Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Christian Nation?

It is interesting to me that some of those who are first to say the United States of America is not a Christian nation are also some of the first to expect it to act like one! Andrew Daugherty provides one example in No, Pastor Jeffress (and others), America is not a Christian nation. And here’s why it matters.

Daugherty points out that “The message that ‘America is a Christian nation’ is flat-out false factually, legally and practically” and that “It is the latest sideshow in the endless culture war built on the fiction that the Framers in Philadelphia in 1787 intended to constitute a Christian nation.”[i] He quotes Baptist forefather John Leland: “The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever.”[ii] He might also have quoted National forefather John Adams: “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

But then, to make his case, he exhibits a clear bias toward believing in some instances the United States ought to operate in a manner that fits his view of Christian policy (and condemns when it does not). “Contrary to Jeffress’ claim, we can’t put kids in cages and call ourselves a Christian nation. We can’t deny healthcare to people who can’t afford it and call ourselves a Christian nation.” Now, I ask, Mr. Daugherty, if you argue that the United States is not (and never has been) a Christian nation, why are you expecting the nation to operate according to your own view of Christian principles? Consistency, thou art a jewel.

Speaking in principle, ethical behavior is right for everyone, but the ethical behavior of each one will be based on his or her standards of right and wrong. Acting in ways consistent with one’s view of right and wrong will (or should) for the Jew be based on the understanding of the Old Testament, on the Bible (OT & NT) for the Christian, the Qur’an for the Muslim, the Bhagavad Gita for the Hindu, and so on. Since the United States of America is neither Jewish, Christian, Muslim, nor Hindu, the ethics of the U. S. as a nation must be based on its Constitution and laws, proceeding in ways consistent with those.

People have hearts. Nations have laws. The laws of all the other nations of the world are not the laws of the United States. If we as a nation are not following our own laws, we should hope to correct those. If we as a nation have laws that are not good, we should try to change those. If we as a nation have laws that are good, we should try to follow those. We who are Christians have a right to propose and promote laws in keeping with our Christian worldview, without expecting the United States of America to be a Christian nation.

[i] While on the one hand it is clear that the framers did not intend to constitute a Christian nation constitutionally and politically, on the other hand it is obvious historically that the primary heritage of our nation is from a Judeo-Christian worldview.
[ii] Leland also wrote, in A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia: “Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

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