In June 2006, President Obama made a speech in which he said, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.” This statement was followed up in his inaugural address when he said, “”For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers…” Then, in April of this year, President Obama stated at a press conference in Turkey that Americans “do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Muslim nation, but rather, a nation of citizens who are bound by a set of values.”
There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding these statements. As we examine his words, there are two ways to evaluate what he said. On the one hand, Obama is recognizing the increasing numbers and influence of people who do not claim the Christian faith. On the other hand we see a denigrating of the very founding principles of the American nation. Let’s break this down a little bit.
First of all, we need to recognize that America is not a Theocracy – never has been. One of the basic principles of the founding of this nation was that we would not have a state church. Freedom of religion has been one of the foundational principles in America since its founding. No one wants any church hierarchy to dominate the American scene. Americans are free, and have always been free, to choose their own beliefs and to follow them. In that sense, Obama is correct.
From another perspective, though, it can be said that we are a Christian nation. That is, the concepts which underlie our culture and our laws are unquestionably Christian. The very concept of a nation under the rule of law, of private ownership of property, of individual freedom, of man as a fallen creature, of impartial justice and many others are directly attributable to a Christian worldview. In that sense, we are a Christian nation.
Ultimately, we must come to a place where we acknowledge that the foundation of any and every society is based on some set of beliefs. Our nation was founded on a set of principles which specifically reflected Christian beliefs. What we see today is a move to shift the foundation to a different set of worldview beliefs. Those who want to generate this change try to make the case that we need a set of foundational beliefs which are not religious because we are no longer a religious people as we used to be. What is being left out of the conversation is that the foundation that they want to shift to is also religious in nature – that is, it is based on a set of faith assumptions that there is no transcendent God who has revealed himself and his ways. As such, according to those who want change, we are obliged to make our own rules based on principles the are convenient for us.
The things that make America a Christian (or not a Christian) nation are not based on the number of people who claim to be Christians. It is established on whether or not the principles of the society operate from a Christian or some other worldview.
Up until now, we have pretty much been a Christian nation based on the fact that our foundational principles have been Christian principles. But that seems to be changing. Rather than a society based on the rule of law, we are moving toward a society based on the rule of those in power. Rather than the private ownership of property, we are moving toward state ownership. Rather than individual freedom, we are moving toward the primacy of the collective. Rather than understanding man as a fallen creature, we are moving toward a belief that man is essentially good. Rather than impartial justice, we are moving toward social justice based on perceived inequities from history.
It is hard to say, at this point, exactly how far down the road we have come. But it can definitely be argued that we are moving away from our foundation as a Christian nation. As Christians, we really ought to be pushing back against this drift. But our push can’t simply be in the political arena. We cannot neglect politics, but the core of the problem is in the hearts and minds of the individuals in society. The only way the real problem will ever be solved is for Christians to be faithful in sharing the gospel of Christ with the increasingly non-Christian society that is America. It is not too late. Revival can still come to America and turn things around. But it will not happen without the intentional and energetic effort of those who name the name of Christ.
© 2009 Freddy Davis