Oxymorons, or Building a Christian Nation

Though I live in one of the most liberal states in America, every now and again a small business, say an auto repair shop or florist, will alter their sign from announcing a sale to:

PUT GOD BACK IN OUR NATION

or

“YOU PRAYED FOR ME TO COME TO YOUR SCHOOLS BUT THEY WON’T LET ME IN.” – GOD

Instead of inspiring frustration about our current state of affairs, these signs actually cause me to wonder – is a Christian nation even possible?

If we look to the Bible for an answer we won’t find one, at least partially because God’s people spent the majority of the Biblical years being marginalized and persecuted (and their brief times of being in power, in Old Testament days, saw them switching to the persecutor role). If anything, this oppression made the early Christians very mistrusting of power. I don’t think they’d name it evil, but they saw it as something immeasurably dangerous and wildly difficult to handle.

Some wonder what would have happened if Jesus came when the Jews weren’t under occupation (and the subsequent first Christians weren’t hunted down). However I firmly believe Jesus came to earth during that time because of the Jews place in the underside of power. The timing was not accidental.

I may be the only Christian who will ever say this – I understand why city governments across the nation are no longer erecting nativity scenes during Christmas – it’s a clear violation of the church and state separation. From what I know, why we have this separation is a reaction to the times when the church and state were one. This marriage usually led to disastrous results (violence, oppression, coercion), so when America was founded this separation was apart of the building blocks.

The problem is power tends to be obsessed with itself, and is forever scratching its own back. Standing in stark contrast, Jesus spoke of servant leadership (not in such fancy terms), and it’s a rare leader who will wash the feet of those below him. This is not something I believe you can ingrain in the culture, but only the heart.

It’d be incredibly difficult to have a nation based on Christian values – how do you make servitude and dying to self the law of the land? About the only way you can claim a nation to be Christian is to make its morality the law – which hasn’t worked out in my opinion, not just in America. Ultimately peace, grace, and servitude are very counter-intuitive ways – and you have to go out of your way to keep them, which will always make it difficult for any nation to be a Christian one.

Well, disagree away. Is there such a thing as a Christian nation? Is it possible? How could a nation be one?

(note: Just to really get some people stirred up, some of the books I’ve read that have influenced me in this regard are Jesus For President by Shane Claiborne, Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Don Golden and Rob Bell, and The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren. Go ahead and hate because they’re quasi or full on emergent)

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9 Responses to Oxymorons, or Building a Christian Nation

  1. David says:

    There is NO law called the “separation of church and state.” It was simply a comment a long time ago by the deist, Thomas Jefferson, assuring a religious sect that the US government would not cause them to follow a set religious practice.

    Let me be clear it is not a law.

    In 1998 it somehow became a “principal” by which we judge individual behavior and deride the first amendment right to free speech. It has morphed from opting out (which is free speech) to some sort of pseudo law protecting the offended.

    I could care less about liberals or conservatives because I am neither. What makes me angry is this: most Americans don’t know, haven’t read, and certainly can’t quote the Constitution. It’s like the Bible, if you actually read it for yourself, you might be enlightened. But as usual, we rely on getting our encapsulated information and sound bytes from a teacher, or whoa!; a college professor or better yet, ABC News. Political correctness and lack of common sense seem to drive these issues. How stupid can Americans be?

    For example, if I urinate on A Qu’Ran, I am a hater, but if and artist portrays that Bible in a toilet, he a genius. There is a distinct double standard here.

    The US has Christian and deist roots: fact; but that is not at issue. We’ve made a law of the “separation of church and state” when it was simply meant to say, hey, you are a Baptist, and I am a Pentecostal, no problem go worship as you please and we’ll stay out of it.

    When I was a kid I had a Jewish teacher, she helped us celebrate Christmas, and for the first time in my life, I head about Chanukah. The school gave her time off for her holiday and hired a sub. Simple.

    This is a country where majority rules. The governments all spend money on things I am opposed to – happens every day.

    As far a Christian nation – I think that was over when they voted prayer and Bible reading out of schools. Now a teacher can’t even mention a Bible passage without fear of losing a job, much less assign it as a piece of historical literature – but they have to teach tolerance. Amazing! My kid can wear an ‘FU’ t-shirt, but not one saying ‘Jesus Saves.’ I had a teacher tell my 4th grader she couldn’t bow her head and give thanks for her meal at lunch. She tried to shut her down for talking about Creationism when they discussed the Theory of Evolution. Unbelievable! I had to go over there and read them the Constitution. They tried to put her in the hall for the evolution discussion – that didn’t happen.

