Thursday, October 21, 2010

Christian America

Two recent studies have surfaced an increasing trend in the thinking of Americans.  And no, it has nothing to do with Glee.

Rather, it's that now between 42% (if a Pew Study is to be believed) or 49% (if recent data gleaned the General Social Survey is to be believed) of Americans feel that being Christian is a central element of American identity.  America is a Christian Nation, or so almost half of America believes. 

This is really quite remarkable.  As I've noted before, such thinking shows a complete misunderstanding of the nature of Christian faith.  There can't ever be a Christian nation, not in the sense of a geographic region governed by laws and sharing a common culture.  We put that to rest back with Augustine.  Christianity is not a system of government, relying on the coercive power of the sword to enforce itself.  When it becomes that, and Lord forgive us it often has, it betrays the Gospel.  

Equally troubling is the complete failure of what appears to be functionally half of our population to grasp the nature and purpose of our constitutional republic.  America is the land of liberty, dagflabbit.  We are defined by our freedom, and our respect of the freedoms of others.    The fundamental principles of our republic are conducive to the free practice of Christian faith, yes.  I am grateful for that blessing.   But they are also conducive to practicing Judaism without fear of oppression.  And to being Muslim.  And Buddhist.  And if you so choose, being an atheist.   Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and atheists who embrace and defend the liberties of our Constitution are completely American.

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty does not read "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be Christian."