A Christian Nation?
For some reason there are people who like to fight about whether America is a Christian nation or not. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s to make some kind of a point about America??? Maybe it’s to argue that America = Christianity??? Maybe it’s to argue that that we are somehow special? Maybe it’s to argue that we can take Biblical things out of context and impose restrictions on people and know who to exclude in society, and do this with divine blessing?
These arguments don’t usually encourage critical thinking or conversation. They usually fall into right/wrong bumper sticker rhetoric, or Tweet-level memes, to put it in a current context.
What’s the point of arguing if America is a Christian nation anyway? What does that prove?
How about instead of worrying about whether we can be labeled as Christian nation or not, we Christians just act Christ-like? Let others worry about the label. How revolutionary that would be?
But I know, it takes a whole lot less risk to make arguments and verbally fight with people and figure out who’s a heretic or unpatriotic than to actually just go and live in a Christ-like manner. It’s take a whole lot less energy to have these fight than to die to self by living as a disciple. Making the claim about whether America is a Christian nation means we get to be in control, and that we are right! Because apparently being right is what Jesus was most concerned with, in spite of all the Scripture pointing to living faithfully.
If we are Christian nation then how we live will show it. We and others will see the fruits of such things. Anyone remember the hymn “They will know we are Christians by our love…”? I’m having a difficult time seeing Christ in the nation right now mostly because I’m not seeing a whole lot of love. I do see plenty of self-described and self-labeled Christians doing and saying things that don’t seem to be in alignment with Christ, the very person they claim to follow.
How about instead of arguing about whether America is a Christian nation, we do some self-reflection to see how we, individually, are doing in this whole following Jesus thing. Nations can’t be Christian or anything else for that matter. They are made up things that come and go. Ever cross the border to another nation? Is there anything in nature that shows that you crossed some kind of line? Nope. Humanity decided on these divisions, not God. No nation is Godly. It’s a moot point if a nation is Christian or not.
Can nations pass policies and laws that are in alignment with Christ? Sure, I guess. But again, unless we live into the faith that Jesus gives us, what’s the point? We can be right until the Second coming, but what difference does that make if we aren’t living into the faith that we are given?
Here’s what I do know about nations – they are broken. They have sin baked into their history. They maintain systems that abuse and exploit. They are more concerned with strength and might in order to defend and protect what they have. They are concerned with money and financial economy. And they all have poor and outcast people who are dehumanized. You know why I know this – because nations are made up of people. And people are broken in these ways. The people who run countries are broken too. It only stands to reason that a nation will be as broken as the people who inhabit it, not just the people who run it.
America isn’t a Christian nation and that’s ok. It’s an imperfect nation, just like the people who make it up. It’s a nation with a past that it would rather not talk about, just like so many of our citizens. It’s a nation with people who have suffered abuse. It’s a nation like so many others.
And there are good things too, just like many other nations. America has pushed advancements for humanity in medicine and exploration. America has amazing technology that offering wonderful possibilities.
But America is not the Kingdom of God. No nation is, regardless of how much a nation or people want to claim that mantle. A nation would have to look radically different than all nations throughout history.
Instead of arguing about if America is a Christian nation or not, how about we just like Christ-like and see what that does. It might actually move us closer to the unfolding kingdom of God. It might radically transform society, or communities, or relationships. It might gain a new understanding of stewardship. It might give us encouragement to heal people who have been abused and put a stop to abusive behaviors and systems. It might mean we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. It might mean that we put fear aside and live into the way of peace and that we become a people who work at loving our neighbors and our enemies. Imagine if all of that were happening? Who cares what our nation would be labeled as? We’d be living into the kingdom of God right here. Imagine how the world would be changed.
Dear Pastor Best:
Thanks, as always, for this thoughtful and insightful post. This assertion that America is a Christian nation is a longstanding one, and is imbedded in our national DNA Certain historical facts are modified, bent and twisted to support the assertion, but you have correctly stated that the assertion is not a confession of faith, but rather a confession of power, influence and, at its worst, manipulation.
Living the faith has always been harder than confessing faith.