Tag Archives: Christian nation

Under Illusion

I saw this political image making the rounds on my Facebook feed this week, and it got me thinking. Or rather some of the responses did.

One pastor seemed quite incensed that “under God” wasn’t in this version. To that individual, this image shouldn’t be shared as a result… despite the image caption making clear the intent of showing the Pledge as originally written.

In fact, the original Pledge by Francis Bellamy is even more different: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. 

I thought about the power of those two words, “under God.”

In Supreme Court decisions on the subject, the Chief Justice argued that “under God” is an acknowledgement of the religious heritage of the nation but is at this point essentially a secular declaration.  

The ‘God’ referred to is generic and devoid of any religious context. You can say it’s a monotheistic God, so it’s probably tied to an Abrahamic religion. But I don’t think that’s the Court’s intent or point.

I think they recognize, like we should, that two words in a pledge do absolutely nothing to impose any religious standard of behavior or belief upon anyone. No one draws nearer to God in a spiritual experience by reciting the Pledge. It’s not a hymn or worship song, it’s not a prayer to say by rote like Our Father Who art in Heaven or Hail Mary.

Yet the Righr, ever fearing that War on Christianity, focuses attention on those two words in the pledge, as though they constitute some magic cute to social ills that concern us.

Maybe if kids say “under God” then it’ll show what a good, Christian nation we are–regardless of the immorality we approve, condone, or even actively participate in.

I don’t think it works that way. Not on a national level, where we claim some divine favored status–spiritual immunity perhaps?

I’m positive it doesn’t work this way on an individual level, where so long as I say the right words now and then, all my faults and failures get a wink and an understanding grin before being brushed aside. 

After all, I’m part of the good Christian club, right? I ‘liked’ that image that 93% wouldn’t, and shared that poem about footprints in the sand. I voted for the guy who quoted the Bible in his speeches. And I totally got behind defending “under God” from those atheist social justice warriors. 

To paraphrase Jesus, perhaps today He’d tell us, “On that day, many will say, ‘Lord, did we not post in Your Name? And did we not block the atheists on social media, and fight against the growth of Islam in Your favorite nation? Did we not defend the Christ in Christmas, and stand up for the massive cross monuments on public property?’ 

And I will say to them, ‘Depart from Me. I never knew you.'”

It’s easy for me to sit and criticize. So I’ll be honest and admit that I’m just as in danger of missing the whole point as those whose opinions I decry here. I just don’t want to be content flailing about in a cloud of religious / cultural chaff and controversy. 

If I really believe what I claim, then it’s too important to get hung up quibbling and griping over minor details, caught under some illusion that I’m fighting the good fight for the faith.

Taking Control

I had an interesting discussion on Facebook yesterday.

A page about “defending marriage” posted a link to a story saying the UN was working to legalize prostitution. The comment on the link being shared was:

“We need to take back control in the world…”

I assumed the “we” is Christians, given the audience of the page. This made me wonder.

When did we have control?

Were we supposed to have control?

How did religion having control go for the world?

What did Jesus suggest (err… command) that we do in the world?

Did He not know that one day we might have a chance at establishing a Christian nation? Did the possibility slip His mind?

Does He come across as someone who is not very careful with words?

So maybe He said what He meant and vice versa.

Religions holding political power have a history of working out poorly. That’s part of why the first colonists came to America.

There was every opportunity for the Founding Fathers to make America out to be an absolute Christian nation, but they chose not to.

There was every opportunity for Jesus to command His followers to establish a kingdom, but He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He could very well have explained theocracy and suggested it as a plan, but we don’t have any indication of that. Governance clearly wasn’t on his personal agenda.

The Bible – particularly the New Testament – portrays the world as fallen, corrupt, and under the spiritual authority of the Devil. For example, Jesus was tempted by the Devil, who offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He would simply bow down and worship the Devil. Jesus didn’t dispute whether Satan had such power to make such an offer. Likewise, Paul wrote about the spiritual darkness in the world, saying it did not belong to God but to our adversary.

We’re living in occupied territory. We’re living behind enemy lines.

Jesus never told us to set up a nation here. We’re not establishing a base or negotiating a treaty. To be clear, our “enemy” is not those people who disagree. We’re not fighting against flesh and blood… or at least that’s what the Bible tells us. Fighting flesh and blood means collateral damage.

Maybe some of us forgot that.

