I believe that, while “Christian America” is a myth, we who are Christians can and should be thankful that we live here. One of the main reasons for giving thanks is that America is not a Christian nation. Nor is it a Moslem nation nor a Buddhist nation. It is, however, a religious nation.
One of our greatest blessings is the first amendment to our constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.”
Though this amendment has been the cause of much controversy, and has been interpreted, misinterpreted and reinterpreted by our courts and others, it still stands as a great guarantee of freedom for the Christian.
A good number of the nations of the world have some sort of established religion. And where religion is written in the constitution of a country, persecution of dissenters is inevitable.
In nations where Islam is the official or dominant religion, Christians suffer discrimination, persecution, torture and even death. But the same is true of Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. We like to point the finger at Muslims and we often hear claims that violence is endemic to Islam, but militant Hinduism and militant Buddhism are also violent. And in nations where some brand of Christianity is official or dominant, others suffer. A glance at church history, even in this country should make that clear.
Perhaps Lord Acton’s famous saying is true: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” although I believe that power simply brings out the corruption that already lies within us. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
The Bible makes it clear that human governments are set up by God to maintain justice and peace. “ … For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. … For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. for it is the minister of God for you …” (Romans 13:1, 3, 4). “ …I urge that … prayers, … be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1, 2). One of the tools for this is the use of force – violence, if necessary. ‘…..it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is the minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4).
But this is not the way for those of the church. The way of those who belong to Christ is of a different order altogether. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors,’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant” (Luke 22:25, 26). The two realms are, in a sense, incompatible.
Those who framed our Bill of Rights seem to have understood this, whether from their own observations or God-given wisdom. And I believe this is what makes America great!
We in this nation enjoy this freedom. Yes, there are many instances where Christians are discriminated against, mocked and even persecuted, but these are relatively minor in comparison with what our brothers and sisters are enduring in other nations, whether religious or secular. And they are usually not government instigated.
So where am I going with this? I think we ought to get over it, to stop wringing our hands and crying “ain’t it awful” whenever we don’t get our own way, and take advantage of the liberties we have.
We’re told we can’t pray at football games or in school – but we’re not forbidden to pray.
A judge is fired for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from a public building – but nobody told him he couldn’t try to practice them.
Our children are taught secular theories of origins in the public schools – but we’re not told we have to believe them or that we can’t teach the biblical accounts at home.
Our task is not to “return America to God.” Our task is to live for Jesus Christ within this nation and to point Americans (and others) to their need for Jesus Christ.
And we need to pray for the leaders of this nation. And we need to thank God for America.