Is America a Christian nation? A lot of people think so. Recently pseudo-historians like David Barton, talk show hosts like Glenn Beck, politicians like Ted Cruz, and evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham have all pushed that perspective.
Isaiah 1:23 (NLT)
Your leaders are rebels,
the companions of thieves.
All of them love bribes
and demand payoffs,
but they refuse to defend the cause of orphans
or fight for the rights of widows.1)All quotations are from Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
I’ve never bought into the concept, mostly because the idea of a “Christian nation” isn’t anywhere in Scripture. Even worse, it stands in direct opposition to one of the central tenets of the New Testament, which is that salvation is by grace through faith, not through actions of the State.
I don’t just disagree with the concept; I think it’s dangerous. The crusades and religious wars in Europe in the middle ages are excellent examples of that. However, we don’t even have to look back that far. Moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May 2018 destabilized the region and resulted in the deaths of protesters.2)https://www.vox.com/2018/5/14/17340798/jerusalem-embassy-israel-palestinians-us-trump That decision was heavily influenced by evangelical advisers to President Trump, who see it as a fulfillment of prophecy.3)https://www.vox.com/2018/5/14/17352676/robert-jeffress-jerusalem-embassy-israel-prayer 4)https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/us-embassy-move-why-trump-jerusalem-tel-aviv-religious-right-christians-jews-evangelicals-rapture-a8352961.html
It’s also ineffective. The State might be able to change a person’s actions, but it can’t change their beliefs.
Finally, it’s not historically accurate. The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. It also mandates that there cannot be a religious test for office.
Nevertheless, many people think that we are a Christian nation that should be governed by Christian principles. Of course, by Christian principles they mean their principles–especially the ones about gay marriage, LGBT issues, and abortion.5)For the record, I am for equal rights for the LBGTQ community, including the right to marriage. I am pro-life, but I think that abortion should be legal since there is strong evidence that legalizing abortion reduces the number of them. My views on abortion and the pro-life movement will make for a great future article!
If that wasn’t bad enough, some of them, like Tony Perkins, have some very Old Testament opinions–like executing gays.6)https://thinkprogress.org/family-research-council-blatantly-lies-about-supporting-ugandas-kill-the-gays-bill-3d972020882d/ 7)https://thinkprogress.org/family-group-applauds-uganda-s-anti-homosexuality-bill-89fc33b45784/
I’d prefer to avoid that.
Let he who has no sin cast the first stone, know what I mean? I’m looking at you, Tony.
So Maybe We’re Not A Christian Nation, But Would It Be Bad If We Were?
But if we were to become a Christian nation, would it be so bad? I mean, the people pushing for this consider the Bible to be inerrant, not just infallible.8)Inerrancy is the belief that the text of the Bible is without any errors; infallibility is the belief that it is perfect in faith and practice. Most Christians believe that the Bible is infallible; a much smaller number believe it is also inerrant. They take it very, very seriously.
I used to have a friend who was a pastor. One day he was arguing with another pastor over the meaning of a Scripture passage. My friend was convinced that he took the Bible more seriously than the other pastor. Suddenly my friend opened his Bible, turned to the passage in question, then ripped the entire book out of the Bible! His point? That to disagree with his interpretation of Scripture meant that you disagreed with all of Scripture.
In other words, if you disagreed with him then you weren’t even a Christian. You were an imposter at best; a force for evil at worst.
That’s serious business, folks. Ripping apart a holy book is how true adherents respect it, and they aren’t afraid to show that they respect it more than you.
If you’re that serious about Scripture then I’m sure you strive to obey all of it, right? I mean, if it disagrees with your personal or political opinions, then you still obey it, right? And if you were able to legislate your beliefs then you would legislate all of it, even the parts you didn’t like, right?
If so, then I have good news for you: Being a Christian nation wouldn’t be bad!!! Hallelujah!!!! You’ll be excited to know that we can expect some really, really good things to happen!
- Foreigners will no longer be mistreated or oppressed. Parents seeking asylum will not have their children ripped away while breastfeeding anymore.9)https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-immigration-center-mother-child-breastfeeding-mexico-border-patrol-ice-a8398186.html (Exodus 22:21)
- People will not mistreat their neighbors. Defenseless orphans will be protected from mistreatment by the State. (Proverbs 23:10)
- The farmers and food manufacturers will leave extra food (for free!) for widows, orphans, and foreigners. (Deuteronomy 24:19-21; Leviticus 19:9–10)
- Widows, orphans, and foreigners will be given love, food, and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)
- Those who have been robbed will be helped. They will be rescued from their oppressors. The police will no longer execute innocent, unarmed people with no repercussions. Everyone will be fair-minded and just, and mistreatment of foreigners, orphans, and widows will be stopped. (Jeremiah 22:3)
- Widows and orphans will never be exploited. If you do exploit them, then God will kill you. (Exodus 22:22-24)
- Bankers will no longer charge interest when they lend money to people in need. (Exodus 22:25-27)
- Lonely people will be placed in families. Prisoners will be freed. (Psalm 68:6)
- Foreigners will not be taken advantage of. (Leviticus 19:33-36)
- Poor people will always receive justice. People who are oppressed and destitute will have their rights respected. Helpless people will be rescued from evil people. (Psalm 82:3-7)
And we won’t just need to look in the Old Testament! The stuff from the New Testament is even better!
