It is sometimes said that the United States is a Christian nation, founded on Biblical principals by godly men. We hear that a lot in election years, but it tends to have a false ring to many people. After all, the constitution takes the practice of slavery for granted, and the early history of the nation is full of betrayal and genocide of Indian populations. While it is true that slavery, betrayal, and genocide are all quite Biblical, we have trouble nowdays perceiving them as Christian values, Usually, the same people who like to point back to what they consider to be the Christian foundations of the United States are the same ones who claim that we have lost our moorings and are in need of reestablishing those values in our society. They tend to want to do so by legislating against things that they claim they don’t do. Unfortunately, their claims are often unfounded, and it turns out that they are usually agitating for legislation against things that they in fact do, but want to hide. In such cases, those people are in great need of our love and compassion, for it turns out that love and compassion are the real ways to building a truly Christian nation.
It is not the desire for a Christian nation that is wrong. It is our understanding of what constitutes such a nation that can lead to trouble. We do have a chance to build a Christian nation, but it does not happen by forcing people to act the way we wish we could. A truly Christian nation is one that is based on love, compassion, and peace. It is a nation that respects and honors each person as the image of God, and does what it can to foster the growth of each person into that unique image. It is sometimes a fine balancing act to figure out which political parties and activities will bring about the fairness and justice that we need in order for people to be able to grow into the mature images of God they are created to be. No two people will ever consistently agree on such matters, and while we should stand firm in our own convictions, we must never be shrill or belittling of those who do not agree. After all, they may have prayed about the matter as much as we have, and we might be the ones who are wrong. Just because people disagree with us does not make them stupid or evil, and saying things repeatedly or loudly does not make them more true, so we can simply state our opinions, let others state theirs, and love each other anyway.
We must also be aware that two hundred years from now, people might be perplexed at our idea of what a Christian nation should be. We might all be wrong about a lot of things, because we are not yet fully mature in Christ. We must keep praying and doing our best to grow, always keeping our hearts and minds open to the Holy Spirit correcting us where we are wrong, and guiding us into fuller truth.
The United States are not a theocracy, and not the New Jerusalem, and not the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God resides in the individual acts of God’s subjects, not in the borders of sovereign nations. No one can be or should be forced into a Christian nation. The Christian nation must instead be carried to them and offered as a place of joy, peace, and health. It is up to us to bring that nation to others, but we must first let it grow in ourselves. May we live our lives in such a manner that that nation can take root and thrive in us, while allowing others the opportunity to let it thrive in them. AMEN