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.