A Christian-Enough Nation

May 3, 2010

America is a Christian nation.

 Well, that’s what they say anyway.  I hear it a lot.  People generally say that because they want to go to war against American culture, and take the country back from the gays, immigrants, and liberals who’ve stolen it.  Pastors use historical anecdotes to “prove” America rightly belongs to Jesus. 

 Adrian Warnock is a Christian blogger, and a Brit.  It’s been really interesting to read his blog lately, as I know little about how the dandies across the pond do politics.  He expresses his views on how Britain has become decidedly anti-Christian, and how that’s factoring into how he’ll vote in the next election. 

American conservative Christians seem to do this every election cycle.  Did you notice how this last election, everyone (on both sides) were acting like they were voting for their very lives, as if the election were a life and death decision?

 It’s all got me thinking about the idea that American is a Christian nation.

America is a Christian Nation…Sort of.

Here’s the history lesson.  The founding fathers were Christians…mostly.  People tend to think George Washington was the Apostle Paul of America or something, but you know that’s not quite right.  They were regular guys.  Sure, regular guys probably went to church a lot more than guys today, but that doesn’t mean they were any more Christian.

George Washington stopped taking communion late in life.  Whether this was because of a conflict of conscience, a conflict of faith, or he just didn’t like how the wafers felt on his wooden teeth is unclear.  Thomas Jefferson wrote his own Bible, because he was “enlightened,” which included fathering children with slave women.  Even still, as he was writing the Declaration, he required the services of Ben Franklin to “tone down” the God stuff.  Apparently, Tom was a total fundie compared to Ben.  Ben was a full-on enlightenment thinker, not a Christian.  Then you’ve got the regular people who are Quakers, Puritans, Catholics, Anglicans, and a bunch of other things you probably don’t think are real Christianity.

Sure, the Declaration of Independence cites God as the source of man’s rights.  There’s no denying there’s a lot of Christian influence in the DNA of our culture.  But that’s about as much God as they put into the thing.  So…yeah.  Everyone in colonial America were Christians…sort of.

How Christian is Christian Enough?

I get it.  America has gotten a whole lot less Christian lately.  All the inner-city gang violence, drug use, “sexting,” short skirts, and massive after-prom orgies can be traced back to taking the Ten Commandments out of classrooms. 

But, we give the dead Americans a whole lot more credit than they deserve.  They weren’t super holy or anything.  They still made illegal liquor, had duels, and went to peep shows. 

Today, despite America going straight to hell, there’s still vast places in American that are saturated with Jesus!  I have to ask you, how Christian does America need to be before it’s Christian enough for you?  What will sate your appetite?  I admit, I think it would be great if everyone agreed with me all the time, and didn’t do anything to irritate me.  But it’s probably a bit unreachable to expect everyone to be perfect, just for my sake.

But really, what would it take to win America back for Jesus?  How far back in time do you have to go before America is Christian enough to not offend you?

A Christian Nation Wouldn’t Be That Great

I know what you’re thinking.  How could a nation with Jesus as President be bad?  Just imagine the utopian existence we’d all be sharing.  Everyone would be wearing WWJD bracelets, and nametags, and there would be doves everywhere and life would be just swell.

Except that if Christians were ever in charge of running the whole country, I don’t think we’d be able to decide what to do.  We can’t even agree among ourselves how to run a church, much less a country. 

I heard Pat Robertson a few weeks ago, in the same breath, praise America’s free-market system, and bemoan the need for censoring pornography.  That’s ridiculous.  You can’t have it both ways.  Sure, the fact that what America spends on porn could wipe out poverty in several third-world countries is gross.  But you can’t have a “free market” when the only thing on the market is Jesus, and everything else is banned.  This is a man who actually ran for President in the 80s. 

