flag-picture1I know it is popular for Christians to proclaim that our nation is Christian.  To fight for Christian values based on that premise, but is it true?  What is it about our nation that makes it Christian?  Is it that which it was founded on, or that which defines it now?  It is almost as if a lot of Americans think there is special blessing on America as God’s own, as if our nation is the ‘New Israel.’  I know it is not spoken aloud, but is spoken in our behavior.

Does it really make sense for us to expect our neighbors to act like Christians, when they are not?  To love God, when they hate Him?   To love God’s law, when they hate it?   We ask the ungodly to stop having abortions.  We ask the ungodly to not be homosexuals.  We are essentially asking the ungodly to act like the godly.  Would it not be more productive to be out proclaiming the gospel with the same vigor that we protest abortion?

I have a difficult time with this issue.  Of course I want to continue to have religious freedom, and yes our country was founded on that.  I want the freedom to worship the way I see fit, to educate my children in the way I want to, and so on.  But was our country really founded on Christianity, or was it founded on freedom?  If our country really is a Christian nation,  what kind of Christian nation is it?  Baptist?  Presbyterian?  Lutheran?   Anglican?  ‘Non-denominational’?  Catholic?   If we are a Christian Nation, does it not take away our freedom to worship the way we want?  Many of our Christian Churches already disagree on that.

Where does this leave us, as Christians,  in our current political climate?  To the same thing that we have been called to all along.  To worship the way God has called us to.  To love our neighbors as ourselves.  To preach the gospel, to all the world, which includes those who are all around us.  And maybe, just maybe, with a revival of hearts in America, the conversion of souls to Christ, we will see the right kind of change.  For at the end of the day, our hope is in Christ, not in our nation.

Update: It is important for us to remember The Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms.  You can be a citizen of the U.S.  and still protest abortion.  (Thank you to my sister Courtney Rosenbladt for reminding me of this.)

And in the words of Martin Luther on the subject:

God has ordained the two governments: the spiritual, which by the Holy Spirit under Christ makes Christians and pious people; and the secular, which restrains the unchristian and wicked so that they are obliged to keep the peace outwardly… The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth. For over the soul God can and will let no one rule but himself. Therefore, where temporal power presumes to prescribe laws for the soul, it encroaches upon God’s government and only misleads and destroys souls. We desire to make this so clear that every one shall grasp it, and that the princes and bishops may see what fools they are when they seek to coerce the people with their laws and commandments into believing one thing or another.

2nd Update: Linked at The Tree of Mamre – thanks!

24 comments
  1. Coleen,

    This is quite in line with my own thinking. As I said on Facebook, I often wonder if this was founded as a Christian nation, or founded as a free country by Christians. Too many Christians of all denominations think the former; my heart and my faith tell me the latter.

  2. Unfortunately, twentieth century propaganda has hidden a great deal from our citizenry today about the Founding Fathers and our form of government. Separation of Church and State propaganda has us believing that the First Amendment means something that it doesn't and consequently, we cringe at the mention of God or Jesus in the political realm. Jefferson stated in his Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom:

    “Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either.”

    Our philosophy of liberty and government in the Declaration of Independence presupposes a Supreme Being who gave us our rights because his Universal Law prohibits murder (creating a right to life) and prohibits theft (creating our right to property). And, as Jefferson demonstrated God, is the author of Religious Liberty. Accordingly, our civil laws should be in conformity, not conflict with God's moral laws. When the civil laws conflict with the moral law, people either lose their moral sense or they lose their respect for the law. Either leads to a nation's destruction.

    Does this reality in any way infringe on the religious freedom of atheist, agnostics, buddhists…etc? Does it require them to worship a certain way? No, it does not. It protects their rights along with everyone else. They can choose to believe in God or not, but He is still the author of liberty.

    Should we allow their disbelief to convince us that rights don't come from God because they don't believe he exists? What does that mean for the “blessings of liberty” on a nation? Can God bless a nation whose civil laws are not obedient to his moral laws (against theft, murder…etc.)? The Founders did not think so and I think the last 100 years in our nation has verified their wisdom.