I expressed my concerns about what the post implied. I was told something like, “Our representative government isn’t representing all of us, its people. We have to fight in the political arena to ensure that the representative government actually represents us.”

That sword cuts both ways. That argument can be made by either side.

It basically boils down to “majority rules,” since there are two groups with opposed goals that both seek representation. Majority rules is a system that hasn’t always done well for us either. In the Sixties, the local, vocal majority would have voted to keep segregation going in some parts. That doesn’t make it acceptable or right.

Likewise, from the biblical perspective, we were never told to follow the majority. In fact, Jesus said that’s the road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:14).

We were meant to be the minority. We were meant to be different.

But we look just like everyone else.

The divorce rate in the church matches that of the world. Western Christianity looks just as self-centered and greedy as the culture it is supposedly working to save. Instead of going and making disciples, we’re going and making new recruits for our political parties. And our young people are leaving the church in droves.

Yeah, maybe we need to take back control…

We need to take back control of ourselves.

Tragedy at the Polls

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” – Rahm Emanuel.

Any time there’s a tragic event, the news media on both sides go into overdrive, trying to figure out “How could this happen?”

It’s no different with Aurora, Colorado and the terrible news of the massacre at the midnight showing of Dark Knight Rises.

As everyone tries to make sense of the story, folks on the Right want to decry the nation’s loss of family values and our distance from God. It’s all either part of an assault on Christian values, or it’s just another sign of what we have brought upon ourselves by previous assaults on Christian values.

It’s certainly not simply a tragedy. That headline doesn’t get hits on the website. 

On the other hand, Leftist media (no, wait, “impartial journalists” I mean) want to paint the shooter as a Tea Party anything. As long as “Jim Holmes, the shooter in the theater” gets connected to “Tea Party” in the same sentence, mission accomplished.

It’s not like there could be anyone else named Jim Holmes. Oh wait, maybe there could be. Oops. Our bad.

But the damage is already done. Jim Holmes is already associated with the Tea Party… enough that people will assume the connection is true, in spite of the retraction.

One comment on the story quoted Twain:

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

Hey, I get it. It’s an election year. We have to maximize every opportunity… and what an opportunity this is!

The Right can talk about how godless and lost America has become, under the evil influence of Hollywood, or video games, or the Internet, or Lord-knows-what. If only we put our faith in Jesus!

Yeah, except for the Catholic church pedophile scandals and the various prominent televangelists and ministers whose falls get worldwide attention…

Maybe claiming faith in Jesus doesn’t magically fix every problem in our society. 

Likewise, the Left can rail against the benighted fools who cling to their guns and their Bibles, chanting about Second Amendment rights. They can demand stricter gun control laws… as if the suspect was concerned about following the existing gun laws! Gun control laws and bans work great on the law-abiding populace…

But the law-abiding populace isn’t really our problem.

Heck, we’ll throw in there that angry parents on both sides can rant about those who might bring a baby to a theater at midnight. It’s all the fault of the parents everywhere! If Jim Holmes’ parents had done a better job, then maybe we’d be better off.

If we can just assign some blame, then we can get past the tragedy and deal with the “real” problem!

But nothing in life is ever so simple.

The facts of the matter are that twelve people were murdered and more than fifty were wounded.


Not surprisingly, someone intent on harming others chose a midnight showing of one of the most anticipated movies of the year.

It (most likely) wasn’t because of a  supposed liberal agenda in the movie where the 99% rise up against the wealthy 1%. It (most likely) wasn’t because OMG Bane sounds just like Bain, and maybe the movie is a dig on Mitt Romney.

(I want to scream every time I hear someone suggest that the name of the villain in a movie that has been in production and planning for quite some time is somehow associated with a recent news story about the 2012 election. Bane’s been around since ’93 in the comics. Stop being ignorant.)

My pure speculation is–shock! It was a good bet that the theater would be crowded, and someone intent on harming others used that to his advantage, for no other reason than because there would be a crowd.

That doesn’t score political points.

But maybe that’s not what this is about.

Maybe that’s not the response we need.


I realized today what my spiritual life has been missing.

No, no… my problem isn’t a lack of discipline or a hypocritical lifestyle.

Those are just the symptoms.

My problem is that I don’t have a Christian tablet. I have a heathen iPad.

I saw this article and wondered what in the world we Christians are doing sometimes.

Seriously. “In the world, what are we doing?”