Look at how well having religion run the state has worked out for Iran.  This week, it was announced that women who appear to be suntanned will be arrested for deviant behavior because they are causing disturbances among men and earthquakes…yes, earthquakes.  I have no idea what our American tramp-stamped hoochie-mamas are causing if a little sunburn in Iran causes earthquakes.

Honestly, I don’t have a whole lot of hope for Christians running the whole nation, since the last time Christians were truly in charge of everything was the Dark Ages.

If America were really run as a Christian nation, I rather imagine it as an apocalyptic dystopia like “1984,” with Charles Stanley giving a very encouraging message on a giant screen in the middle of the city.  Everywhere you go, Big Brother Jesus is watching you…on camera.  At first, you resent it, and try to hide from Jesus.  But eventually, you realize you love Jesus…and I just gave away the end of the book, if you haven’t read it.

What do you think?  Is is the church’s job to win back the country?  Or do we have more important things to do?  Would it really be as great as we think if Christianity was the law of the land?

36 responses to A Christian-Enough Nation

  1. I’d posit that before we start bickering over whether America is a “Christian” nation, we should define what exactly we mean by “Christian”. As I had to tell one of my students one time, America wasn’t founded by a gaggle of Southern Baptists, after all.

    Besides, I think the current moral furor over the “death of family values” is a bit overblown. Like you said in your post, we give earlier generations way more credit than they deserve. They just look holy to us because they hid all of their naughty behaviour just to keep up appearances with the neighbours. After all, promiscuity was not invented in 1962…

  2. Great post Matt. I once heard someone say, “You do know what the word ‘politics’ in Greek means right? Poly means many and a tic is a blood sucking creature.” I wouldn’t want an outright Christian nation. I don’t think that would work very well. How can you force the Holy Spirit to be in some sort of system or law?

    You’re speaking about the dead great American forefathers, I just picture the Family guy flash back of the forefathers making amendment 2, “The right to bear arms.” Yeah Thom, Americans should have the right to bear arms. *Dawning on a pair of Bear Arms*

    I don’t know if it’s our job to worry about running the country. Sure, we live in a country where we get to vote for who’s in charge. But no matter who’s in charge, there’s always people who wanted the other guy. It’d be no different if this were an outright Christian nation. Looking back on Jesus’s life, he didn’t come to overthrow the Roman Gov’t. He said things like, “Carry that Roman’s armor for 2 miles.”

    Dang, I bought 1984 last year and got 1/4 the way through.


  3. I’m so over the whole Christian nation thing. I’m working on a series of rants about it for my blog right now. Hopefully i will have that posted soon.

    By trying to create a Christian nation (which is a dubious concept since political entities can’t get saved) we can easily get in the way of people becoming genuinely Christian. There is two main ways this seems to happen. One of the ways is that having to participate in religious ritual and culture even though they don’t mean it or like it can serve to inoculate people against genuine faith because it all feels empty to them. The other way it can go wrong is because people start to think that because they belong to a “Christian” nation and they observe some vaguely Christian cultural practices that everything is fine between them and God when it may not be.

    • “I’m so over the whole Christian nation thing.”

      No doubt!

    • I was just thinking about this the other day. Actually, I’ve been thinking about this for the longest time, the LONGEST.

      Demanding that everyone in America submit to our Christian doctrines is a great way to make people hate Christians, Christianity, and God a metric-crap-ton MORE than they may or may not now. Or imagine people still on the fence about whether they believe or not? It’s not our place to force anyone, because God’s not stupid. He knows who genuinely loves Him, who genuinely wants to learn from Him. He won’t be fooled by a few non-Christians pigeonholed into doing what we want them to do.

      But seriously, I agree with everything you said here; you were spot on in ALL of the thoughts percolating in this brain of mine.

  4. Unfortunately I think many Christians want a “Christian” nation so that their lot in life would improve…instead of seeing people entering His Kingdom for all of eternity. First I need His Kingdom rule and reign in my own life then, I can pray for this country to have it’s collective heart change towards the Father.