  3. It does seem that what our country was founded on was freedom in God, not Christianity.

    We are all blessed by God with His common grace. Just look around you. Even the ungodly enjoy food, wine, air, etc. And even the ungodly enjoy certain freedoms, regardless of their country. They just may or may not be punished for these. And yes, the thing that makes our country great, is that in view of a creator, we take hold of certain liberties. It is however not in view of Christ, and the freedom that comes with faith in Him.

    Thank you for your comments, you had some good points.

  4. I see God all over our nation when I take off my “Christian” glasses. Our desire to treat all people equally, to help the poor, our battle against slavery and advancement of civil rights (to name a few) sets us apart from many (if not all) other nations. We may not be “Christian” in a theological sense but we certainly express some great biblical principles like compassion.

  5. You are right that we don't have a “Christian” nation. We do have a nation that was built on Judeo-Christian principles, but not the Gospel. To imply a Christian nation is to imply a theocracy, and we don't have any such thing.

    I think what most people react to is the misinterpretation of the First Amendment. Secularists get all bent out of shape regarding the establishment clause and take it to places that the Founders never intended and they tend to forget about the free exercise clause. We don't want the government establishing religion for the reasons you give – whose religion (or in the case of a Christian – whose denomination)? However allowing kids to pray on their own initiative shouldn't be considered as establishment.

    Ultimately the First Amendment is about protecting the Church from the State, not the reverse – how many came to America to escape religious persecution? From nations with state-run Churches. They saw that history born out the state doesn't run the church very well. Let the two remain separate. Let the state govern, and the Church proclaim the Gospel.

    This doesn't mean individual Christians can't run for office as some secularists (and even some Christians) believe. I believe Christians can and show. It is part of being salt and light. We are to make disciples where ever we go and that doesn't preclude Washington, D.C. and state capitols. They can also exercise wisdom in making decisions, etc. Does that mean Christians always make the best elected officials? No. Martin Luther once said, “I'd rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.” I say amen to that (Jimmy Carter anyone?).

    But in the end, Coleen, the primary calling for a believer is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Government can't transform lives, but the Gospel can and will.

  6. I agree with everything you said. Please read what else I have written on the post about the two kingdoms.

    The other thing that gets me, is it seems that legalistic Christians almost want to impose Law on everyone around. My sis and I have had experiences with non-Christians in which we tell them the gospel, and they are shocked to find out the gospel. Probably because they thought that obeying the law first was what was entailed.

  7. Our basic moral assumptions make us Christian.

    Even folks who aren't Christian but are fairly normal Americans wouldn't go the Greek route, where the limping Hephaestus was as bad as rapist/murderer/adulterer Zeus; neither would we go the route of Old Japan, and kill a shipwreck victim for landing on our shores while an outsider; nor would we go the traditional “Shame” culture route, where you can be a serial killer with a clear conscience– so long as no-one knows.

    Even those here who will abort a child they cannot see will rightly despise the mothers who kill their toddlers; even the woman who sleeps with a dozen men will be hurt by the betrayal when the next one proves false.

    We don't seem very Christian from the inside, because we can see how horrible the failures are; from the outside, though?

    We will not steal the women and children of our enemies to be torture on TV, for our entertainment and the enemy's harm; we care for the enemy we just shot, because he is not currently able to be a threat; we didn't glass the middle east ages ago and just take the @#[email protected]# oil, already.

    Our very culture is Christian at a very basic level.

  8. Even if our country was 'founded' on Judea Christian values, doesn't mean that our country is Christian.

  9. Thanks for the thoughts Shane, I have wrestled with this myself, it's good to see someone else wrestling with the same issues. I have to agree with Kansas Bob – when you get outside the US, you really see how many things in our nation are based on Christian principles – justice, self-sacrifice for the good of others, not cutting in lines 🙂 Other countries w/o Christian worldviews lack these things we accept as normal. Also, who sends relief and support when bad things happen (tsunamis, earthquakes, etc). Is it the Muslim nations? The communist nations? The animist nations? No – it is the western nations that have a history of Christianity – even if these nations do not follow Christ any more.

