In any election year (especially one as tumultuous and exhausting as 2016), there will be claims and counter-claims about what values and principles should guide the United States of America.
And such debates inevitably lead to appeals to the history and heritage of our country. What principles guided the founding fathers? Were the founding fathers Christians? Were the founding documents Christian in nature?
Thus we come to the next phrase in our “Taking Back Christianese” series: “America is a Christian nation.”
Our purpose in this post (as in all the posts in this series) is simply to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this phrase. We will do this by asking three questions: (1) Why do people use this phrase? (2) What is correct or helpful about this phrase? and (3) What is problematic about this phrase?
Why Do People Use This Phrase?
There are a number of reasons this phrase is used by believers. Some may simply use it historically. It is a phrase that attempts to capture some historical truths about our country and how it was conceived. As for whether this phrase accurately captures such truths, that is something we will address below.
But other believers may use it as more of an argument. Given the rapid moral and cultural decline of our country, the idea that “America is a Christian nation” is designed to stem the tide. It is a way of pushing back against the secularization all around us by reminding people that things were not always this way. It reminds people that Christians were, at one time, not viewed as cultural pariahs.
What is Correct or Helpful about This Phrase?
One of the challenges of this phrase is that people can mean dramatically different things when they use it. So it might be helpful to get some of the options on the table. The following list (not exhaustive) moves from the most stringent interpretation of the phrase to the most lax: [Read more…]