We live such neat little Christian lives, where we only listen to Christian radio or read from Christian media sources. Our Christian leaders in church and on Christian websites tell us what to think about all the stuff going on in the world. We can get together at our Christian coffee shop in the Christian version of Borders and compare Christian notes about the best-selling Christian fiction or self-help books. We’ll have Christian sports nights where we get together with all our Christian buddies and throw a football around. Maybe we’ll have Christian movie night, while the kidlets are in the back room watching VeggieTales (the good Christian ones from the old days with the Bible verses).

On the weekend, we’ll have Christian services (the good folks go to morning and evening service if available). And there’s the Wednesday night groups with good Christian activities for the kids. Don’t forget the Women’s Bible Study on Thursday morning and the Men’s Prayer Breakfast on Saturdays. Oh, and I can’t hang out Thursday night… Christian band practice, so we can jam to Christian music at Sunday’s service. But don’t miss the Friday night meeting where we talk about Christian politics and saving America and how candidates measure up in their support of Christian policies. (We won’t tell you how to vote. We’ll just tell you how they voted, and you can decide for yourselves at that point.)

Ok, I honestly don’t think any of those things, taken by themselves, are bad… even the political aspect. I’m no fan of the “Christian nation” idea, but if people are actually learning some of what is going on in the political realm, I think there’s a net gain. If people are being mis-informed to support a particular agenda, then that gets back to my point with all this.

Someone will ask, with the best intentions, “What about holiness?”

We are absolutely called to be holy. We can’t ignore that. But we’re also told to be “in the world yet not of it.”

Too often we solve the “not of it” by being “not in it.”

The Christian brands of everything are not going to make us “in the world yet not of it.” Though they may even be good competitive products, buying them doesn’t do anything for my spirituality.

If we mirror the culture around us–if we do almost everything people outside the church do, except we call our activities “Christian,” then I think we’re missing something important.

We can build up a fort to keep out the world.

We can isolate ourselves from everyone not us and insulate ourselves with Christian everything. We can hunker down like a family in the basement during a storm, trying to hang on in a culture some feel is steering farther and farther from traditional values. “Don’t go outside… it’s dangerous out there. In here, it’s safe. It’s Christian.”

Or we can build a home that welcomes the weary and refreshes their souls.

We could open our doors and our hearts. We could make our churches, our homes, and our very lives into places of refuge, where people can unload their burdens and find compassionate support.

We could show people we care less about cultural or political or religious views that divide us, and more about the person who has the views.

Instead of judging the person in trouble, we could extend a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. We could roll up our sleeves and get dirty while meeting practical needs… not as some outreach program where we wash your car or give you a meal after we preach the gospel to you,

We could give someone a meal because they’re hungry, they need it, and we care about them more than the number of converts or new visitors our church gets this month.

Are we going to find out some ugly things about the world and life? Yes.

Are we going to deal with difficult situations where there are no real easy answers, no clear-cut Scripture verses we can parrot at the person? Yes.

Are our beliefs and our views going to be challenged? Absolutely. We might see a whole new side of the people we thought were against us. We might learn a completely different side of a political or cultural issue. We could be exposed to new thoughts we haven’t had before.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Everyone knows how dangerous thoughts can be.

I need someone to tell me which are the Christian ones I’m allowed to have.

Maybe there’s an app on the Edifi for that.

Breaking with History

Imagine this description in a news story:

The young men gathered at the event were able to stand for the first time in openness and honesty before their peers. They were no longer required to cover up their private lives to save their public reputations. The burden of secrecy was finally lifted off their shoulders after years of living a lie.

And fears of violence or reprisal proved unfounded. Despite being a minority — just 10% of the population, on average — the attendees talked of the acceptance and tolerance they experienced. 

“It’s just not a big deal to my friends,” one man shared with a wide grin. “They know me, and they know this is a part of who I am. Our friendship matters more than our differences.”

I received a forwarded opinion piece in an e-mail from a Christian friend today. The article expressed deep concern that the Pentagon “broke with history” by celebrating its first gay pride event.

In the realm of “blinding flash of the obvious,” let’s do the math. The policy change allowing homosexuals to serve openly went into effect in September of 2011, three months after the last LGBT Pride month.

So… duh. This is the first such month that the Pentagon could even remotely support that without blatant hypocrisy.

They acted in accordance with the policy changes they’ve put into effect. Were we wanting duplicity instead?

But the tone of the article is what really got to me, with its one part fear-mongering, one part disgust.

We — the Christian community in America — are mostly operating under a double standard.

