Friday, November 21, 2014

How to tell if the U.S. is a Christian nation

The argument as to whether or not the US of A is a Christian nation has been going on for a long time.  From the outset there were those who thought that God should be considered the author of our freedom and that the values we embody in our founding documents should be the values professed by the Christian religion.

That didn't happen.  By and large, all of our founding "fathers" (with maybe one exception) had little use for the Christian religion per se, even though they often gave lip service to it so as not to jeopardize unnecessarily their political hopes and dreams.

Our founding fathers were mostly deists, who professed belief in an anonymous god who got things rolling, set the clock as it were, and then left well-enough alone.  It wasn't that they fought Christianity so much as they ignored it and went about their business.  Jefferson cared so little for traditional Christianity that he put together his own Bible.  John Adams told the entire world that there was no sense in which the United States was a Christian nation.

But let's assume for the sake of argument that the majority of our founding fathers were Christians in 1776.  They would have been predominately Anglican or Episcopalian or possibly Congregationalists and perhaps a few would have been northern Baptists.  Not one of them would be able to understand nor would they be able to abide today's so-called Christian fundamentalists.  They stressed a sense of responsibility, a belief that freedom was to be attainable for all (except, of course, for the slaves - but that was an issue to be resolved later), and that the United States was in essence, a commonwealth, in which its citizens shared some responsibility for one another.

Now, this overarching plan didn't always work.  Humans being human, tend to screw up things, and many were quite stupid just as many are today.  Others were corrupt and used their office and their government to line their own pockets.

But their "religion" was not what drove them to try to do the right thing.  Religion in its Christian form did not provide the basis for the American Constitution or other founding documents.  It was primarily the values of the Enlightenment which stressed human freedom and democratic processes and responsibility for one another.  The Enlightenment was about the betterment of society, and in the United States (led by Benjamin Franklin) its values of reformation, liberty, democracy and religious toleration took hold.

Just for fun, let's check out a definitive way to tell if the so-called Christian leaders of our time are right when they call this country a Christian nation.

In order to do that, we must consider the story of the legendary Jesus, told in several different ways by the Gospel writers.  We shall ignore the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and we shall ignore the other books of the New Testament for they were written long after Jesus was said to have lived and do not add anything of substance to his teachings.

The Jesus of the Gospels is a complex person and many commentators down through the ages have attempted to explain or describe or portray him in many different ways.  To some, he was a prophet; to others a zealous political anarchist; then some said he was mainly a healer; a rabbi (teacher); a miracle worker, etc.  It seems you can read the Gospels and come up with many different understandings of what Jesus was really all about.

But there are some fundamentals to an understanding of the Jesus of the Gospels:

He was compassionate.
He was loving.
He was kind.
He went out of his way to feed people and to heal people.
He said we should not judge others.
He said we should not be hypocrites.
He said that the most important things are to feed the hungry, heal the sick and visit those in prison.
He said that rich people were going to hell.
He said that the meek would inherit the earth (not the powerful).
He said that God welcomes all people, even the despised Samaritans.
He said that we should not worry about the government but get about doing God's work.
He said we should not pray in public!
He said we should not parade our religion in the public square (that's what hypocrites do).
He said we should pray for our enemies.
He said we should not lie.
He said we should not cheat or steal or bear false witness.

He had nothing whatsoever to say about homosexuality.
He had nothing whatsoever to say about contraception.
He had nothing whatsoever to say about abortion.
He said nothing about the free market or capitalism.
He said nothing about "keeping Christ in Christmas".
He said nothing about putting up copies of the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
He said nothing about God punishing the United States for any reason.
He said nothing about everyone carrying a gun.

Well, you get the picture.  The Christian right today is not even slightly related to the Jesus of the Gospels!  There is no connection!  The Christian right by their actions actually deny the foundational teachings of the man from Galilee!

They are not compassionate.  They would deny retirement, health care, and food to the less fortunate in order to "teach the poor a lesson."  They lie constantly about our president and about his actions and his programs.  They call him a Muslim which in our present political climate is a vicious lie.

The Christian right today glorifies war, wants to close off our borders and put in jail those who cross over to this land of freedom "illegally," although "illegal" is a term we define and not something written in stone during the Exodus.

The Christian right today adores and does everything in its power to protect the rich.

The Christian right today demands that their religious beliefs be the law of the land and that their religious practices be protected by law.  They demand that they be allowed to pray in public, that their beliefs underlie the laws passed by our legislative bodies.  And when they cannot accomplish this they pretend they're the victims when the truth is something far worse - they are using their religion to gain power in the land.

The Christian right today adores war, also.  Like it is said about John McCain, there never was a war they don't like.  Violence becomes them.  Not a few are threatening a violent overthrow of the government if their beliefs do not become enshrined in Washington.

Many of the Christian right are openly racist.  The election of President Obama sent them into a six-year conniption fit which has only increased over time.  They cannot accept a black man as president and will do anything to defeat him; tell any lie to make him look bad or stab him in the back.

The Christian right today has devolved to the extent that facts are nothing more than things to reconfigure for their own use.  Thus, they disbelieve in evolution and climate change because both challenge their notion that every word in the Bible is true.  They gather together and share their resources to influence our public schools so that truth be not taught, but rather their religious beliefs become the foundation of our educational system.

Back to the question as to whether we are a Christian nation.  We are not and never have been.  While the Jesus of the Gospels is reported to have shared some suggestions which are helpful to human life they were never enshrined in our founding documents because our founding fathers were led by the values of the Enlightenment rather than the values of the Bible.

Strangely enough, if the Christian right has their way, we will become ever more LESS of a Christian nation than their humid minds dream about.  The Christian right does not exemplify Jesus.  It's the reverse:  the beliefs and the actions of the Christian right are diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Jesus of the Gospel. 

Let's hope to whatever god we believe in that they never get their way!

For an interesting article on this whole Christian nation thing, read Hrafnkel Haraldsson's article, "America is a Christian Nation.  If We Don't Like It, We Should Get Out" here.


William Kendall said...

When you look at Jesus with those characteristics... the man was a liberal.

Try telling that to a religious right fundamentalist. They'll have a stroke.

Bob Poris said...

I found this very thought provoking from start to finish. I assume some will disagree with parts or not. Others will not read it because they know the answer and will not accept any denial or even a question re the premise.

I prefer trying to keep an open mind on such subjects although I admit I have a strong opinion re the subject. Perhaps there will be some reason for me to change my mind, but so far I have never heard one other than repetition of the claims of both sides..

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