Monday, June 11, 2007

The Myth of a Christian Nation

Melissa Rogers quotes Tom Krattenmaker of USA Today on the "pointless argument about whether or not America is a Christian nation."

Whether this country is Christian depends entirely on how we define the terms, of course. Our Constitution: secular. Our history and culture: religious.

And what do we mean by "religious"? If we're talking about rhetoric, volume and public display, it has been a very religious time indeed. If we mean behavior that creates peace, extends compassion to the less fortunate and reaches out to strangers outside our borders, we have a way to go. If we are a Christian nation, shouldn't we more consistently behave like one?

Definitions are everything. America is very religious, but not very Christ-like. (H/T Carlos)

17 comments:

selahV said...

I wonder, Tony. Exactly what does Melissa Rogers think will satisfy the world view of America being a Christian nation? According to her it's all about extension of compassion...(Indonesian Tsuenami comes to mind) and millions and millions of dollars in aid. And our military losing their lives and being maimed in defense of freedom and democracy in countries around the world. As I recall it was Reagan who called for Gorbachev to "tear down that wall". Was that not seeking peace?
And we've let over 12 Million Mexicans ("strangers outside our borders") come in and work and rape and kill (just like Americans are allowed to do). That doesn't count the millions of LEGAL immigrants that we open our arms to and churches help teach English to and help get American citizenship.

We as Southern Baptists have spent countless millions in efforts to share the gospel with the world so they will have "religion" (if you want to call it that). And there is untold amounts of billions that American churches i.e. Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, AOG, and others have spent overseas.

I wonder if we did a dollar for dollar count and a person for person count in the world, how other countries would measure up next to the United States of America.

Personally, I'm tired of being potmarked for the liberal left, the Hollywood perversions which do not depict the "heart" and "soul" of the American mainstream. Yes, we are a Christian nation. And when the ACLU starts defending our rights to display crosses in America and our right to free speech in public assemblies, then maybe we will be projected by the media in a better light.

But they don't see my friends paying doctor bills, light bills and delivering food to the less fortunate who aren't members of our churches. They don't see the visits and ministries to prisons and jails. They don't see the Falwell hope offered to babies saved from the clutches of abortion. No. All they see is the propaganda of the fallen icons. That's all that makes the news.

If we are so horrible why is everyone wanting to live here?

Just another way of looking at things. selahV

Tony said...

I am not convinced we are a Christian nation. I do not disagree with the thrust of your comment, but I don't like couching compassion in fiscal responsibility.

Do you mind if I pose a few questions?

Do you know about how many Christians can name all ten of the ten commandments? About 40%.

Do you know how many could name the greatest commandment? Less than 40%.

Did you know that in 2004 our country provided the second least amount of foreign aid to any poor country, less than 18 cents a day? All of our money stays here in the states to help ourselves. Nevertheless, 18% of American people live below poverty levels.

Did you know that the US is the most violent nation in the world? According to Amnesty International we have the sixth highest number of executions in the world in 06.

The US has a murder rate five times that of our European cousins and we are the only western democracy that still uses capital punishment. Did you see my post on VA's sordid history with the death penalty?

In America, marriages break up at over fifty percent. In pagan Netherlands, divorce is only about 37%. America tops the charts in teenage pregnancies.

Then, there are other tertiary issues (sorry, couldn't help myself) like obesity, credit card fraud and debt, education standards, and the mounting government deficit.

I agree that illegal immigrants are bleeding the country. Yet I have admired that Washington is actually concerned about that and they are trying to take steps to remedy it. I am torn about evangelistic efforts to illegals and the drastic effect they have on the economy.

So that is how I see the way things measure up. I also am tired of the pockmarks--but we cannot do anything about the media; refuse to watch, that's about it. And the media won't report on our individual churches helping out our communities, but why should they? Even Jesus said, "Don't let the left hand know what the right hand is doing."

Our reward should be from God, not the national presses.

Add to that the biblical illiteracy in the pews (and in the pulpits for that matter), the fact that America is the only developed country where the Gospel is not advancing and in America is the only place membership in our churches is declining (and in other denominations as well), so for me, "Christian nation" seems pretty mythical.