That “news story” description at the top could easily apply to Pride month. But that wasn’t my intention. I’m thinking of the way many of these same Christians would respond if the situation was different. What if this was a news story about a church function in a predominantly Muslim country? Or perhaps if it was an account of a meeting in China under communist rule?

Most of the Christians I’ve met would rejoice at the thought. Our brothers and sisters across the world, permitted to serve God openly in a place formerly hostile to expressions of faith? That would be wonderful news!

It would also be “breaking with history.”

My news story is fictional, but I know the hopes and the prayers of my fellow believers… and my own, for that matter. We look for change in governments that are opposed to open expression of religion. We desire a shift toward freedom and individual rights, even if that’s not the historical way of the nations in question.

Abandoning social norms is acceptable if the change agrees with us.

And we act like our stance on religious freedom makes perfect sense; why doesn’t everyone see it our way? Why shouldn’t Christians be allowed to believe in God in a public fashion in these other countries?

But God forbid that homosexuals in America should have a chance to live openly instead of hiding who they are.

Shortly after joining the military, I learned that the standard I use to judge or limit other people’s activities can very easily be turned around against me.

It’s natural that we believe our moral standards are the best. People can call that arrogance, but that’s a silly argument. I believe what I believe precisely because I think it’s the best, most accurate choice. And everyone else does exactly the same thing. If I thought my beliefs were flawed, I would give them up. I expect we all would.

The danger in having a strong belief or moral standard is that you risk applying it to everyone else, regardless of what they believe.

It’s great that I believe the Christian Gospel and the moral standards of the Bible. That’s the choice I’ve made based on my faith.

But why should I act like that’s everyone else’s choice too?

We set ourselves up for needless conflict and miscommunication when we expect others to align with our beliefs when they do not share those beliefs. I expect people who claim to be Christians to act like Christians. I expect people who aren’t interested in Christianity to live how they choose, not necessarily according to my rules.

News Flash: they didn’t sign on for my moral standard.

People of other faiths or no faith are going to live in accordance with their beliefs. That’s a good thing.

We always hope that our missionaries to other countries would be permitted such freedom. We want them to be able to worship and live out Christian values even if they are the minority.

Why is it we’re fine with the majority imposing values on the minority here in the States?

The standard I use to limit someone else’s freedom will sooner or later be used to limit my own.

For example, some of my Christian friends would balk at the thought that other religions could use Base Chapel facilities for their own religious ceremonies and meetings–especially those pagans and Wiccans! The latter term would come out in the hushed whisper that somehow conjures a mental image of spitting on the ground. “I can’t believe they let them into the Chapel!”

One of my Wiccan coworkers tried to get a rise out of me by pointing out how the Chapel opened its doors and permitted them to meet in the facilities.

“Good,” I said. “The day they tell you that you’re not allowed to meet there, they can come tell me the same thing.”

Celebrating freedom is more than just getting to do what I want. Freedom for all means that I also celebrate the opportunity for others to do the things I oppose.

I don’t need a back-seat driver in my life telling me what to do. I don’t need to be one for someone else either.

A Christian nation?

I have a lot of friends who have discussed the topic of a “Christian nation” — saying that America is a Christian nation, or maybe it once was but is not now, or maybe it never really was at all, or maybe it should be. I’m blessed in that I have a lot of good friends who are Christian and generally share the same views as me, many good friends who are Christian but with whom I tend to disagree, and many who are not Christian but are still awesome friends. So I get a lot of different viewpoints on this subject.

One of the first issues with this topic is “What do we mean when we talk about a Christian nation?”

I offer a few possible definitions and my thoughts on whether the U.S. fits these terms:

1. You could see it as a nation that is explicitly founded to advance the cause of Christianity. Laws and policies would be governed by the Bible, or more accurately by interpretation and application of biblical principles. The leaders of the nation would be chosen through a religious process or for a religious reason. An example of what this might look like would be the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, governed by the Law and with a King appointed by God through the prophet Samuel. Another example might be the various theocracies in the Middle East.

The US is NOT a Christian nation by this definition. We aren’t a theocracy, we’re not governed by the Bible, our national leaders aren’t religious officials, etc. I *think* it’s safe to say no one is really arguing for this to change in America. But I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth.

2. You could see it as a nation with an established state religion. Some examples were brought up, like the European nations that many of the colonists fled, where THE religion, or the only accepted religion, was what the state said. The religious leaders in this system are appointed and controlled by the head of State (unless my memory of history is mistaken). I suppose there were a number of places where the Church influenced the State as well.

