Posted by: eliseanne | July 15, 2009

America Is (Not?) A Christian Nation

Today I was reading up on the Crusades. You know, the ones where Christian nations waged war against Muslim, Jewish, and other peoples and nations, killing them off in the name of preserving Christianity, while actually preserving an empire/nations. I thought hard about these Crusades, I mean really. What does it really say that a Christian nation was afraid of Muslim, Jewish, and other peoples and waged a religious (yet, military and physical) war against them to annihilate the threat against their religion (yet, also annihilated humans, and for the threat against their political nation)? Does their supposed reason for war even sound Christian?

Does America really want to call itself a Christian nation? Because that time when we had Christian nations (read: church/state connected by a national religion) they initiated wars against other, non-Christian people and nations, destroying them and their homes and taking them for themselves. That sure didn’t spread Christianity (who wants to join the religion of the people who murdered your family because of their religion?), and it sure wasn’t “evangelizing” to the people they killed who weren’t Christians, right? I mean, I dont think they asked if they could read the 4 Spiritual Laws to them before they slashed their throats.

Yuck. This stuff should make us sick. Should make us vomit a little in our mouths, right? I can’t believe people did that in the name of Christianity, we say.

But then maybe America is a Christian nation. Hmm? I was all set to share my opinions on how I do not think we are and how I dont think we should want to say we are of any religion. But after reading on the Crusades, by definition of these past Christian nations, I think we might actually be one of those. And that horrifies me.

First, let me clarify – I love Jesus and I love his people, the church, and I love others, my neighbors. I also am grateful for this nation and all the rights and freedoms I have here, and for the many Christians who did do things to shape this country. I recognize in many nations there is no way I could write or speak like this about my country – and for that I am truly grateful, and really do think that we have a lot of things right here. I write in order to edify: to challenge status quo and stereotypes, to think on the other side for a moment, etc. All with the purpose of learning how to be a better follower of Jesus and how the church can better love others. That said…

So why did I compare “Christian” America to “Christian” 11th – 13th century Europe? MANIFEST DESTINY.

(n) manifest destiny : a policy of imperialism rationalized as inevitable (as if granted by God). Whoa.

  • S: (n) imperialism (a policy of extending your rule over foreign countries)
  • S: (n) imperialism (a political orientation that advocates imperial interests)
  • S: (n) imperialism (any instance of aggressive extension of authority)
  • Whoa again.  So I guess if you are saying the US was founded on manifest destiny (which it was) then I guess we could be a Christian nation. We fought a war and killed peoples for this land, thinking it was a gift to us from God, we enslaved people to work the land, thinking it was a gift from God, we separated peoples unequally to work the stores and factories, and thinking it was a gift from God. Sounds like 11th century Christian Europe to me!

    Well. My personal opinion? The US was founded erroneously, but it was founded, so here we are. It’s time to improve what we have and right our wrongs. Men who believed in God, as deists, and followed the moral codes of the 10 Commandments (except that whole do not covet the land of your neighbor bit…), set our nation to be strictly non-religious. The Separation of church and state. They didnt want religious persecution for people of a minority religion.They didnt want the Crusades to happen again. Because what happens when a nation has an official religion? Imperialism mixes with evangelism. Power mixes with the pastorate.  And American Evangelicalism loses its core – to individually make a decision to follow Jesus. In a Christian Nation, are you born a Christian when born a citizen? And a whole lot of fakeness ensues. We lose Jesus! He didn’t come to set up an earthly kingdom, he came to set up the church, his people, regardless of who is in political power. His kingdom is coming later – when the world is recreated and perfected. We wont have to have these kind of debates then.

    I would love to see Jesus followers in governmental leadership of this nation, making decisions that Jesus would support. But I would also love to see non Jesus followers in governmental leadership of this nation, making decisions that Jesus would support. The difference here is talking about values, not religion. Which is exactly how President Obama characterized us in his recent speech – we are a nation of people  bound by similar values, but not one religion.

    I got an email from a dear friend after the President gave that speech, asking me to sign a petition written to the President to recognize that the US is a Christian nation, and to pass a House Resolution stating that the US is a Judeo-Christian nation. The email asks responders to join together and make a statement that the US was “born of faith — and sustained by it.” They must be saying similar things that the 11th century Christian Europeans did. Sustained by prayers that we could overcome things, and perceiving as our victory the destruction of others, the famine in other nations, the toxic waste dumps exported to other nations, the labor exploited, and on and on. There are so many injustices in this nation’s history and present, but we only choose to see the “victories” we have in the name of “the Lord,” not the injustices others face for the same things in the name of our consumerism and imperialism.

    So yes, God bless America – to have opened eyes and ears for the poor, the widow, the outcast, and to see the injustices she committed and continues to commit. God, bless us with humility and the spirit of justice and  reconciliation. For that is a better testimony of foundations in faith in Jesus than bloodshed and greed.

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