I recently received an e-mail from Randy Forbes, one of my Congressional representatives, updating me on his work to “affirm America’s Judeo-Christian heritage.” I have written in the past on the meaninglessness of the term “Judeo-Christian.” While I respect Randy Forbes as a man of principals and godly character, I think he is clearly wrong on the issue of America’s heritage and future.
America was never a “Christian nation… united in some evangelical consensus. Church membership at the time of the American Revolution was no more than six percent of the population” (C. Douglas Weaver, In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story).
Here is an excerpt from Forbes’ e-mail newsletter.
Last May, I spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives affirming America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and its importance in shaping our government. My statement came in response to President Barack Obama’s April 6 speech in Turkey where he said, “And I’ve said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is — although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.” Currently, my video has been viewed over 3 million times, proving America’s religious heritage continues to be a heightened point of debate in our society.
In this particular instance, President Obama is correct. America is neither Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. If it was we would be subject to the laws and dictates of that religion. America is not and was not ever a theocracy.
While Forbes promises “to protect the freedoms of religious expression in public life” I am afraid he is more concerned with protecting Christian freedoms than the freedoms of other religious persons. We must never forget the mistakes that have been justified by the myth of America as God’s “chosen nation” (e.g., Native Americans, etc.). I am, of course, wary of the idea that Forbes or any other person can discern the absolute intent of the Founding Fathers or that the “religious values” of the “Founding Fathers” are worth fighting for. It is clear from history that America is not God’s “chosen nation” and that the most important things to protect our are freedoms.
At the time of the American Revolution many Baptists’, for instance, were being jailed and persecuted for there particular brand of religious beliefs (i.e., voluntary association, baptism by immersion, priesthood of believers, etc.). Many Baptists felt that religious uniformity and collusion of church and state had produced the “shocking monster of [a] Christian nation” (Weaver). This sort of language might seem inflammatory to the modern Christian, but it was central to the beliefs of many at the time of the Revolution.
As a Christian it is important for me to distinguish my nation from my heavenly citizenship; my duty is to proclaim the gospel in all of life. All of the political parties and movements in America have proven to be unsuccessful in producing genuine gospel change in the lives and hearts of the American people. In fact, the collaboration of churches with political movements have produced disinterested “disciples” with mixed motivations.
Do I think that the gospel is the only hope for every person? Absolutely. However, knowing how politicians and power-brokers use religion as a means to dominance, I am careful to separate religious affiliation and law. Further, based on abuses of the past, it is essential that all people of all religions have the same acceptance and protection under the law.