  10. Just so you know, my comment was not in argument with anything that you said, but rather reiterating my own points.

    I actually loved your last sentence, with your use of the word culture.

    Thanks for your comments.

  11. *grin* I want to be really, really clear about what I say– I hate defending stuff I don't agree with! (Lord knows I can get in enough trouble on my own….)

    I'm glad you like it…I wish I could get my uncle to blog, he's an oldish bard and vet that can explain how deep the basic assumptions go, while I can just kinda fumble to get the idea across.

  12. “Other countries w/o Christian worldviews lack these things we accept as normal. “

    Like Japan?

  13. Of course you are right, that we do have Christian principles. And maybe in view of the two kingdom theory, we do bring into the world that which we are influenced by in the spiritual.

  14. You are missing something….seriously, read “The Hope of the World.” Read the whole article: http://tinyurl.com/r68y2c

    And read the writings of our founders. It is impossible to understand what they formed and why through the lenses of today's less than Christian worldview.

    I shared your conclusion before I embarked a journey to truly understand our heritage. I was not a Christian at that time, by the way – so I wasn't looking to validate my hopes.

  15. I hope that you understand that I am not arguing that America was not founded on Christian values, etc. I am also not going to argue about the faith of the founding fathers, whether they be Christians or deists (even though I have an opinion.)

    My point focuses much more on the fact that while I do think we have received a special blessing, being freedom, I am not willing to call our nation Christian. I could probably make a point that our prosperity has contributed to our Evangelical crisis. We don't 'need' God anymore. Life has been good.

    But full disclosure here: I am reformed through and through. So therefore, I am going to lean on the side of Calvin and Luther on the two kingdoms. I see a clear distinction.

    The other thing is that these thoughts a mere blip on the full picture I am trying to paint. It may in writing be hard to discuss this in detail. My husband and I enjoy theological discussions like this with wine, beer, cigars, etc (I am not the one with a cigar) on a Saturday night around the fire pit. But for all I know, you are one of our friends, using a pen name. Just kidding with you.

  16. I'm not sure what “Christian nation” is supposed to mean, precisely. What is clear is that Christians make up a majority of the population, but so too in Britain, Italy and Brazil – but so what?

    When it comes to our culture's moral free-fall, I find a lot of wisdom (if not comfort) in Aladair MacIntyre's AFTER VIRTUE. Early on in the book he documents how we simply have no common ground on which to settle issues like abortion or what constitutes a just war. Aft the end of the book he looks to the past and asks, has humanity had similar situations before? and if so, how did people respond?

    He points to St. Benedict's movement to start monasteries as the Empire was waning. What seems like retreat from the world was really a rebuilding of civiilzation through deliberate communities. It allowed us to exist and to prevent barbarism from winning.

    MacIntyre argues that we are in a similar spot today: barbarism or civilization. Christian civilization. Not waiting for Godot, but Benedict says Big Mac.

    I think he's right. Christians in America seem obsessed today with politics as an answer to the needs of our heart, which is a curious form of idolatry (being Catholic I'm well familiar with idolatry!). As Julian Carron recently said, “For us, this situation [Obama's election] is an occasion to discover what Christ means for our life: whether He is really in the foreground, is the foundation of our hope, or whether faith is only one part of our life, but not the most dear thing. Obama is not the problem; Bush is not the problem. These are occasions for us: if it weren’t Obama, it would be something else, another circumstance, your job, an illness, or whatever. The circumstance is not the problem: it allows us to recognize what our foundation is. Don’t be angry with Obama; Obama is not the cause, the reason for your anger. Obama represents a moment in the history of the world. He will pass away in some years, like everybody, you know? He’s not forever. But this is an occasion in order that we might recognize what the foundation of our hope is and what the foundation of our life is. <http://www.clonline.us/readings/ntldiaco09_Sun.pdf>

    Christ is always greater! Greater than the Republicrats or whomever holds the keys to power as the world understands it. Can I get an “Amen”?

