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Is America A Christian Nation?

Think Christianly: Is America A Christian Nation?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is America A Christian Nation?

This is a question that shows up whenever Christianity and politics are discussed. Here is a thoughtful answer to this often heated question:
“It’s easy to get bogged down in a debate about whether the United States is a “Christian nation.” The problem is that the phrase means different things to different people. If we’re talking about the views of most Americans, then certainly we are a Christian nation. About 78 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians of some sort. All other religions combined make up less than 5 percent, and about 16 percent are unaffiliated (though not necessarily atheist). So just as we talk about “Muslim countries,” where most of the citizens are Muslims, we could refer to the United States as a “Christian nation.” The phrase also makes sense if you’re talking about American history. The original American colonies were overwhelmingly Christian. In fact, most started as Christian charters. Moreover, our laws and political traditions come largely from the Judeo-Christian culture of Europe, and especially Great Britain. But when some people hear talk of America as a “Christian nation,” they envision a country where Christianity is mandated, or where non-Christians are viewed as second-class citizens, or where atheists are herded out of the political process. So unless you explain what you mean by the phrase, talking about the United States as a Christian nation is liable to create more heat than light.”—Jay Richards and James Robison
That is fair and sound analysis of the facts. However, in a culture governed by soundbites and slogans, facts and qualifications are often hard to inject into the conversation. Also, perception is often reality. So if someone hears a negative, exclusionary tone when "Christian Nation" is brought up, then it ceases to be helpful (even if accurate).

For more on a sober view of Christianity and politics, see Indivisible:

I also discuss how Christianity ought to interface with politics here.

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