know, for those we don’t love, for those we don’t want to love and don’t want to pray for. For an angry indictment of selfish nationalistic prayers that not only disregard the “other” but even ask God to harm them, see Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.” The Psalms are evidence that God is big enough to hear the worst we are willing to ask for, and is able to change our hearts.

    Praying for ourselves, our loved ones, our nation is easy. But for many people of faith, God is about radical love. As a Christian, I can speak best about the radical, all inclusive love of Jesus. He dined with “sinners,” who didn’t obey all the rules; he showed himself first after his resurrection to a woman who had seven demons when they met. His disciple Matthew, was a tax collector–not someone like an IRS auditor, mind you, but a collaborator with a hated occupying empire, who became well-off while his people suffered. He allowed a woman of ill repute to wash his feet with perfume, her hair and her tears, after his well respected host failed to offer this generally expected hospitality to travelers.

    His story about the “Good Samaritan” wasn’t just about a really good guy. The point was that the good guy was not a priest, not among the tribe dedicated to the Temple, but a Samaritan–a person from the place that had been the Northern Kingdom, most of whose people had been removed in the Assyrian exile and had become intermingled with others, and who believed the proper place of worship was on a mountain in the north, rather than in Jerusalem. The Samaritan wasn’t just a nice guy, he was a member of a despised group, who, nonetheless, put the religious elite to shame by his kindness. Jesus promised a thief hanging on a cross next to him that he would see him in paradise. His love was wildly radical, and confronting the invitation to love in such a wildly radical way is difficult.

    You are right to be a little uneasy about “no exceptions.” It isn’t intended to be a sweet thoughtless platitude. It is a call to change our hearts and turn to wildly radical and pretty damned uncomfortable love. God bless you Brent. Really, I mean it. And I can tell from your comments, that you have been blessed by that little bumper sticker, even though you didn’t intend or want or ask for it. Because God is a God of wildly radical extravagant love and blessing. As Tiny Tim put it, God bless us every one.

    1. Catherine, wow, thanks! I don’t think I could put it any better. Thanks for taking the time to make such a thoughtful comment.

      I hope you don’t mind that I added the link and some paragraph breaks. The process of dividing your comment into paragraphs helped me understand the many points you make. I hope it helps others, as well.

      Thanks, again! Drop by any time. :-)

  19. Hey Brent. I don’t seem to understand where you were headed with your article. America is not going through a rough time compared to other parts of the world. Your analogy related to praying to people who need the help doesn’t stack up with God Bless America. If this was the case we would need to say God Bless Africa, or the Middle East and so forth. They need the help the most don’t they?

    I did read all the comments and enjoyed that you changed your mind about the bumper sticker, but I didn’t quite seem to understand the point you were making. In my opinion whenever someone says God Bless America I cringe a little on the inside, especially when it is said many times to gain political supporters or to entice blind patriotism. God Bless the World is a much better statement simply because of the teachings of Jesus. Anyway just my thoughts.

  20. Hi, Joe! When I wrote the original article, I viewed the bumper sticker as a political statement, not a prayer. I saw it as a reaction to “God Bless America” stickers. Maybe it was; it doesn’t matter. What matters is what people think it means when they slap it on their bumpers.

    From the response I got, the people who have this on their cars are not responding to a narrower view. The “no exceptions” phrase is not an implication that another, lesser view would ask for exceptions.

    I have learned. :-)

    Like you, I cringe when religion is pulled into a political setting. As Abraham Lincoln said (I now question any of his quotes on the Internet), “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

    Thanks for dropping by.

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