Shall We Become a Christian Nation?
According to a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll of Americans, 32% of us expressed our desire for Christianity to become the “official” religion of the United States. Forty-two percent of respondents opposed that notion, with 32% of them “strongly opposed.” I share their strong opposition. That’s why it really isn’t so inconsequential that a group of eleven Republican state representatives in North Carolina this past week pushed for a state resolution declaring that while the U. S. Constitution forbids the establishment of religion, that prohibition only applies to the federal government and not to the states. Thus, according to these legislators, each state has the right to establish a religion in that state according to the dictates of the electorate. Their resolution did not pass. While many considered their legislative maneuver doomed from the start, their effort nevertheless has elevated the issue to a much wider discussion. Turns out the quest for the “Christianization” of America is not new. In the latter half of the nineteenth century a group of ministers banded together to form the National Reform Association. According to a blog on the website First Things, they proposed the following amendment to the preamble of the Constitution: “WE, THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, [recognizing the being and attributes of Almighty God, the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures, the law of God as the paramount rule, and Jesus, the Messiah, the Saviour and Lord of all] in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/04/09/no-surprise-that-32-of-americans-want-a-christian-constitutional-amendment/) John Fea, author of this First Things blog and the book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?, notes that these National Reform ministers “were very careful to affirm that they were not opposing religious liberty and were not interested in creating a theocracy. But they did want to give Christianity a privileged place in America. This meant the promotion of Bible reading in schools, the preservation of the Christian sabbath, and the public recognition of the teaching of Christianity as the nation’s moral guide.” The preservation of the “Christian sabbath”? Is that where the “Christianization” of America would lead us? This week we learned one out of three Americans would like to see Christianity established as the official religion of this nation. Let the moral (or immoral) conditions of our society continue to deteriorate, and it isn’t rocket science to assume such numbers will only increase. Let a series of natural, national calamities strike us, and I imagine a majority hue and cry for a state-sponsored religion (“return this country to God” would no doubt be the moniker for such a move). The point? You can get there from here. Which means that from here on out vigilance on behalf of religious liberty is critical. And diligence on behalf of our apocalyptic mission is essential. Somewhere I read that what we neglect to do in a time of prosperity, we shall yet have to do in a time of great duress. Thus for us the sentiment of the young Christ is all the more applicable: “Don’t you know that we must be about our Father’s business?” (see Luke 2:49). Would to God the church were awake!