Is Americanism Christian?
Was America founded on Christian principles? This is a question of much debate today, and in Christian circles we often run to our answer “yes” as if it will work as some sort of trump card, winning all moral issues in politics.
When the Articles of Confederation were tossed aside and the Constitution was being formed, our founding fathers established for us a Democratic Republic. In addition, America has tended to be very capitalistic. Our founding fathers also established for our nation various rights such as the right to bear arms and religious freedom.
Are any of these things inherently Christian? No. They are not. They are political ideologies. Our founding fathers may have been influence by Christianity, may have been Christians, and/or may have had Christian values, but that doesn’t make the political system Christian any more than Tony Dungy’s (a Christian NFL coach) football playbook a “Christian” playbook. Capitalism is no more Christian than Marxism, or vice versa; republic is no more Christian than a dictatorship, etc. So, when we say that out nation was founded on Christian principles, we cannot be speaking anything of government or political ideologies, for God does not describe any type of Christian government. He only describes one type of government—the God-given type (Rom 13:1).
I often here people make mention of what they call their “God-given rights.” But even the rights I made reference to above mere political rights, not God-given rights, not inherent rights that are owed to us. To prove this, one need only look at Paul’s words in Romans 13:1-2 and then note the historical context of these words.
Romans 13:1-2 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
At the time Paul was writing Romans, Nero was the Emperor. Religious rights were unknown to him to say the least, yet he commanded the Christians in Rome to respect and obey their God-given government. In other words, if God gives a government with certain rights, then one can say that these rights are God-given—because God gave them through the government. But this is mere grace, not a divine duty—something God owes us because of our very nature. Our God-given rights are the rights He has chosen to graciously give us through the government He has graciously established for us.
Is America Founded on Christian Principles?
But what about ethics? Was our nation founded on Christian principles, Christian morals? Now this is a completely different discussion.
Apparently it is rather debatable what our founding fathers believed about God, the Bible, or anything pertaining to morals (i.e., many may have been deists, not Christians). They very well may have had Christian morals (and I tend to think they must have at least been influenced by Christianity).
But either way, what our found fathers believed about religion does not matter the least bit at all. Those men are dead. However, what they left still exists, and that is a political system that was made for the people, by the people, and is still being made by the people. To argue that our nation was founded on American values is therefore not a trump card at all, because it wouldn’t make a difference what our nation was founded on. The American government is an evolving government. So what matters is the values that are nation holds now. Our dead founding fathers are no longer the government; we are.
Our founding fathers created for us a government that inherently allows for change and progression as checked by the constitution: a democratic republic ruled by the people. And as the people, we are the deciding factor regarding the ethics of our nation. And I am sad to say that our nation, therefore, is not founded (I speak in the present tense) on Christian values. In other words, Christianity is no longer our foundation (if it ever was—this doesn’t matter). And we see this in examples such as the gay marriage movement, legalization of abortion, and many other ungodly “rights.”
But should we fall back to the pointless argument that our founding fathers never would have done such things as legalize abortion, etc.? No, our founding fathers are dead, and we the people have done such a thing because we are now the government and we can. Whether or not our founding fathers held Judeo-Christian values is irrelevant considering they are no longer the government. So, our concern is no longer them but us.
Application – So What’s Our Response?
So, what is the current foundation of America? We all know that it is certainly not Christian. So, what do we do as Christians? What is our reaction in light of Romans 13? Well, in this passage we are told to honor and obey our authorities because in doing so we obey the Sovereign who is in control of their reign, that is, God who allows them to rule and set them up in power. However, as Americans, we are our own government. Our context is an interesting twist to Romans 13. Not only are we to respect the established rule but we have the God-given right to influence it. We, humanly speaking, can establish the rule (elect politicians to office) and are the established rule (because we have voting right).
Therefore, first, we should never pull out of government simply because it is not a Christian realm. Since God has given us these privileges, we should use them for His glory by influencing our country with the small portion of the government that is founded on Christian values—the Christian citizens. The majority of our government may not have a Christian foundation, but we do (at least we should), and we should be just as much an influence as God wills us to be. God allows us to be and has established us as the government. Therefore, let us glorify Him in the influence we have.
We ought to be disgusted by the sin in our nation and fight in the political sphere to change laws. But we should never be shocked at our nation’s depravity as if it is “un-American.” American and godly are not synonymous; America is full of depraved, dead in sin, people. Immorality is not against our foundation for our foundation was political and the current moral foundation of many Americans is immoral. Therefore, let us not be shocked at the downward spiral (a premillennial understanding of eschatology will indicate that things will only get worse as the end of the age approaches).
Nonetheless, our lives as Christians are to be Gospel-centered, and therefore, our lives in the political realm should be a reflection of that value. We are just as much the government as anyone else and we should use that God-given right for God and His glory. Our government is only as Christian as the Christians make it, for we can rest assure that the remainder will not be.
Further Miscellaneous Thoughts
• America is not the new Israel. The promises to Israel are not ours to claim.
• There are many Christians who get more fired up about politics than the Gospel, the Bible, church, or God. Earthly temporal citizenship should never be superior or diminish heavenly citizenship.
• I am irritated when churches sing patriotic hymns/songs in their services or have church services or preach sermons solely on something so temporal such as government or military service. In no way am I against patriotic hymns/songs, government, and certainly not the military (I appreciate our military incredibly), but I find no place for these things to take center stage in a church gathering. Simply said, the church meets for preaching of God’s word, the edification of believers, and to practice the ordinances of the church ultimately all for the glory of God. Anything that takes away from this as the central focus should not have a part in the church service.
• There is a tendency among many American Christians to be very prideful of our nation. And there is nothing wrong with being grateful for being American, but when we come so far as to view ourselves better than those people of other nations, we have lost our focus of the Gospel. Our life should be viewed in Gospel colored lenses. If we allow our love of nation affect our life in the Gospel we have misplaced our priorities in regard to our heavenly citizenship. All men are souls needing the Savior. We should never let racism, bias, or political agendas affect our witness as His ambassadors.
* Originally posted on former blog, I’m Calling Us Out.