The folks at the Pew Research Center are reporting that “45% of Americans Say U.S. Should be a ‘Christian Nation’” even though they admit that Americans tend to be very unclear about what that actually means. Pew also reports that “most U.S. adults believe America’s founders intended the country to be a Christian nation,” but only 33% believe that our nation is currently “a Christian nation.”
Specifically, Pew explains “that six-in-ten U.S. adults – including nearly seven-in-ten Christians – say they believe the founders ‘originally intended’ for the U.S. to be a Christian nation.” Additionally, “about three-quarters of U.S. adults (77%) say that churches and other houses of worship should not endorse candidates for political offices.”
Pew admits that “many supporters of Christian nationhood define the concept in broad terms, as the idea that the country is guided by Christian values.” They also report that it is those who do not believe that America is or should be a Christian nation that define that concept in more ominous terms, “as one where the laws explicitly enshrine religious teachings.”
This is an extremely important distinction, as it shows that the very people who support a Christian nation ideal are admittedly not theocrats seeking to have our government run by operatives of the church. Those dramatic, and largely baseless, assumptions are held by those who decidedly oppose any idea of America as a Christian nation.
Pew’s reported findings should serve as a source of calm for those who are decrying some ominous threat of Christian Nationalism. Pew explains specifically,
While some people who say the U.S. should be a Christian nation define the concept as one where a nation’s laws are based on Christian tenets and the nation’s leaders are Christian, it is much more common for people in this category to see a Christian nation as one where people are more broadly guided by Christian values or a belief in God, even if its laws are not explicitly Christian and its leaders can have a variety of faiths or no faith at all. (emphasis added)
Other advocates of a Christian nation simply contend this is where “most people are Christians” and others “are simply envisioning a place people treat each other well and have good morals.”
So no, there is nothing pernicious or concerning in most Americans’ view of our country as a Christian nation. And Pew’s findings make this very clear.
Christian Nationalism or Christian Patriotism?
We are hearing more and more about the supposed threat of what is being termed “Christian Nationalism.” Given how often we are hearing such warnings, it is worth noting that the term “Christian Nationalism” is seldom ever used by the people who are charged with being Christian Nationalists. Rather, it is typically a term their opponents use, and most often with the goal of shutting down their participation in democracy and public life. Too often, Christian citizens who are simply demonstrating patriotic zeal for their unique and special nation are tarred with the ugly brush of “Christian Nationalism.” This is irresponsible and should be resisted. Patriotism is a virtue, even fervent patriotism.
As Focus on the Family president Jim Daly has written, if Christian nationalism “is putting love of country (and our self-interests) over love of God” then yes, that is always wrong and should be rooted out … primarily by Christians themselves. But if “Christian Nationalism” is simply Christians loving their country, demonstrating that love in very public ways and passionately involving themselves in its political process and governance, that is called democracy. And every citizen’s involvement in democracy should always be encouraged, regardless of their religion, because that is what a vibrant and successful democracy requires.
And Pew’s own research tells us that most of those who believe America is a Christian nation are certainly not “Christian Nationalists.” Nor are they to be feared. They are to be encouraged as vibrant contributors to a unique governmental system that has made America the hope of the world, evidenced by countless waves of individuals and families risking life and limb to come to our shores and live here as American citizens.
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