Is the United States a Christian Nation? 9 questions to ask

In August, I will have the pleasure of co-leading a class at 3BC called “Politics According to the Bible”.  The class leaders (a pastor, an attorney, a retired District Attorney, and a Rutherford County official) will use as their resource a book by Wayne Grudem titled “Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture.”  It’s a 600 page tome that gives light to what Scripture states regarding government and specific issues (the protection of life, marriage, economics, the environment, and so on).

The class begins on Sunday, August 12.  It should make for good discussion, and more importantly, a time to affirm the guidance of Scripture in our lives.  Grudem, who holds a Ph.D. in New Testament studies and has 28 years of teaching at the graduate and post-graduate level, says this in the preface:

I wrote the book because I was convinced that God intended the Bible to give guidance to every area of life – including how government should function!

Grudem thinks there should be “significant Christian influence” on government and is sometimes asked if he thinks the United States is “a Christian nation.”  He responds by seeking a definition of what “a Christian nation” means.  To do that, he asks and answers 9 questions:

1)     Is Christian teaching the primary religious system that influenced the founding of the United States? Yes.

2)     Were the majority of the Founding Fathers of the United States Christians who generally believed in the truth of the Bible?  Yes.

3)     Is Christianity (of various sorts) the largest religion in the United States?  Yes.

4)     Did Christian beliefs provide the intellectual background that led to many of the cultural values still held by Americans today?  Yes.  This would include such values as respect for the individual, protection of individual rights, the value of hard work, the value of giving aid to other nations, and so on.

5)     Was there a Supreme Court decision at one time that affirmed that the United States is a Christian nation?  Yes.  But, the decision had more to do with hiring “foreigners and aliens” than establishing the fact that the United States was a Christian nation.  In 1892, the court ruled in Church of the Holy Trinity v. the United States that the church had the right to hire a minister from a foreign nation, despite an 1885 law that prohibited hiring “foreigners and aliens…to perform labor in the United States.”  The court supported its decision by stating that “there was so much evidence showing the dominant ‘Christian’ character of this nation that Congress could not have intended to prohibit churches from hiring Christian ministers from other countires.”

6)     Are a majority of people in the United States Bible-believing, evangelical, born-again Christians?  No.  Grudem cites the results of various polls and concludes that about 22% had true evangelical beliefs.  Even when Catholics are added, Grudem concludes that a majority doesn’t exist.

7)  Is belief in Christian values the dominant perspective promoted by the Untied States government, the media, and universities in the United States today?  No.

8)  Does the United States government promote Christianity as the national religion?  No.

9)  Does a person have to profess Christian faith in order to become a US citizen or to have equal rights under the law in the United States?  This is not true now, nor has it ever been true.

Grudem concludes by saying that, in current political conversations, asking the question – “is the United States a Christian nation?” – is not helpful and only leads to fruitless arguments.   Each question above has merit and can be discussed on its own, yet to even begin to define “Christian nation” can lead to all sorts of confusion and misunderstanding.

So, what do you think?

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Filed under Books I'm Reading, Commentary

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