- Orphans and widows in distress will be cared for.10)The passage in the NLT says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” Notice that he did not say, “Make sure the world isn’t corrupt.” The advocates of Christian nationalism are obsessed with removing corruption from the nation. That always ends badly. Our job isn’t to remove corruption. That’s God’s job. Our job is to keep ourselves free from corruption. (James 1:27)
- Christians will sell all of their possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. (Matthew 19:21)
- The pay-per-plate fundraisers thrown by politicians will stop. Instead, they will host poor and sick people at their banquets. (Luke 14:12-14)
- Preachers will not get sidetracked by politics, money, or fame. Instead, they will help the poor. (Galatians 2:9-10)
- No person will be favored over another. The poor will not be discriminated against; instead, they will be treated equally to the rich. (James 2:2-13)
We will all be eager to do these things because we know that those who do these things are the ones Christ welcomes into Heaven. He explained this in Matthew 25:31–46. He even gave examples of the type of person who He invites to eternal life. They:
- Feed people who are hungry
- Give drinks to those who are thirsty
- Clothe people who can’t afford to buy clothes
- Care for the sick
- Visit people in prison
What About God’s Judgment, Though?
If you listen to Christian nationalists, then you’ve probably heard that allowing gays to marry and transgender people to have equal rights will result in God judging our nation. Fortunately, we don’t need to worry about that. None of those things will cause God to destroy us.
However, that doesn’t mean we don’t need to worry about judgment at all. If we’re a Christian nation then there is one scenario that, if it happens, will bring down God’s wrath upon us. The prophet Zechariah explained it:
Then this message came to Zechariah from the Lord: “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.
“Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them.
“Since they refused to listen when I called to them, I would not listen when they called to me, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. As with a whirlwind, I scattered them among the distant nations, where they lived as strangers. Their land became so desolate that no one even traveled through it. They turned their pleasant land into a desert.”
– Zechariah 7:8–14 (NLT)
So Where Does That Leave Us?
You might have noticed a pattern by now. The very act of trying to be a Christian nation would cause us to not be one! That might seem strange, so allow me to make the point with a thought exercise:
Imagine that we are a Christian nation. Our laws are God’s laws, so we must enforce them. That means that the widows and orphans need to be protected.
With me so far? Good.
Now imagine that a man who is a husband and father decided to disobey our laws. In the ultimate twist of irony, the law that he broke was the one about caring for widows and orphans. He didn’t just mistreat them; he created them. He killed a man who left a wife and son behind.
That means that we, as a Christian nation, must mete out justice. Exodus 22:21-24 says that if a person mistreats an orphan then their wife and child will become a widow and orphan. In other words, they must die.
Fair enough. We’re a Christian nation, so we execute God’s vengeance. We kill the man, thereby creating another widow and orphan.
We have now broken God’s laws by trying to enforce His laws.
It’s a catch-22. If we try to be a Christian nation that enforces God’s laws, then it will result in us breaking God’s laws. Being a Christian nation is impossible. It can’t be done.
And that’s a good thing because Christianity was never meant to work that way. Christianity was designed to operate from the bottom up, not the top down.
As Gandhi allegedly said, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”11)https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/27/eye-for-eye-blind/ That is what has happened every time a nation tries to spread the cross by using the sword. It fails. Miserably. And each time, people respect Christianity a little less.
What we are called to do as Christians is to love unconditionally. Some readers might roll their eyes at that, but it’s true. Jesus said that people would know we are His disciples by the love we show each other.12)John 13:35 James wrote that “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.”13)James 1:27 Jesus preached that God blesses those who are merciful, work for peace, and are persecuted for doing right.14)Matthew 4:3-10
And Jesus also said that we should:
- Love our enemies
- Pray for those who persecute us
- Do good to those who hate us
- Bless those who curse us
- Pray for those who hurt us
- Not resist evil people
- And, most importantly, treat others as we want them to treat us.15)Matthew 5:38-48; Luke 6:27-31
We can’t be a Christian nation, so let’s stop trying. Instead, let’s focus on being Christians. If we do that–if we love unconditionally, as Christ loved us–then we might end up being a nation full of Christians. And that’s much better than being a Christian nation.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||All quotations are from Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.|
|5.||↑||For the record, I am for equal rights for the LBGTQ community, including the right to marriage. I am pro-life, but I think that abortion should be legal since there is strong evidence that legalizing abortion reduces the number of them. My views on abortion and the pro-life movement will make for a great future article!|
|8.||↑||Inerrancy is the belief that the text of the Bible is without any errors; infallibility is the belief that it is perfect in faith and practice. Most Christians believe that the Bible is infallible; a much smaller number believe it is also inerrant.|
|10.||↑||The passage in the NLT says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” Notice that he did not say, “Make sure the world isn’t corrupt.” The advocates of Christian nationalism are obsessed with removing corruption from the nation. That always ends badly. Our job isn’t to remove corruption. That’s God’s job. Our job is to keep ourselves free from corruption.|
|15.||↑||Matthew 5:38-48; Luke 6:27-31|