Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

The U.S. Is not a Christian Nation — and It Never Was

My friend is no longer young, no longer able to dance. But inside, the young, beautiful woman she once looked like, still lives, joyous, and longing for the day when she will be free. Grace, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

I was visiting a friend in the nursing home last week when I found myself trapped, holding my sleeping friend’s hand, forced to sit in the same room with a Christian television show.

Those of you who read me regularly know that I’m not big on TV in any form — corporate network news with its disinformation tops the list of things I’ve cut out of my life, and corporate network Christian misinformation digital fare has never been allowed a place in my living room, mind, or psyche.

(Years ago, I was similarly trapped with a digital evangelist who was bent on selling me, and millions of others, a statue of David and Goliath, which he assured us would encourage us through the trials and tribulations of life, and all we had to do was touch it, feel it, look to it, and pray for strength.

The blur line between art and idolatry was pretty strong.)

Idolatry Is Easy to Fall into

Back to my imprisonment in the chair. This particular evangelist wasn’t out to sell me anything — at least in the forty five minutes that I was stuck with him — but he was pretty big on convincing me that America and Christianity were one and the same thing.

“We are a Christian nation,” he told his co-host, sitting raptly at his side and asking mock-perspicacious questions like,

“So you’re saying that our nation was founded by CHRISTIAN men, with CHRISTIAN values, and the liberty and financial success we enjoy is because of our CHRISTIAN heritage?”

“That’s it exactly, Bob (Jim, Nate, Andrew — I’m sure he’s famous but I don’t know his name). We are a CHRISTIAN nation.”

As with the statue of David and Goliath, the blur line between Christianity and idolatry was pretty, well, blurred.

When, Exactly, Were We Officially Christian?

In non-stop prattle with visual after visual flashed in front of the camera, the speaker explained how our very liberty — as from King George and taxation without representation — derives from the Christians who were called to flock the churches and bow their knees in prayer. This obedience on the part of the people, and the purported godliness of the Founding Fathers, set the foundation for what we are today:

A “Christian” nation with a disturbing history of enslaving people, capturing land that belonged to residents who were here first, levying excessive and increasing taxes, starting wars throughout the globe, turning a blind eye to questionable business practices, relying upon the fine print in contracts to deceive people into doing what they had no intention of doing, and not being particularly honest with its citizenry. When people say they want to go “back” to our Christian roots, I wonder,

“Just when are you talking about? At what point in this nation were we — the citizenry AND the government — living by the commandment, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’?”

Money and Riches Aren’t the Same Thing

Contrary to what is frequently preached in the pulpit and on the TV screen, many people in America are not rich, and those who are, are not necessarily Christian. Many who are materialistically poor bow their knee to Christ, not the American flag or the American dream. The number of people who are Christians does not correlate to the number of people attending church.

Freedom, wealth, riches, liberty — these are open-ended words with multiple meanings. When we apply them to Christianity, we want to take time with those meanings. Diaphanous, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

When Christ talks about riches, he doesn’t mean money; when the Apostle Paul writes about freedom (check out Galatians 3), he isn’t talking about taxes.

If we are a Christian nation, it’s not one on this earth, and it’s one that extends through all the countries and continents:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2: 9)

The allegiance we pledge isn’t to a flag but to God, and when we confuse the two, we weaken our faith by diluting it.  In the same way that we cannot worship both God and money, we cannot worship both God and country. It’s not that the latter is bad; it’s just that it’s not divine.

As an American, I live in — not a Christian Nation — but a nation with Christians in it.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage readers to grab the hand that God is holding out to them, and allow Him to lead us forward. To trust Him, we really need to know Who He is and what He’s like, and the best way to do this is to read the book that He’s given us — the Bible.

Read it for yourself, and don’t be satisfied with a weekly interpretation of its contents by the “experts.” As the 1 Peter 2: 9 says, we are priests, able to come before Christ in worship and prayer, and able to learn from His words and His wisdom. Depending upon others to do this for us leads us into dependence, insecurity, and spiritual weakness.

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  • Carolyn Henderson

    Anonymous — It’s not up to our government to determine whether or not its individual people follow Christianity. The problem with insisting that we are a Christian nation is that we get this sense that we are special, chosen, unique, different from the rest of the world — and only two groups of people have been given that distinction, Biblically. The first are God’s people, the Hebrews, with this gift being given through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The second are God’s people who come to Him through Christ — when John the Baptist said that God could create Abraham’s children out of stones, he could have been talking about us, the Gentiles who were graciously given the message of grace.

    There are Christians in this nation, yes. But we were founded not so much on Judeo-Christian values as we were the attributes of Rome — our political system is based upon the same society that crucified our Christ.

    Why does this matter? Because when we Americans — who never need any excuse to feel that we’re special and everyone needs to do things our way — act as if we are the chosen nation of God, we lose our humility, and we foist ourselves upon the world. Years ago, we lived in South America, and the songs we sang in the church we attended their were English and American hymns, translated into Spanish. Why, in an area rich with tradition, culture, and wisdom as the entire continent of South America, were people singing the same hymns we sang in the U.S., and running their churches the same way we run them into the U.S.?

    We lose much, as Christians in this country, because we learn little from our brothers and sisters from other cultures and backgrounds — they could fill in the gaps of our knowledge, as we could fill in the gaps of theirs, if we weren’t so insistent that our way is the right way of doing things.

  • Anonymous

    Carolyn, Hello As I read your blog on Christian nation it caused me to reflect on the fact that this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian ethics. Yes you are right we are a nation and within in our borders there are many Christians. But the blessing was that from our strength we blessed many nations around the world,not focusing on the immorality but on true Biblical values. What a few did in the founding of this nation does not reflect a negative as you put down some of the enslavement of people as if we were the only guilty of these crimes against mankind; I can think how the Jews were in Egypt and How Gods hand brought them out. I believe we to were inspired by God and His word to become a nation to lead others as an example for others to follow; but because of our failure to look continually at Gods word we have come to a crossroad of virtue.(meaning:conformity of a standard of right.)I wonder how when Our government now has decided to through out (religion/Judeo-Christian values) what will become of this blessed nation?

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Diane: Nice point about the Bill of Rights! As Christians, we frequently forget that it’s not numbers that matter, not majority rules, not one way imposed upon another — but people. The strength of the U.S., or any country, lies in its individual people, because who and what they are will always come through.

    U.S. Christians can lose out on much when we focus on our way of doing things, our way of approaching and interacting with Christ, and feeling that this needs to be imposed upon others. God’s wisdom is given throughout the world, to all the nations, and if we are silent and listen to others speaking, we can grow in our own wisdom.

  • http://Yes! Dear Carolyn

    You are correct. The Bill of Rights safeguards this nation from endorsing one belief system. Many of our Founders were theists, not Christians.


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