A gracEmail reader asks, “Is America a Christian nation? Was it ever one?”
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Our nation was founded on belief in a Supreme Being and in broad biblical principles of morality. The founders expressed these convictions in the nation’s charter documents and frequently in their own speech and private writing as well. Some, like George Washington, were committed practicing Christians. Others, like Thomas Jefferson, were deists who rejected the deity of Christ and biblical miracles but believed in one true God who is sovereign over the world. The percentage of the general population that regularly attended church services in 1776 was smaller than the percentage of citizens who do so today.
Demographically, the United States as a whole is still largely populated by professing Christians. Sadly, many do not connect that profession to daily life and none of us measures up to our highest ideals. Being born in America certainly does not make one a Christian. The landscape of my own city of Houston is speckled with Christian churches, but also with Jewish synagogues, Moslem mosques, Buddhist temples and Hindu shrines. Even more numerous are the gathering places devoted to the less tangible but equally idolatrous gods of power, wealth, entertainment, pleasure and physical beauty. We are indeed a religious people.
This is a great and good nation, but its record is flawed and scarred. That record includes ruthless slaughters (from Native Americans to the unborn), the abomination of human slavery, support of foreign dictators who persecuted Christians and denied their own people basic human rights, and, on occasion, domestic agendas grounded in cold-hearted selfishness or in flagrant immorality. Rather than rewriting history to create an imaginary past, let us devote ourselves to work toward a brighter future. Let each professing Christian resolve to manifest the spirit and heart of Jesus Christ in every aspect of daily life. That, not theocratic statehood, is the believer’s true calling.