There are many terrific things we can say about America. We we were the first to create a government ruled by law rather than evil whims of kings. We the people were the first given the right to choose our leaders. Moreover, we are perhaps the most generous people in all history. But does this qualify us as a Christian nation?
Those who argue pro and con on this question cite the values and spiritual pedigree of the founding fathers. No question that our constitution is founded on Christian values of freedom and equality. But to find a genuine litmus test to identify how to spot what is and isn’t true Christianity, we must turn to Jesus who said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” [Matthew 7: 16, 20]. He explains what “fruits” are in verse 21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” In other words, fruits are not what we say, or what’s written in our documents, but what we do.
This means true faith and true Christianity is not judged by religious declarations, creeds and doctrines, but by right and just behavior. Even words of worship, “Lord, Lord,” don’t cut it. In the secular realm, Congress passed laws in the 50’s, inserting “under God” in our pledge to the flag and mandated “In God we trust” be stamped on our coins. Yet a few decades later, our Supreme Court reversed these declarations by ruling God’s name will no longer be called upon in our public schools. [Engel v.s Vitale). Today the name of God is not allowed to be said in any group that receives public funds. Neither can there be any objection to homosexual marriage or behaviors. Clearly, words alone are not the evidence of what is Christian. What then does authenticate true belief?
To spot true faith, Jesus says look for actions that fulfill God’s will. But what exactly is His will? Consider the great commandment, to love God and others. The Apostle John declared we cannot say we love God without loving actions toward others. He’s wants fruit, products of faith—loving acts of justice, mercy and reconciliation.
We Americans can be proud of our record for aiding people abroad who have been devastated by wars and disasters . But consider how we have treated many within our borders? Here are just a few examples.
- Except for the pilgrims, our white ancestors’ treatment of the native populations was brutal. One example, among hundreds, is found in a a prominent colonist letter to the governor at Fort Pitt. “… [Let’s] try to inoculate the Indians [with smallpox] with infected blankets and any other means to extirpate this execrable race.” Settlers thought this a good idea and distributed blankets to them from contagious patients.
- Later, federal troops drove nearly 100,000 Cherokee people off their lands and forced them to march 1000 miles to Oklahoma. causing 4,000 deaths. When gold was discovered in the Dakotas, our government waged a ruthless war against the Sioux, forcing them off their land. And let’s not forget sad incidents like Wounded Knee or all the many treaties we made with Native Americans and then broke.
- A multitude of Africans were kidnapped, shipped here in chains, sold to white settlers and forced to work under brutal conditions with no pay. If they didn’t submit, they were beaten or worse. Families were torn apart. Many African Americans have European DNA, often because white masters used female slaves to satisfy their lusts.
- The primary motive for this injustice wasn’t meanness or lust. It was greed. The use of slaves brought great wealth to America. In 1850 the U.S.’s largest capital investment was its 3.2 million slaves. But just as John Brown predicted, America paid for these sins in blood. More than 800,000 of our young men spilled their blood in a vicious civil war. It emancipated black Americans, but have they recovered from centuries of slavery? Today many still populate our inner-cities in ghetto-like poverty, dependent on public aid as saves depended on white masters.
- In 1973 a Supreme Court ruling [Roe v Wade] made it legal to kill unborn babies. Here is yet another example of how we have mistreated millions within our land. Can we innocently point our finger at the government and say “they did it?” We cannot for as Lincoln pointed out, our government is “of the people for the people and by the people.”
These and many other things in our history disqualify America to be labeled Christian. We render to America what Jesus said we should to Caesar, the state. But God’s nation is not America nor is it any political entity. How then is God present in the world today? Where do we find a witness to his loving acts of mercy and forgiveness? St. Paul writes of a different kind of “land”, a “new Israel.” Peter describes a “holy nation.” Our next post identifies God’s new Israel and holy nation.
O Lord, ewe intercede for our great land. Bless us with good leadership in the days ahead. Put us back on a just course and bring right living and right relationships to your people.
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