Monday, April 13, 2009

Just How Christian Are We as A Nation?

President Barack Obama made a statement last week that has just sent some conservatives up in arms in ways that... well, probably only Barack Obama can do.  And, as my role as official heckler of all leaders despite their political affiliation, I should be just so filled with blog fodder.  However, for once, I agree with the President.  Sigh... yet another thing to make me unpopular with the Evangelical crowd.  First my distaste for "christian cruises", then the Easter Bunny  and now this. 

So, he said it.  We can't even say he finally said it, because he also said a similar thing while campaigning for the presidency.  But, boy, this time, the conservative media really attached itself to it. 

The reality is, though, that we are not and have never been a "Christian Nation" in any real sense of the word Christian.  We have been a nation that has had Christians who have acted as salt and light within our government and culture, even at it's founding, to try to bring Christ-like qualities to our society.  However,  you can hardly call "christian"  a government that says in one breath that we are all "endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights" and in another declares that you are not entitled to that label unless you're a white, affluent male.  

You can hardly call the greed of capitalism Christian.  You can hardly call slavery Christ-like.  You can hardly call our nation's absolute annihilation of our native peoples something Christ would do.   Is our nation's unsustainable agriculture what makes us Christian?  How about our fascination with Hummers?  Our denial of basic civil rights to minorities and women?  Is it how disabled people were historically  denied the right to immigrate (the poor tired masses have to have all their limbs, apparently to enter our country)?  Is it our history of institutionalizing the disabled and mentally ill?   Or is it our more recent history of de-institutionalizing them and then ignoring them while we drive our Hummers that makes us Christian?

The name of Christ is too precious to me to tie it up with a blundering empire of this world.  Our nation, like so many others, is absolutely great at throwing around the name of God when it suits us, but living however we feel comfortable.  

The thing that I think is hilarious about this, is that people who truly do believe we are a "Christian Nation" either don't know the Bible or are in denial.  Between the jubilee laws and the instructions in the book of Acts, if we truly were a theocracy, we should really be a socialist nation.  

But, we aren't.   We are a nation that was built upon the ideals of the Enlightenment (a set of values -- gasp isn't that what Obama said?) that have some salt of the gospel mixed in by our earlier brothers and sisters in Christ.  Unfortunately, I often think that their sacrifices and work has been lost when the more recent generations have decided to be the Empire rather than work as a leavening agent within it.  The really sad thing is that these people who claim to promote the Gospel, but really promote their own form of American Civic Religion, aren't concerned about spreading the Kingdom of Christ.  They are concerned with preserving their way of life.  

It is a near-truth.  Near-truths are so dangerous because they are so much harder to detect than a blatant lie.  However, they are just as destructive. 

This first thing that struck me about Obama's comments was that his definition was not his own.  In fact, almost 5 years ago, I read that definition of America for the first time, and I'm sure it wasn't new then, in a letter "written" by George W. Bush,  to our little Ballerina Princess.  It was a letter welcoming her to U.S. citizenship.  It described America as an "unfolding promise" and a "country bound by a common set of values and ideals".  I thought it was one of the most beautiful descriptions I had ever read of our country.  

The reality is that we don't live in a Christian nation, even beyond my belief that it never was one.  About 3 months ago, Barna released a study that showed just over 50% of the U.S. no longer even bothers to identify themselves as Christian.  The number swells even more if you delve into what most people call being a Christian.  Most recently, over 58% stated that the Holy Spirit is merely a symbol for God, and about 60% believe that Satan is also merely symbolic.  What is really disturbing is that a full 48% of the people who call themselves Christians doubt the divinity and perfection of Christ!  

How in the world someone can be a "Christian" and not believe in "Christ" is beyond me, but that's the picture of America today, like it or not.  The real question is:  are we going to keep barking up this tree or are we going to accept the reality of this day and get back to building Christ's Kingdom which can exsist anywhere in the world no matter what the reigning Empire says? 

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