March 6, 2005

Is the United States a Christian Nation?

The Myth of a Christian NationIs the United States a Christian nation? I think it would be fairly difficult for anyone who has read the U.S. Constitution to come away concluding that it is unless all one means by "Christian nation" is that the majority of U.S. citizens identify themselves as Christian. This is rarely what those making the "Christian nation" claim seem to have in mind.

Philip Gailey wrote an interesting editorial (update: link no longer active) in the St. Petersburg Times about the frequent claim, usually coming from the political right, that the United States is a Christian nation. While I disagree with Gailey's statement that the ACLU shouldn't be worried about Ten Commandments displays, he's right to point out that the teachings of Jesus are about as far apart from the economic and social policies of the modern Republican party as possible.

This is a point that is not made often enough. As long as the political right insists on draping themselves in Christianity and attempting to be the party of Jesus, the massive disparity between the teachings attributed to Jesus and their policies ought to be highlighted. It is nice that someone has the courage to point this out in the media.
If Jesus were around today, preaching charity, love, tolerance and peace, the religious right would pummel him as a dangerous liberal who wants to redistribute our wealth, raise taxes and study war no more. You can bet he wouldn't be invited to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention and that Fox News' Sean Hannity would crucify him in prime time.
I remain encouraged that at least some Christians seem to understand that the whole Christian nation thing is a dangerous myth that hurts religion as much as it does government (see Gregory A. Boyd's The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church).