The Christianising of America

crossflagHow many times have we heard it?  “America is a Christian Nation!”

Of course, there is the counter-argument, “America is NOT a Christian Nation!”

Well, that should cover both points of view quite nicely.  As a citizen of the United States, as a follower of Jesus Christ and as a reasonable human being (that may be arguable for those who know me), I want to see if I can lay out some sort of sense for both of these arguments.

I thought about listing several of the Founding Fathers and showing whether or not they were actually Christians.  As I looked them up, the ones who were not outright deists were not all conclusively provable as Christians.  So, before I entered into exhaustive research, I figured I would go from a Biblical sense approach, along with a little logic, simply based on the idea of the claim of America being a Christian Nation.

The Ten Commandments
Every time a public building wants to remove a long-standing copy of the Ten Commandments from their wall, the outcry is loud and angry.  “These are the principles upon which this nation was founded!”, one may cry.  Another yells to leave our “Biblical heritage” alone. Yet, there are others who yell just as loudly about the “separation of Church and State”.  Well, how would Jesus see this?

First, Jesus did not go around with the Ten Commandments out in front of Him, declaring they be displayed for all to see.  For that matter, He did not reference them much, at all.  The only times He did say anything about them was when asked about them.  In Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”, He opens with what we call “The Beatitudes”, in Matthew 5.

The Beatitudes

He said:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What do we see here?  It is more obvious what we do not see here…”Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not”.  No, this is one of those instances He takes the Law out of the picture, instead teaching grace and relationship.  So, if we were to consider what is “Christian”, that is, “Christ-like”, we should further consider that Jesus is more about relationship and far less about rules, rites and law.

If I were to make my first point, it would be, if this is a Christian Nation, why are we so hung up on a set of rules that Jesus Himself did not make a huge issue out of?

“Other” Religions
How many religions are represented in the U.S.?  Ten?  One hundred?  Ten thousand?  Most of us can name a few of the well known ones…besides Christianity, we have, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Ba’hai, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhism, Taoism…just off the top of my head.  There are also Christian denominations…Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Independent Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Church of God of Prophecy, Church of Christ, Episcopalian, Lutheran and on and on and on.  There are actually thousands of Christian denominations in the U.S.  Yes, thousands.

If we were to claim this a Christian Nation, does that mean that people of other religions should have no voice?  Would it further lead to which Christian voice should be listened to?  That is, which denomination is the true Christian voice?  After all, if we are to be a Christian nation, we have to face doctrinal differences and how they will play into policy making…right?  Let’s be honest – some denominations may have more liberal views while others far more conservative.

As for non-Christian religions, in an ideal “Christian Nation”, how do we handle these folks?  Do we want them freely expressing their religion, proselytizing, or wearing religious garb in the public streets of this “Christian Nation”?  After all, as a Christian Nation, we would have an image to uphold and we certainly wouldn’t want our children to be exposed to some sort of anti-Christ idol worship.  I speak with a bit of sarcasm, here, folks.

So, if there be a point #2, I would say it is the question of whether or not we would allow folks to be and do what God has allowed them for thousands of years.

Homosexuals and Baby Killers
Let’s get down to what we really want as an alleged Christian Nation.  What we really want to do is legislate peoples choices and the lives they live.  As a Christian Nation, we would prosecute abortionists and ban all same gender marriage.  What the heck…we may as well regenerate the old Sodomy laws and make homosexuality illegal.  Let’s not forget…no one of opposite gender should live together unless they are married.  And, if we really can tighten up the rules, no unmarried person should have sex and if found out can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  Wow…we can also finally take control of Hollywood and all those R-rated movies can be made illegal.

Ah, Christian paradise.  Yes.  We take this wicked, sinful, lust-laden land and return it to it’s so-called Christian roots.   Yes!  We can finally have the laws that make us more comfortable and people will feel safe.  We can elect officials that only agree with the stance we have as a “Christian Nation”.  Ah, Paradise.

Before anyone starts to sermonizing me, I do not think that homosexuality is God’s design and that abortion is an awful choice and does take a life.  So, any of you high-horse folks can just step down, step back and relax.

My point is (the third point, I suppose), it seems that the main reason people want to “return to our Christian roots”, is so we can have laws that make us feel more comfortable – to have our own “Christian paradise”.  As noble as it seems of the surface to return to what some say are our roots, it really boils down to Christians getting what they want.

Our Forefathers
Any one of us can dig up some fine quotes from the founders of the United States of America.  We can find documents that cite Jesus’ name, as well as, “under God” and talk of God’s providence in this Land.  With some research, we can find out who had prayer lives, attended church regularly and observed all Christian holidays.  There were some Christians who took part in the founding of this country, but there were also non-Christians.  As for our signers of the Declaration of Independence, they were all of Christian denominations, but does that mean they were actual followers of Christ?  After all, anyone can be part of an organization, whether it be a church or a club.

What document declares the United States as a Christian Nation?  Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution of the United States declares our country as a “Christian Nation”.  Regardless of all the quotes, dedications to God and even saying we are, “one nation under God”, we were never declared to be a Christian Nation.  People moved over here to get away from religious oppressors and wanted the freedom to worship as they saw fit without any king telling them how they must worship.  Yet, there is no evidence that they wanted to establish a Christian Nation, per se.

Last Words
In the end of his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln finished with, “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  

By all accounts, Mr. Lincoln was a Christian.  Also, the fourth and fifth words in this portion of the Gettysburg Address are, indeed, under God.  But, he said of the government…of, by and for…the people.  Not the Christians.  Not a Christian Nation.  To acknowledge that this Nation is under God, is not to declare it a Christian Nation, but to simply acknowledge that this Nation is not greater than the God in Whom the speaker believes.

If this were to be a Christian Nation, it would have been declared under Christ.  If this were to be a Christian Nation, we would be more concerned about the attributes of Jesus instead of the rules of the Ten Commandments.  If this were to be a Christian Nation, we would have to neglect the idea of a separation of Church and State and force a Theocracy upon the masses.  If this were to be a Christian Nation, we would have to ask that folks follow only Christ and not have the freedom to choose (a freedom God created us with) not to follow Him and to follow other gods, if any at all.  If we were to be a Christian Nation, we would have to enforce the moral laws we think should be enacted, not allowing people, once again, the freedom to live how they see fit (without bringing harm to others…murder, theft, violence…these are very important laws). whether they live together out of wedlock, live as homosexuals, or even as drunkards.  If this were to be a Christian Nation, we may as well forget the words of our First Amendment…”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”  Finally, if this were to be a Christian Nation, we would thereby be making law respecting an establishment of religion and prohibiting others to exercise their own.

While we may have been guided by “Christian values” and while some founders were Christians, I would have to say, no…we are not a Christian Nation and nor should we entertain the idea of attempting to make this a Christian Nation.  Yet, as Christians, we should endeavor to bring Christ to our neighbors and thus to our country, by feeding the poor, loving the unlovable and not pronouncing judgment over every “sinner” we meet.  We need to follow Christ’s example and walk it out.

It is time we stopped worrying about whether or not the United States of America is a Christian Nation.  As Christians…as the Church…we do need to pay more attention toward being the Church.  And, if there are any Commandments that are to be followed, they should be followed by us and, even then, there are only two main ones – love God and love others.  Jesus said so.

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