It seems clear that this is what the Founding Fathers specifically tried to avoid. They did not give America a state religion, and they made provision for freedom of religious belief. I am pretty sure no one is arguing for America to become a “Christian nation” in the sense of selecting a state-approved denomination or establishing The Church of America or any such thing. Again, please let me know if I’m wrong.

3. You could see the nation’s policies and laws as being based on many Christian principles and ideals, looking at the beliefs of many of the Founding Fathers and their cultural background, coming to the conclusion that they made the most “Christian” nation possible, in all but name. Informed by their knowledge of the Bible and of the human condition, these leaders set up a system of government that would not constrain anyone in an official way, but would allow for Christianity to flourish. It could be argued (and I believe some of the Founding Fathers expressed this) that this system depends on, or presumes, the Christian virtue and lifestyle of the governed. Therefore, the definition might also contain the thought that the great majority of the people of the nation adhere to Christian values and morality.

I imagine this is the way most people think of America at its founding, and this is the Christian nation most people are talking about when they seem to long for a return to our “Christian roots” in America. Let me know if I’m wrong or if there’s that much more to it that I’m forgetting.

4. One could make the case, perhaps, that much of the social and cultural religious practice in America has been only that, despite all the Christian terms and symbolism. Actual relationship with God through Jesus Christ might not have been as common as we all would hope. America may have been steeped in Christianity the religion, with very little of Christ at work in the people. From this point of view, a person might say that “Christian nation” means the vast majority of the people are God-fearing and fervent in their faith, doing their best to live up to God’s will. Regardless of what state we feel the nation is in, I’d wager all of us want America to be a Christian nation in this sense more than any other.

It’s possible that much of the religious content of speeches and documents in the past falls into the category of following social or cultural norms instead of truly following Christ, though I would hope that is not the case. It may be that a good deal of the “religious” roots of America come from political posturing similar to what we see in campaigns and politics today. It’s impossible to prove and difficult to judge; the fact is we’ll never know this side of heaven how fervently any of these men believed in God. From this perspective, the religious references in American history don’t prove that God was influencing the nation. A good comparison might be the Jews in Jesus’ time, who certainly felt like they enjoyed special spiritual privilege. Jesus showed them that they missed the point. I suspect that some here are arguing from this position, saying that America might be very much like Israel was, “Christian” in name but not so much in practice. I could be wrong or I could be misunderstanding the view; if so, please clarify.


Once we identify what we mean when we say Christian nation, then we can talk more about how that impacts us. A good question at this point is, “Are we really called to go create a Christian nation? Is that what Jesus commanded of His disciples?” My honest opinion is “no, it’s not.” But I know that there are many who may disagree with me, or who think that it’s important for America to remain a “Christian nation.”

A good question for those who advocate America becoming or remaining a Christian nation is, “What would have to change, and what steps would have to be taken, to get there from where we are now?”

That’s where much of the fear and confusion comes from, I think. When an atheist hears talk about a Christian nation and returning our Christian roots, they might think we’re all looking at option #1, wanting to appoint Billy Graham (or whoever) as Minister-in-Chief or whatever. I won’t waste much time with this option, because I personally know not one Christian who wants this.  But it’s good to recognize that some people really expect this from us.

Or perhaps they think of option #2, and look at the Religious Right, assuming that “we” are trying to develop a Church and State relationship, sharing power between the two. I know no Christian conservatives who really want to establish a state religion, but again, people honestly fear this is our intent.

More likely, if they are willing to think well enough of us as to consider we mean option #3, then they’re going to wonder what sort of laws and policies we might put in place in order to bring about that “Christian” nation. And that’s where my question above comes in. If option 3 sounds right to you, what do you see as the necessary steps to get there?

And I suppose if they consider option #4, that for some of us the hope is that the nation will become more of a Christian nation as more individuals freely choose to accept and follow Christ, they might fear that down the road, the collective Christian community will think options 1-3 are a good idea. The same question applies, though; for those who think of option 4 as the ideal (whether option 3 appeals to you or not), what do you see as the way to get there?

It’s really hard to discuss a topic like this without first ensuring we’re all talking about the same thing. So I’ll stop here for now and follow up later (if needed) about why I feel we’re not meant to be a Christian nation, never really were in the first place, and shouldn’t be pursuing that as a goal.