I often hear lamented that America is lost. That we have turned away from God, and faith, and Christian values and virtues, and that that is the cause of our current problems and struggles. I hear despair that prayer is forbidden in schools, that too many godless individuals hold power and influence, that the absence of Christian morals is undermining the foundations of our country. That America is a Christian nation, or rightfully should be.
In my perception, there seems to be a logical disconnect here. America is not, and has never been a Christian nation. The problems that plague us today are extreme, but are not new phenomena, in the history of neither the United States nor the rest of the world, and they do not stem from the presence or absence of Christianity in America, but from the nature of men. Moreover, the constitution is very clear:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The words of the Constitution and bill of rights do leave some ambiguity; they do not and could not describe and regulate every aspect and element of the nation and its future. Since 1776 the world has undergone waves of complete change, and in the last thirty an utter and fundamental technological revolution which has completely transformed our lives. In other places, however, the constitution is iron and expressly clear, and contains words which transcend the specifics of any time or society in history:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The majority religion of America has always been Christianity. This has generally corresponded very closely to the moral zeitgeists of America’s past. Not necessarily God, Christianity itself, or the Bible, but the church and its representatives. Christianity has taken many faces throughout America’s history, a large number of them positive, selfless, and benevolent. Countless men and women have found in the Bible, and in Jesus, inspiration to devote themselves to good, and to the aid of others. Christianity has also, however, been abused and manipulated for the most horrible of reasons: to justify slavery and then a tradition of racism and murder that lasted through generation after generation; as a critical element of manifest destiny, and the devastating history of slaughter, dislocation, genocide, and cruelty that the indigenous peoples of the United States suffered at the hands of Americans; or, today, as a platform for corrupt and vile politicians to hide behind. In each case, evil men and women have claimed Jesus and his teachings to have been or to be their motivation. But Jesus did not preach racism and violence, murder and death, or discrimination and dishonesty.
A truly Christian nation would be a far cry from that which we know. As discussed in other articles on the site, a literal implementation of the Bible would likely leave each and every member of our society dead. We’ll base our goals, then, on Jesus an
d his teachings.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy…Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” – Matt 5: 5-9
“But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” – Luke 6: 27-32
“Do not return evil for evil. Avenge not yourselves, but rather give way to wrath…Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”- Romans 12: 17-21
These messages are a stark contrast to the behavior of many people who claim to be guided by these words. They purport that their goal is an implementation of Jesus’ teachings, but their actions do not correspond to Jesus’ calls for love, unity, acceptance, modesty, and forgiveness. Jesus preaches we should not judge; they, however, are full of judgment and criticism for others. By “Christian morals” they understand not the process of looking inwards to identify and strive to end one’s own sins, but rather a despicable quest to regulate and control the lives of others. They ignore Jesus’ words and in his name promote an agenda which, in many instances, is the complete opposite.
Were America to be governed in Jesus’ name, he would be heartbroken to witness the current understanding of “Christian nation.” Selfishness and greed, utter recklessness with the environment, miserliness, judgment, blatant and malicious dishonesty, vengeance, war and death, superiority, racism, bigotry: these things rule in America. And while there are people of all creeds and walks of life at fault, I often find these tragedies coming from those mentioned above, those calling for the revival of “Christian morals,” for the conversion of America into a “Christian nation.”
All people, but especially Christians, weary of this hypocrisy, stand up. Reexamine Jesus’ words, and ask yourself, is today’s America what He wants for us? Let us spread Jesus’ actual words, and redefine the concept of a “Christian nation,” and truly make it happen in America – let us make America into a place of tolerance, love, unity, a place without judgment, where all are free to seek happiness and coexist peacefully with their fellow men and women.