    Freedom of speech? As an American I can be as vocal as I like about my faith. It doesn’t matter if I work for the government or not. Religious symbols on public land? Let the majority rule.

    And for God’s sake, read the Constitution!

    • I definitely don’t agree with the over-reaction in not even mentioning creationism/religious theories – that’s definitely total BS. Good for you for standing up. Thanks for clarifying its not a law – I still do think its a good idea and its based off of really negative experiences that we should learn from.

  2. Su says:

    I don’t even know what “emergent” is. I hear it a lot, but that’s the full extent of my investigation. 🙂

    Anyway… I lived in Scotland for a couple of years, and now I live in Texas. And living in Texas, I hear the “Let’s get prayer back in schools!” or “This is a Christian nation!” cries a lot. And I’ve wasted a lot of breath telling people that separation of church & state is a good thing. In Britain, having a state religion has epitomized the saying “familiarity breeds contempt.” Jesus is just another subject in school that people don’t really care about and leave behind when they leave school. And ongoing debate for the past few years has been regularizing Easter so it’s on the same Sunday every year, with the rallying cry always being “Why should Christians decide when Easter is?” because again, the general indifference to all things Christianity is widespread.

    And Americans inevitably say “Oh, that’s wonderful” when they hear about Brits having Bible lessons in school– until I point out that that means that the kids hear the lessons from the teacher’s perspective, even if what the teacher believes doesn’t match up with what the parents believe. Suddenly it doesn’t sound wonderful any longer.

    (This is just going to keep getting longer… sorry.) To answer the question, no, I don’t think we can have a Christian nation. If nothing else, look at the issues that arise just in small churches– if 50 people can’t agree on what colour the sanctuary carpet should be, how are millions of people going to agree on how to best run our Christian nation? And what happens when someone in the nation exercises his or her God-given right to walk away from Him– would their passport be revoked? And the likeliest ending to all this that I can think of is that eventually the leaders will become people who aren’t actually interested in Jesus, but in power, as you said, and are just playing along so they can be in charge.

    Besides, Christians are called to be different, to live with different values than the rest of the world. But if all the people are living with the same values, I can’t imagine it would be long before those values start to slide. And who would notice, if all the Christians are doing the same thing?

    So, there’s my rather long-winded take on Christian nations.

    • some great points Su. In my opinion an all Christian nation sounds terrible – if you’ve ever visited a town thats super religious its got an odd feel to it, usually because its an oppressive/repressive environment. I’m being very general, but diversity is good.

  3. jay @ bethegospel says:

    Bell? McLaren? Really? Oh I don’t know if I can still read this blog!!!!! (sarcasm implied even though you can’t hear it)

    Simply put, “If all things are possible with God,” then yes, a Christian nation is possible.

  4. Chris says:

    I generally don’t like the idea of a Christian nation per se, mainly because it implies a mixing of government and religion. This says to me theocracy. Unfortunately I think what the government supports or promotes, the government can pervert or take away.
    That being said, although I don’t think we’ve ever been a Christian nation strictly speaking, we have, as a nation, been formed and undergirded by Judeo-Christian ethics and principles. This I feel is fine, because it’s these ethics in particular that allow for the freedoms that we enjoy. I feel these freedoms directly correspond to the freedom we have to accept or reject God. God doesn’t want forced believers. A forced love is not a love worth having. And a theocratic state (at least one not directly annointed by God) is not a state worth living in. Is there a down side to living in a free society. I think that’s pretty obvious. But is there a down side to rejecting God? A Richard Dawkins might say no, but if he did, without knowing it he would be sawing off the very limb upon which he was sitting.

    • literally one of the last lines of the blog that I eventually took out was “you can’t force anyone to be a believer.” Creepy. I enjoyed your thoughts, especially relating the Judeo-Christian ethics to the freedoms we enjoy (and emphasize heavily). What? There is no perfect system?!

  5. Pingback: Christians Are Just So Darned Sensitive, Or How Did The Jews And Gentiles Do It, Man? | Charlie's Church of Christ

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