I have noticed several blogging conversations lately taking place discussing whether or not the United States is a Christian nation. I, myself, have been thinking alot on this subject and would like to take some time to talk about it here.
Sometimes I believe we ask the wrong questions. For instance, who would ask what color the number 4 is, or what is the nationality of the letter H? To me, this question belongs in the same category.
Is the United States a "Christian nation"? Can any country be a "Christian nation"? I don't think so. Someone might ask, "What about Israel? Were they not God's chosen nation?" Yes, at one time. But, I don't believe that the continuity of this line of reasoning is valid. Let's retrace a bit of history...
After the fall, and years of adverse effects thereafter, God made a covenant with a man named Abraham. God promised him that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you". God's intention for Abraham was to bless him and, through him, to bless everyone else. This was the beginning of a distinction known as "God's chosen people".
God chose to bless and redeem the world through a vehicle known as the nation of Israel. God Himself would guide her and she would show His love and blessing to the world. Israel was never to be an end in herself. She was a means to an end; that is the redemption of the whole world. However, the problem manifested itself when Israel began to take pride in her election. Rather than using her blessing to bless others, she began to aspire to be like, and even superior to, every other nation on earth. Rather than allowing God to manifest His Lordship through Israel, the nation chose to be led by human kingship. Israel's pride and political aspirations continued for years.
Jesus didn't fit into the Israelite mold that had been developed by His ancestors. He did not concern Himself with the interests of the Herodians, the Zealots, the Pharisees or the Saduccees. Instead, Jesus came to embody Israel's hitherto unfulfilled mission; the redemption of the world. Jesus spoke parables, such as that of the vineyard, indicating God's intention to replace the political entity Israel had become with one new humanity, consisting of people from every nation, summed up in Himself. He told the religious leaders
"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit."
Matthew 21:43-44 NIV
The importance of this quote cannot be overstated. I believe that Jesus was here prophesying the cessation of national Israel as God's chosen people.
God, Himself, fulfilled Israel's comission in the person of Jesus. Then, he gave that same comission to His now elected people; the Church. The things that Jesus "began to do and to teach" were now entrusted to believers "from every tribe and language and people and nation".
Paul went on to say that, in the person of Jesus, God tore down the wall that once divided Jew from Gentile. God's election was not to be based on ethnic, cultural, or nationalistic boundaries. God's chosen people no longer consisted of those who were born into the right family, but instead of those who have been born-again from above.
So what does all of this have to do with the question of whether or not the United States is (or even should strive to be) a Christian nation? Everything. If God's people are no longer defined by national borders but instead by those who are "in Christ", how can we go on believing that God favors the United States any more than Iraq, or even Israel over Palestine?
I believe that America as a "Christian nation" really just ends up being a distraction. Rather than seeking to bless, serve, and redeem the people for whom Jesus died and rose again, we try to legislate unbelievers into the Kingdom of God. Thinking that God has comissioned the United States as His vehicle of blessing and redemption we wrongly expect the government to uphold Christian ethics, enforce morality, and oh yeah, take care of the orphans, the widows, and the poor. We fight to keep God on our money, the Ten Commandments in our courthouses (which still baffles me), and prayer in our schools, all the while failing to realize that these are things that only give us a form of godliness without delivering the power we long to experience. Maybe we should stop trying to coerce Christian character out of unbelievers and instead start exhibiting some ourselves (me included!). Would this actually result in our acting like the children of God that we were really recreated to be? Would that in turn result in the fulfillment of the Great Comission, therein fulfilling God's promise to bless the entire world? What do you think?