There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of years about whether or not America is a Christian nation. Certainly, in the past, most people have considered America to be Christian. But over the last two to three generations we have seen a growing number of people who do not claim Christianity as their faith of choice, and that is being reflected in various places in the culture. In fact, there have been a number of very prominent academics, and even noted politicians, who have stated emphatically that America is not a Christian nation – some even asserting that we never were.
In spite of the protests of the naysayers, in the past there was pretty much a consensus within the country that America was a Christian nation. While there have always been numerous non-Christians, the citizenry as a whole did consider themselves Christians and never really questioned that concept. But now that it is being questioned, we have to dig a little deeper to explain what is meant by the term. Previously, most people in the country considered themselves to be Christians, even if they were not active in church. In fact, many had the belief that since they were Americans and America was a Christian nation, that made them Christians. Of course, that is not true in actuality, but that was (and still is) a belief held by many.
But now that a large and growing percentage of people do not consider themselves Christians, the very concept of what it means to be a Christian nation needs to be looked at more carefully. So, when we call America a Christian nation, what does that really mean?
The first thing that we must realize is that it doesn’t mean all people who live in the country are Christians. In general, the particular term, “A Christian Nation,” relates to a foundational structure, not necessarily to the religious beliefs of the current inhabitants.
In the beginning, when the social and governmental structure of the nation was established, it was created a particular way because the inhabitants who started it actually were Christians and deliberately built it based on their Christian beliefs. But over the years, the beliefs of the people have changed. So, while the original structure has not yet completely collapsed, there is definite stress on it. The structure was designed to govern people who believed the Christian faith. When that is no longer the case, non-believing citizens don’t understand why things must continue to be organized the way they are and begin questioning it. And as elements are questioned and found not suitable to the beliefs of the new majority, they are changed to conform to a different set of principles.
The original structure was built based on the idea that God had given man certain “inalienable” rights – rights which cannot be surrendered, sold or transferred to another. The inalienable rights specified by the founders were life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The first right – life – reflects a belief in the high value of human life. The belief is that people are not permitted to indiscriminately take the life of another.
The second right – liberty – reflects the high value the founders placed on individual freedom. That is, God has made human beings as creatures with a free will capable of individually deciding what to believe and how to live their lives.
The third right – pursuit of happiness – reflects the belief of the founders that individuals should be free to pursue personal success in life. Happiness, here, is not simply the quest to find a good feeling, but pursuit of success which, in turn, is able to generate a sense of personal fulfillment.
The key principle to understand in all of these is that these are rights given by God, not by human rulers. As such, no governing structure or individual has the right to restrict them.
So, as the founders established the nation, they put into place a structure which was designed to safeguard these rights. The elements involved in this structure were specifically, 1) The rule of law, 2) limited government, 3) individual freedom [private property rights and free enterprise] and 4) a high priority on human life.
Fast forward to today and we find that many in modern America do not have the same values as the founders. And there are enough of these people in contemporary culture who have made their way into leadership positions that they have been able to begin to actually alter the original structure. For instance:
1) Life has been cheapened. Now, abortion is considered a constitutional right and an increasing number of states either allow or are considering allowing assisted suicide.
2) Individual liberty has been squeezed. Whether through actual laws which have been passed, decisions imposed by judges or executive orders, we see increased government control and less individual liberty.
3) “Pursuit of happiness” is increasingly being limited by government control. Restrictions on free enterprise and an erosion of individual property rights is an expression of this.
4) The rule of law has been softened by judicial decree. Increasingly, we see unelected judges actually dictating law from the bench rather than interpreting law created by elected officials. We also see these same judges interpreting the law in ways which justify this kind of judicial philosophy.
All of the things mentioned above are the natural result of a change in the nation’s worldview foundation. The original structure was created by people who believed the Bible and who sought to establish a governmental and social structure which operated based on biblical values and principles. Now that an increasing number of people follow a different set of worldview beliefs, we are seeing a push to alter the structure based on non-Christian beliefs.
The cure for this is not merely to convince a large number people that the founding structure is better than one based on different beliefs. That simply can’t happen. What makes sense to the masses as an appropriate societal structure is necessarily established upon the worldview beliefs that people actually hold. If a large number of people begin to hold non-Christian worldview beliefs, the Christian based structure simply does not make sense to them. It is impossible to convince people that the founding structure is better if they don’t hold a Christian worldview. For the founding system to make sense to them, we have to actually bring these non-believers to Christ. It is only as the worldview foundation of the masses aligns with the beliefs of the Bible that America’s founding structure can remain intact.
To make this happen, Christians are going to have to become massively more faithful in living out their lives for Christ and in sharing the gospel. Until we do this and it becomes the impetus for a true spiritual awakening, we will continue to travel a road that takes us further and further away from the America that was originally established.
© 2012 Freddy Davis