    Good Post bro’

    • Definately. People just want everyone to be the same so their delicate little sensibilities are offended so much. But we’re going at it all backwards. In order to “take back” a nation, it has to start with the hearts of the people, not the government.

      • This. THIS. SO MUCH THIS.

        I regularly get emails from one of my co-workers that are a combination of God/America/Government rubbish. Honestly, making America a “Christian Nation” doesn’t mean that people become Christian.

        “People just want everyone to be the same so their delicate little sensibilities are offended so much.”

        THIS. I can’t tell you how much irrational religious fear is going around; I’d swear something was in the air or the water or something. Everyone is afraid of the “insane muslims”, the “non-believers”, the “gay and lesbian cult activists”, the “radical liberal socialist marxist agenda”, the list goes on… We don’t want people to become Christians. We want them to back off and not have differing opinions or viewpoints. We want special treatment. We want the world to cater to us.

  5. Glancing at the comments, I infer that some think a “Christian nation” would not be the greatest idea. Yet we all proclaim that we want to go to heaven! As Christians, might I suggest, it is our obligation to win people to Christ. How much of our energy and time should we devote to the political arena? Okay, unless we are professional politicians.

  6. Good post Matt. The real question has really nothing to do with the US being a Christian nation. Our roots are decidedly Christian. Every American shold read the Mayflower Compact. We are one of 2 nations dedicated to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    There was a time in the US when the Bible was basically the rule of law. I understand that slavery, woman’s right to vote or work, and racist policies were also part of the law. Sin is sin.

    My point is exactly this. As the country moves away from biblical principals, the moral fiber of their culture will suffer and so will the people. IE: Christians cannot overlook the millions of lives lost to abortion every single year. As a church, if all we did was stop abortion, it would be a great victory. During the time of Moses, and again in the time of Jesus, rulers put to death children so that the seed of Abraham could not proliferate.

    Some think that having Jesus as part of the national culture for those that do not believe, is not profitable for the Kingdom. I personally don’t believe it. Wherever the word of God is read, sincere prayer is said, and symbolism that points to the cross of Jesus; the sacrifice for all mankind, it is profitable for the Kingdom of God. The word of God does not return void. I’d rather hear kids sing “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him” as a winter concert than “Frosty the Snowman.” I think it is profitable.

    The attack on Christianity both here and abroad, will turn to real persecution at some point – we’ll need it to have and End Times.

    The real problem now, and has been since the Pharisees, is dead religion (like the Middle Ages), ones in which people proclaim to know God, but do not. A good dose of deadly persecution will purge those folks, and quickly.

    I don’t care about the politics, what I care about is the church influencing the culture with the most important message that any human will ever hear. Jesus Christ is Lord, won’t you receive His forgiveness?

    That’s why I can’t sit around saying nothing. I will preach Jesus to anyone that will listen; co-workers to congressman. It is the message I have been entrusted with.

    • Absolutely. When we’re more concerned about influencing policies instead of hearts, we’re going about it backwards.

    • Why focus on just abortion?

      Why not integrate eliminating racism, classism, and all the sexism/misogyny that ends up hurting so many women in the church? Why not encourage our church members to focus more on Christ and live Him out in their lives by loving others as we love ourselves? Why not focus on helping couples work through their marital issues so that we’ve got more people happily married for 50, 60, and 70 years?

  7. “How far back in time do you have to go before America is Christian enough to not offend you?”

    I stood up and applauded while upon reading this line.

    It was slightly awkward for those around me, as I’m at work.

  8. I think that one of the biggest problems we have is that we are trying to change the nation through politics. This will not work! Jesus is about changing hearts through the power of the Gospel. But in order for this to work, Jesus’ followers have to provide a more consistent example of the evidence of Jesus in our lives. If we don’t act any different than those who are apart from Christ, why would anyone want to have Christ in their lives? Until we demonstrate the difference Jesus makes in our lives, people will not be receptive to His message. Until we show Jesus’ unconditional love and not just talk about it, the nation will never be changed.

