Tuesday, August 22, 2006

CHRISTIAN AMERICA

For most of my life as a Christian, I have heard tales about a mythical land called “Christian America,” a country which was founded by God, or at least by Christians, to be a special nation. I have heard, however, that this nation has left its course, strayed from its original purpose, and is or almost is, no longer what it was intended to be.

Occasionally I hear or read laments about the loss of this mythical land and expressions of desire to see it restored. I hear that it is our responsibility to act (often, but not always, politically) toward this restoration, to “take America back for God.”

But is this restoration desirable or even possible? I contend that it is neither. First of all it is impossible to restore “Christian America” because it never existed. This mythology runs counter to both history and the Bible.

It is true that a great number of the early settlers of this land were Christians fleeing persecution for their faith in other lands (mostly “Christian Europe”) and wanted to set up, as the early Puritans said, “a city on a hill.” However, many of the early settlers did not come here with so noble a purpose, but were opportunists, looking to make their fortune. And even those who came for religious freedom were often only desirous of that freedom for themselves and others of the same persuasion. They denied freedom, to and sometimes became persecutors of, those who thought differently than they did.

Though our founding fathers were definitely influenced by the Bible and biblical morality, they were also influenced by Enlightenment thinking. The references in the Declaration of Independence to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” are not exactly references to the God revealed in Scripture. The God of the Declaration is closer to the God of Deism. This is to be expected since its author, Thomas Jefferson, was not a Christian (except by a very loose definition), nor were many of the others. The fact that they often quoted Scripture simply tells us that they read the Scriptures.

The morality of early America was influenced by the Bible but that doesn’t mean it was biblical. Though our present age has its share of evils, the early nation had its share as well: slavery, mistreatment of native Americans, violence toward one another. Dueling was an acceptable way of settling a dispute. According to some statistics, church attendance was extremely low.

But the strongest argument against the concept of Christian America is biblical. The Bible leaves absolutely no room for this idea. God is sovereign in setting up ALL nations, according to Daniel 4:17, “ … In order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm (Kingdom) of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes, and sets over it the lowliest of men.” (See also Daniel 4:32, 34b, 35; 5:21b.) God sets up all nations, not just America. That means He set up Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, Nero’s Rome (Romans 13:1), the USA and its current government, as well as Iran and North Korea.

America is one of “the kingdoms of this world,” or more specifically, it is a part of “the Kingdom (singular) of this world.” It is not part of “the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15). These are two separate kingdoms and will remain so until Jesus Christ returns in glory to make “the Kingdom of the world” into His Kingdom.

We are told by Paul in Philippians 3:20, that “our citizenship is in Heaven.” Peter tells us we are “resident aliens” in this world (1 Peter 1:1). As residents of this world we have obligations to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesars” (Matthew 22:21). We are to pray for all those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1, 2), to submit to authorities (Romans 13:1-5), pay our taxes (Romans 13:6, 7), but we are to do this primarily because we are citizens of Heaven.

So, if this country is not, never was, and never will be, “Christian America,” we who are followers of Christ don’t need to waste our time and efforts on restoring it to what it never was. We need not long for some golden age of America’s past. We are also free to deal with sinners as sinners in need of a Savior and not as evil conspirators trying to take away our country.

Bill Ball
8-21-2006

4 comments:

Pashnada said...

I often think about this when I hear about the Ten Commandments being put up or taken down somewhere. The law was replaced by grace because the law didn't work - it didn't make us able to enter God's Kingdom. Posting it may make some see their sin but it mainly makes us see others' sins.

To expect Americans or anyone else to act like Christians without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is counter-productive. Why give someone the false hope that cuz they behave properly or live in a Christian America they are going to be members of the Kingdom of God?

Let's worry more about sharing God's amazing grace thru the person and work of Jesus and less about returning America to some so-called golden age.

(I say so-called cuz for most members of our society it was not golden - as well as slavery and the treatment of native americans you mentioned, there was the exploitation of children and the treatment of women as second-class, non-voting citizens. I don't wanna go back there, thank you~~~)

Steve Spinella said...

Bill, rage on.

But isn't it reasonable that those who are Christian and Americans feel such a strong sense of ownership in both that they blur them together? Isn't that kind of a sweet thing in an innocent sort of way?

So if they do good things with this undergirding value, supported by the myth of a Christian america (meaning USA of course, but let's not quibble in the face of such sweet good will....) hey, isn't that great!

If they do bad things, we'll probably get farther by meeting them on their ground, in the midst of their myths, than by asking the dear people to flush a cherished myth down the drain....

Gabe said...

I'm late to the game here but wanted to put in my 2 cents on this topic - it is close to my heart after 10years in public education.

People turn out in huge numbers to protest and demand that 'prayer be allowed in school' and to defend our right to pray before a football game. But, in the face of this "persecution" most of the indignant remain completely inactive in their faith - spiritually growing, evangelizing, discipling. The apparent truth is that many aren't mad about lost freedoms but the loss of a 'vicarious' faith.

Steven R. Cook said...

It's funny that I did an article on this very issue not to long ago. Would like your thoughts: http://walkhisword.blogspot.com/2010/04/america-christian-nation.html