Thanks for a good discussion!

selahV said...

tony...to your questions :)...do you want me to answer them or are they rhetorical? :)

One in particular grabbed me. the one regarding how Christianity is measured by money. I don't agree that it ought to be measured that way...I'm saying that it is measured that way by the world (in many cases, even other Christians).

Pockmarks? I knew that was wrong when I typed in potmarked and for some reason forgot to go back and correct it. lol. Thanks for the gentle correction.

To most of your questions, I have to answer "no", I didn't know that. But since all those heathen countries are doing better than us, what constitutes them being labeled heathen?

I see America as a wheat field. The tares have been allowed to grow up for so long that the field is overcome with them. You can hardly see the wheat. Nevertheless, if God can find but one righteous man, He may not destroy our Sodom. That's my attempt at analogy. I hope ya don't think I'm dismissing your mountain of evidence against America. I am fully aware of the magnitude of our sins. Just not as statistically informed of the sins.

Tony, I enjoy the discussion, too. Why? because I know we are friends and therefore the discussion isn't about you or me, but the subject and how we see it. With such discussions we are able to reach across the river which divides us (aisle), bring each other across and then we are able to view the scene from their side of the river. Thanks for reaching, I see your view. I really do. selahV

Steve Sensenig said...

Tony and SelahV,

This is a really good discussion, and I have enjoyed the spirit both of you have shown in your responses.

Maybe the answer is not in the question of whether or not America is a Christian nation, but whether God still puts His hand on nations in that sense.

The Christian lingo of our nation seems to really muddy the waters. Phrases like "God bless America", especially when used in the context of military action against other nations...

Well, I'll resist the urge to get on a soapbox here! ;)

Tony said...

Selah,

About heathen countries and America, which many do suppose is a Christian nation (though honestly, I am not sure what exactly that is supposed to mean), I find the contrast startling that as religious as Americans claim to be, in general character and values assessments of the general public, those countries with much less or no biblical knowledge, or even where religion is not at all part of their society, they seem to be more moral (how ever you would like to gauge that, and I know its an esoteric thing).

I have found similar correlations in that the states with the highest crime rates, highest teen pregnancies, most trouble with violent offenders, etc are Bible belt states.

Massachusetts, where gay marriage was first legalized, has the lowest divorce rate (of heterosexual couples ;) ) of any in the union.

Those states that still use the death penalty have the highest murder rates. That is why I say America may be very religious, but not very Christ-like.

I like your wheat field analogy. I think it is appropriate and it makes sense.

Steve,

Feel free to rant!

The Christian lingo seems to give people credibility in the public square. Though I have not read it, I remember the title of one of Richard Land's books, Imagine a God-Blessed America. I don't know the primary thrust of it, but lingo like that conjures up images of God's favor resting upon America regardless of hos she conducts herself and I think it is used almost as a talisman or rabbit's foot.

As long as we are "blessed by God", whatever that is supposed to mean, then we are OK to conduct affairs how we see fit, even military action against other nations...

selahV said...

Tony: I wish we were sitting at your picnic table discussing this stuff. It's so hard to remember the first thought that pops into my mind as I read your comments.

I think others perceive America as Christian because we have freedom that other countries do not have. I think in many respects that others equate freedom and liberty with Christianity. But there is another aspect that is called into play. We support Israel's right to sovereignty.

I once had a speech therapist in Connecticut who happened to be a Jew. She assumed that anyone not born a Jew was a Christian in the USA. She didn't have a good taste in her mouth about Christians because of the wars in Israel. That may have something to do with it. But it's certain that our decadence, penchant for materialism and self-indulgence has fueled the Moslem debate that America is heathen and from hell.

I like to think the majority of the world doesn't think like the powers which control them when it comes to American's generosity. But the point you make about religion is key. It is not viewed that we are Christlike, it's viewed that we are religious. And religion is what wars have been fought over since the Old Testament. Even Hitler (who claimed to be a Christian) was conducting a war on the faith of Jews and anyone supporting them.

Steve: hello. Haven't ever chatted with you. God's grace be upon you. Of course God's hand is upon us. His hand is sovereign, it's on everyone. He holds this world in His palm like I do a marble. I can twist and turn that marble anyway I wish. It's still a marble. I can smash that marble to smitherines because I don't like the color of that marble, or I can leave it as it is even though I don't like the color of that marble. We are what God allows us to be, in my understanding of God.

