The UnChristian Quest for a Christian America

04/21/2016 10:09 am ET
Lee C. CampHost of, Professor of Theology, Lipscomb Univ.

Love of Country

I do love America.

How could one not love the forests of Maine; the gorges of the Cumberland plateau in Tennessee; the mesquite trees of west Texas; the ragged coastline of California? All of it like a hymn of praise, a song of thanksgiving for so much abundance and goodness.

And being a grateful citizen of Music City, I must stop there a moment: how could one not love the prophetic consciousness of Johnny Cash, the mesmerizing cadences of Don Williams, the angelic strains of Alison Krauss?

Or considering socio-political greats: how could one not admire the virtues of industry and wit in Benjamin Franklin; the democratic impulses of the nineteenth-century religious reformers; the cry for justice in the words of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the humility suffusing Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address; or the persistence and sheer human courage seen in the likes of the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and Chuck Yeager?—all like paeans to the human spirit.

One could go on and on, in all good faith, with more accounts of beauty and courage.

Christian Nation

Here in the Bible Belt at least, this rather honorable love for land and neighbor, however, gets conflated with another, less helpful construct: the myth of the Christian nation. “Conflated” is a word too little used or appreciated: the melding or melting of two ideas into one.

I am rather convinced that to conflate love of country with the myth—or the pursuit of—a Christian nation is bad news: bad for the country and bad for Christianity. To claim that the United States once was a “Christian nation,” or to seek to recover some supposedly lost “Christian nation” status, is bad news because it is historically false; misunderstands basic Christian theology and practice; and contends for a strategy that is sure to back-fire into resentment and hostility.

1. Historically false



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