In this series, we’re thinking critically about some of our “sayings” as Christians; to evaluate their strengths & weaknesses. This week, it’s “America is a Christian nation.”
What is Helpful about This Phrase?
When we use this phrase, it DOESN’T mean that America officially embraces Christianity as the state religion; the Constitution specifically prohibits that. Nor does the phrase mean that all of the Founding Fathers were necessarily committed Christians. Several of the most important Founding Fathers were certainly not.
What the phrase DOES mean is that America was founded on the principles (particularly moral ones) laid out in the Christian worldview, even though not all of the Founding Fathers (or citizens) were Christians.
Thus, the phrase attempts to capture some historical truths about our country and how it was conceived.
This is important because the current trend in our culture is to portray Christian thinking & values as fundamentally un-American and worthy of condemnation. However, even the most superficial familiarity with America’s founding reveals such sentiments as profoundly misguided.
The problem is that many Americans don’t know the history of our nation – at least not the true history.
What is Problematic about This Phrase?
The phrase becomes problematic when we blend Church & State together and fail to distinguish between them. History demonstrates this is never good for Christianity over the long run.
One theologian writes:
“To be clear, there is nothing wrong with loyalty and commitment and even excitement about one’s own country. Indeed, it is commendable. But, that can never override the fact that, as Christians, we are fundamentally citizens of a different country, a heavenly one.”
One of the things we learned in our recent study of Revelation is that the merging of the State with religion (or vice versa) will be one of the characteristics of the Last Days. Insofar as the Bible predicts a great apostasy (or falling away from the faith) suggests Christianity will be complicit in this.
This means that one of the Church’s greatest challenges going forward will be to STAY SEPARATE from the State. This will become increasingly difficult as the State puts more pressure on Christians to compromise and to look to the State for the meeting of our needs.
Quoting the same theologian:
“So, in the end, America is a nation founded on Christian principles and ideas. But, it is not a theocracy, nor is Christianity the national religion, nor are all its citizens Christians. So, it is a Christian nation in certain ways, but not in others. And Christians must walk that narrow and dangerous boundary in between.
Adapted from an article on the Canon Fodder website.