  17. Thanks for sharing this. Some good thoughts on the subject.

    I like this.
    “Christians in America seem obsessed today with politics as an answer to the needs of our heart,”

    I have to disagree with the point that we shouldn't be angry at Obama. Let me tell you why I am- First, how dare he call himself a Christian and not act like one. If he was in my denomination, he would be excommunicated, unless he repented and turned from his ways. But he would be under church discipline.

    I am also upset about what he is doing to our country. One thing after another. And is it not righteous anger to despise him for stands he has taken against the unborn?

    And yet having said all of that, when the Denver Post was at our home on election night for our election party, and interviewed me and several of my republican friends, the reporter was shocked that each one of us over and over brought up the sovereignty of God. Because at the end of the day, regardless who is president, my treasure is with Christ, not with Bush or Obama.

  18. I can say an Amen to “Christ is always greater.”

    “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together,” (Colossians 1:16-17, ESV).

    I echo what Coleen says, but also take issue with Great Britain being made up of all Christians… Europe is thoroughly post-Christian and has been so for years.

  19. Christian in what sense? I would agree that G.B., Italy, and Brazil are not made up of folks who understand Christ to be the meaning of everything. But if I'm honest, I often pay more lip service to Christ in my life than I live out the reality of my Baptism.

    So I meant Christian in the sense of being baptized and at least giving nominal assent to the claim of Christ in their lives. I'm just not comfortable speculating on another's spiritual state. I think Americans in practice (looking at law and culture) are very much like the English – who, according to some wag – say God doesn't exist, but it is good to pray to Him on occasion. The American Creed would go something like this: Jesus is Lord, but it is not profitable to let Him influence things too much.

    There is much fanciful and unfair in Harold Bloom's THE AMERICAN RELIGION, but I found it helpful in understanding how American Christology (practical, not theological) is basically gnostic and de-incarnational: I don't know what a Christian nation would look like or if it's even desirable, but I don't think this is it. I think the notion arose from low church Englishmen who needed an authority beyond the Scriptures to hang their hats upon. A useful fiction, but a fiction that has become increasingly dangerous.

    Ceasar should always remain relative; Christ and the Church of supreme importance.

    And I think we as a nation are traveling the same road Europe has (i.e., Post-Christian); we're merely slower in getting there. God's grace or our mental laxness, I don't know which. When a European reads Nietzsche, if he agrees, he'll change his life; Americans are capable of assenting to Nietzsche, Marx, Max Weber, Robert Schuller, Fulton J. Sheen and Jesus without any sense of internal contradiction. (Perhaps this is because Americans are so “pragmatic” [an impractical religion if one there ever was] and we scorn philosophy; whereas in Europe, ideas are taken seriously – perhaps too seriously)

    I don't how we'll know when we've “achieved” Post-Christian status or what its significance will be. Christ will still be everything – whether MTV, Oprah and the majority of Americans recognize this is a different matter entirely.

    In my work as a (public, that is, government) high school teacher I try to keep in mind that because Christ is everything, the power of the state cannot prevent me from communicating Christ. Oh, they can regulate what I say or don't say, but they cannot regulate my humanity. All these people running around saying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” and it doesn't do much of anything; now the Presence of Christ: that's something that does something – with or without words.

    I don't have a formula for how Christians ought to relate to the state, but I think we forget that Christian culture begins with Christ, not Ceasar. When I let Christ lead me, good things happen; things get built. As I see it, our schools are a place to begin building.

  20. Great thoughts. You obviously have thought about this issue. It is even more personal when you are actually working for our supposed Christian Nation.

    It is a difficult thing to be a public school teacher in this day and age. My Mom just retired a couple of years ago from being a Christian teacher in a public school in southern California. She saw a great decline especially in the last several years of her 40+ years teaching.

    Many prayers for you, as you continue in a truly high calling.

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