  9. This got the triple thumbs up from me on my Google Reader: a star, a like, and a share. Then I popped over here to leave a comment as well. So quadruple kudos to you, Matt. This absolutely rocks.

  10. I loved this. It’s true, but it’s funny. I think it’s probably only funny, though, because I can picture some people reading this with steam coming out of their faces.

    And I’ve never read 1984, but one of my favorites movies is set in 1985.

  11. Every now and then, we need someone to shake us and remind us that the “good old days” were not all that great. Thanks for that wake-up call and for reminding us that there are more important things to do than bemoan the short-comings of our system of politics and government. The Kingdom of God will be better served if I concentrate on exposing the darkness in my own heart than by fixing the responsibility for spiritual leadership of our country on a few elected officials.

  12. Greeat stuff here Matt. I’ve been wrestling with some of these same thoughts. Just got Gregory Boyd’s “The Myth of a Christian Nation” in the mail over the weekend. Am anxious to read that as I’m processing all this…

  13. To paraphrase (and not even that closely, mind you) what JFK said,

    Ask not what Jesus can do for you, but what you can do for Jesus. Spreading the gospel needs to be like spreading a virus. Close contact from one person to another. I can speak to 1000 people in a big room about the Love of Christ, but what’s the stickiness factor there? (I heart Malcolm Gladwell.) If I show the love of Christ, by my actions and by my personal relationships, it spreads. What does this have to do with whether we are a Christian nation or not? Not much I suppose except that when we say we want a Christian nation, I think we’re saying we want somebody else to make this a Christian nation. We’re excusing ourselves from the commission.

  14. I think the real question is over imposed “righteousness” or real transformation. I would love to see people come to know Jesus and cities be transformed by grace and truth. That doesn’t come by simply mandating Christianity. That’s what the emperor Constantine did and to some degree we’re still sorting through the mess…

  15. Let’s not forget our best buddies the Native Americans who were…well…here first…And they were good old Pantheists, (at least according to Pocahontas, Avatar and Dances With Wolves,) not Christians.

    I think the most poignant issue you raised in this post was the fact that you can’t have freedom (which is actually what the first European Americans so desperately sought) if the only thing you’re ALLOWED to have is Jesus and everything else is banned. God created man with freedom with the full knowledge such a gift would in all likelihood cause man to fall away from Him. That’s what real love is—the FREEDOM to love.

  16. Wow. Well played, Matt. Well played. This one is a keeper (and one I will refer people to).

    Thanks for the insight!

  17. I am right there with you! I am so tired of the “Christian nation” thing & getting email for us to pray for Obama to die, or whatever.

    Jesus was quite clear that he did not come to create a kingdom here on earth. He came to prepare us for the world to come.

    That doesn’t mean that we abdicate our responsibilities here & now & i do think we need to d what we can for our culture & society. But i’m tired of the idea (& i’ve heard it alot over the years) of the US being God’s “chosen nation” (that role has already been filled!) & that the US is a “Christian nation.” That is a re-write of history.

    • The chosen nation bit is even more frustrating. The extent people will go to try twisting scripture and history to “prove” it is a bit scary. There’s all the old testament scripture twisting. Then there’s the people I’ve had people try to convince me that Americans who have british ancestry are descendants of a lost Jewish tribe which therefore makes America God’s new chosen nation….So many logical and theological holes in that one that its hard to know where to start in discussing its problems.

    • Oh goodness… I got an email, an EXTENSIVE one, explaining how Obama was the AntiChrist and I just about flipped my rocks.