"Christian lingo? God Bless America"...not consistent in the context of using military? What about David and his thousands that were killed? What about Joshua and Jericho? What about Gideon? And Babylon taking over Israel?

They all cried out to God for His blessing upon their unmerited protection. Should we not do the same? What if a man was beating a child to death across the street and he had three men standing there with guns to ward off any who'd interfere. Would it not be moral for me to go in the house and get my gun and shoot those suckers to aid the child?

I know, I know...someone's gonna say that is a strawman or comparing apples to oranges. I just think we get a bit too picky when it comes to downgrading Christianity by way of their adopted hymns.

By and by, we'll understand it better by and by.
Sincerely yours, selahV

Steve Sensenig said...

selah, just a brief comment since I'm in the middle of a rehearsal right now and don't have a huge amount of time to type... :)

You used several examples from OT Israel, and I think that is a significant difference.

Israel was a national entity chosen by God. But the Kingdom of God revealed by Jesus is not a political, national entity.

Application of OT Israel concepts to America is dangerous, in my opinion.

With regard to your other example (the man beating the child), I think I would like to think hard about how to word my response and not type it real fast in the middle of rehearsal like I'm in now!

steve :)

selahV said...

Steve: to "Application of OT Israel concepts to America is dangerous, in my opinion." geesh, bro, I didn't load a gun or nothing. How dangerous is bringing up a captive nation to, uh...who's it dangerous for? me?

Please, please, please steve, before you take each and every thought I write and change it into a sword, understand, when I dialogue with Tony, I'm not out to press a view. EVER. Nor am I drawing a sword to carve up someone else's view. I'm just little ol' me sitting in Oklahoma (part of the heart of America) tip-tappin a top-of-my-head response to his delightful thought-provoking posts.

please don't feel pressed to address my feeble attempt at the "child-beating" analogy. My reasoning is so wacky I've been accused of being ignorant. And who knows, maybe I am. Ignorance is bliss. And I'm so blissful. ;)

Wha'cha rehearsing? Do you act? sincerely yours, selahV

Tony said...

Selah,

Sittin' at a picnic table right now would be really nice, especially given the weather we have had of late; mid seventies, light breezes, picture perfect skies...oops, I'm daydreaming again.

My pastor in SC before I went to seminary and then God called me to VA, used to preach a sermon every patriotic holiday that dichotomized patriotism and Christianity. He would say that the freedom we enjoy in Christianity is based on the freedom we have in Christ and that western democracy is the seed bed of evangelism and freedom from sin.

Is it? It seems that the eastern church as well as churches south of the equator are flourishing much more so than any American church. American patriotism and American Christianity have deleteriously merged into one.

Your example about the speech therapist really betrays my point. Don't we sometimes stereotype people because of geography, skin color (though not racially demeaning), or language?

Too many folks think American equals Christian. But it really just means religious because by far we are the most religious people on the globe. And there is a marked difference between religion and relationship!

Oh, and btw, Steve is harmless!

Steve Sensenig said...

SelahV,

I didn't mean to turn your words into a sword. Honestly. I'm sorry that typing in such a hurry caused such a poor choice of words.

What I meant is that applying the concept of national Israel in the OT to America, when the Kingdom of God is not a political entity can lead to some mistaken conclusions that cause some of what we see happening in evangelical Christianity.

At any rate, I'm sorry you thought I was turning it around on you. That was not my heart or my desire.

Re: rehearsal, I'm the Music Director for a professional stage company here in the area. I occasionally act, but very little. Almost all of my work is in the area of music directing.

Currently, we're in production with one show and rehearsing another show at the same time. It's an exhausting schedule that I'm not real crazy about!! ;)

Blessings,
steve :)

Raborn Johnson said...

Tony,
Thanks for hosting a fine conversation!

