Thursday, April 9, 2009

A ‘Christian nation’?

Recently a hot topic around the digital and print world has been the question “Is the United States a Christian nation?”  Like many such questions there are many details that need to be explored to answer it adequately (which I will not attempt here).
For example, what do we mean when we say that a nation is ‘Christian’?  The Christian faith is something, by its very nature, that people must follow individually.  So when we talk about anything else being ‘Christian’ there is necessarily some degree of metaphor involved.  You might rightly say that any group with a large number of its members being Christians is in some sense ‘Christian.’  Systems of thought can be ‘Christian’ in some sense if they are harmonious with the Christian faith.
So even asking a question about a nation being Christian is going to bring up all sorts of ambiguities that lend themselves to endless discussions and debates.  But it is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that those who began the governments of the United States were highly influenced by the Christian faith.
We I read something like this:
“The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations. ... The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institution may be abused by human depravity. ... It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors." --George Washington
it becomes difficult to deny the strength of the Christian influence among the people we often call ‘the Founders.’  In fact, examples of this sort of thing are so numerous that one begins to suspect that those who take great pains to avoid their force are either deceiving themselves or trying to deceive the rest of us.
To think that a group of people who tended to think along the lines of this quotation formed a government that was not highly influenced by their faith (and even the Deists among them thought very religiously) is very uncritical, to say the least.  And perhaps it reveals thinking that is so hostile to the Christian faith that it abandons reason in favor of prejudice.

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