  18. One of the big problems with a “Christian nation” is the appalling lack of solid theology among those who promote it the loudest. My bible says men are amazingly corrupt, self deceived, haters of God, in need of constant repentance, idolaters, wicked, and to use a non-biblical word, depraved. That means US Christians, not “those” heathen. Historical Xns FEARED power, and especially power in one place. The early American fathers thought “Christianly” from that perspective, which is why a solid Christian man like John Adams could work with and admire a heathen like T. Jefferson. They did not fall prey to the modern evangelical fiction that Xns are the “good guys” and the key is to get them into a position of power. They agreed with their heathen brothers that there ARE NO good guys and the best way to prevent tyranny is not to mandate “biblical principles” but to spread power out and divide men up so that no one can do much harm. Tyrants can and have quoted the bible in doing monstrous acts. The Christian right is way way closer to the Taliban than they think.

  19. Really enjoyed reading what you had to say as well as the comments.

    As a person who lives in this country, I have an interest in politics and am involved, and vote, my conscience.

    But, as several others have mentioned, Jesus did not come to establish a physical kingdom on this earth; that’s not on the agenda until His return.

    As a Believer I want to lift up the name of Jesus, so that He will draw people to Himself. I want to live a life where the people in my life can see that I truly love them, that my word means something, and where I demonstrate a thankful spirit. I want the fact that I love people to mean that I like them, that I care about what happens to them. My prayer is that God in me will draw others to Him.

  20. In the words of Soren Kierkegaard, “in a nation where everyone is Christian, no one is Christian.” Officializing religion kills true devotion. The “free market” of religious ideas in America is why religion has thrived here, from the First Great Awakening onward.

  21. What disturbs me about you is your attitude towards older Christians who you think are so ridiculous they deserve nothing more than to be completely debunked by you, completely defrocked and ridiculed. Your lack of respect shows a lack of maturity, but worse, an absence of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

    Maybe they are too materialistic, maybe they fail in certain ways, but no where does God give you Carte Blanche to open fire on them. As I see it, they are older, that’s what separates them from you. What do you see in a young man who proclaims to be a godly, god-fearing man but does not respect elders in the body of Christ?

    You do it with such cutting language, it’s just amazing.

    Today it was Pat Robertson. Other times it has been other televangelists. Wow! The sin of being a televangelist! In your book it deserves severe punishment from the body of Christ – should we bring back public hangings?

    • I honestly don’t know what to say to that. I don’t know what older Americans I’m ridiculing. Pat Robertson? I’m not ridiculing him. What he said, I found to be contradictory, and all I did was point it out. In no way did I ridicule him. It’s really hard to be a pastor and a politician, and I don’t think his views reflect sound policies.

      The point I’m making is this: if Christians want a Christian America, we’re going at it with the wrong focus. It doesn’t start with government, it starts with the hearts of the people, and when we focus on duking it out with the culture and “winning” America back with elections and laws, we lose track of the Great Commission.

      I take it your comment is pretty much centered on defending Pat Robertson. It saddens me that you misinterpret nearly everything I say.

  22. Doesn’t Christianity spread best when it’s illegal and people are murdered for it? Sure keeps the fair-weather would-be Christians out of the way, and no one will think they are saved because they hold an American citizenship… Not that I’m hoping for persecution, but if that is what it takes to advance God’s kingdom, then BRING IT.

  23. ISIAIh 41 BRING forth your IDOLS did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. spalms 115 and spalms 135 thier IDOLS are FALSE cant speak can’t hear cant smell and those that make them shall become like them. Jeremiah 10 they nail their IDOL down like a scarecrow it can’t move can’…t speak can’t move must be carried these are nothing but the WORK of CON men.john 10 jesus christ sais his sheep hear his voice and another voice thy will not follow and if another person tries to preach to them they WILL FLEE from him. jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on their own authority what will you do when your judged my word is not inside them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes back in time mathew 16 jesus christ claims to be the son of man.‎1 cor2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 16 sais the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 lying prophets of ISRAEL my word is not inside them saying god sais god sais god sais wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM their WORDS. all of this is EASILY verifiable

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