I believe that we as the Church have bought into a brand of Christianity that has more to do with ensuring our comfort level within society than actually transforming it. We are so wrapped up in making sure that we can pray before a school function, keep "in God we trust" on our money and fight the ACLU that we fail to realize that we are being lulled into a "form of godliness" while we "deny the power thereof". Most of our efforts within the courts and public square are focused on making sure we maintain a culture of Christianity, yet I believe that this very culture gives us a false sense of security by leading us to believe we are "preaching the gospel" when we are simply enforcing an ethical standard. Legislating morality is not the same as preaching Christ and Him crucified. The former is nothing more than trying to Christianize our country. The latter looks beyond the surface, and rather than simply dressing up the dead man breathes new life into him instead.

selahV said...

Tony: so sorry about my story about the speech therapist. I hadn't meant it to "betray" your point.

To you last statement "Too many folks think American equals Christian. But it really just means religious because by far we are the most religious people on the globe. And there is a marked difference between religion and relationship!", I AGREE. sincerely, selahV
P.S. I didn't think Steve was harmful at all. Just wanted him to know I wasn't being arguementative with you. Just chattin" ;>)

selahV said...

Raborn Johnson: wow! that is one of the most succinct posts on where we are in the USA that I've ever read. profound, indeed. If everything you write is equally so, then I shall enjoy reading your blog. If you have one.

When the Judge in Alabama was fighting to keep the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, I wondered why all the folks who supported that didn't have a tablet of those commandments displayed on their front lawns. And as Tony so aptly related, I wondered how many of the protesters who espoused keeping them in the public arena knew what each of them were and what they meant.

When people have been in an uproar over the crosses being removed from the roadsides, I've wondered why more don't have crosses at their mailbox posts. When people concern themselves with praying in the schools, I wondered how many pray with their children at the breakfast table "BEFORE" they leave for school. I think we as battling Christians are straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

I'm going to click onto your name after I post this comment and peruse your thoughts. selahV

Tony said...

Raborn,

I must echo Selah's sentiment; well said! Well said!

And that "culture of Christianity" is what is strangling the life out of us. Thanks for a fine comment.

Selah,

Regarding your return comment to Raborn, I am reminded of the new covenant where Jeremiah prophesied that the law would be written on our hearts. I often thought about that during Roy Moore's "fight" to keep the Ten Commandments and then Jerry Falwell's putting them on display at LU.

If they really were on our hearts we wouldn't have to fight so hard, I don't think. Raborn referred to this in a post he once wrote called "Quantifiable Christianity."

And Selah, don't worry, Steve is a lot bigger than me (by about four inches!), but I'm sure I'm quicker. I think I can take him. ;)

Steve Sensenig said...

hehe, you're probably right, Tony! :)

elder's wife said...

Tony-
I realize this is an old post, but I'm just getting around to reading some blogs again. Good subject.
Rayborn-
I don't know you, but your comments are right on target. America as a country has hidden behind the "Christian culture" for far too long...and we who are Christians in America have allowed our government and our churches to "do our living" for us. We think that by electing "moral" leadership we will please God.
God does not need my vote (although I vote)...He needs my heart and my obedience to His Holy Spirit and to His Word each day.
Everything else is just religious hot air, whether it comes from an elected government official or the president of my religious denomination. And you can see right through hot air.
Also, as Steve said, there is a distinction between Israel (called by God to be His people) and America (called by our founders to be God's people). Never mind the arguments about whether the Church replaces Israel, Jesus never promised to live in a political entity. He told His disciples that He would live in them. He told the church that where two or three were gathered, He would be there. It is true that God is Sovereign, and "the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord"...but Christ indwells only believers. Only believers can claim to be "Christian". Everything else is just a knock-off.

Tony said...

Kat--

Glad to see you again. Don't worry about this being an old post; feel free to comment anywhere you feel like it.

I agree about Raborn's comments; he typically is right on, that is WHEN he comments (are you listening, Raborn?!?) ;)

Steve hit on something also that I think is important and that is the apparent dichotomization of Israel with the United States. Somehow we think we are better than everyone else on the planet, more advanced technologically, medically, industrially, economically, etc. and so on ad infinitum, and since Israel was chosen by God, therefore many Americans parallel themselves with OT Israel.

Because obviously, since we enjoy such material prosperity, then also God must have His hand upon the US, and a faulty equivocation is the result.

I am glad you found your way back over. I have you in my reader and haven't seen any posts from you in a while. Hope you'll be blogging again soon!