That’s an offhand comment by Simon Montefiore’s Jerusalem: The Biography, which I found at Costco (my favorite store -- if they don’t have it, you don’t need it!) and have been reading and enjoying lately. “America was itself a mission disguised as a nation,” he writes. I suspect he may be right, and think that one reason we constantly re-define the nation is that our sense of the mission changes. Our politics to a surprising extent are an argument to define the mission.
As for Jerusalem, the subject of his book, I came away from the book thinking that it is the city of God only when Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and Jews can mix there freely. As Montefiore puts it, “Here, more than anywhere else on earth, we crave, we hope and we search for any drop of the elixir of tolerance, sharing and generosity.” But most of the time, I fear, the real Jerusalem is the one he describes as a mix of “prejudice, exclusivity and possessiveness.”