Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2008

Faith Forum: Is the U.S. a ‘Christian nation’?

February 23, 2008

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Judy Roitman, guiding teacher, Kansas Zen Center, 1423 N.Y.:

About 78.5 percent of U.S. citizens are Christians, which means 21.5 percent aren't. If we're a Christian nation, over a fifth of us are living in the wrong country.

Fifteen percent of us have no affiliation - atheists and agnostics, plus folks who don't quite fit in anywhere. There are about 5 million Jews and 2 million Muslims (estimates vary widely), about 1 million Buddhists and 1 million Hindus, plus Wiccans and Zoroastrians and Jains and Taoists and Baha'is and Sikhs and ...

As for the 78.5 percent of us who are Christian, that includes Baptists and Catholics and Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, along with lots of other people in lots of other denominations, many of whom can't agree on much, theologically. So I'm not sure what the question could mean.

Yes, the founders of our nation were mostly Christian (some more so than others) with a sprinkling of deists (belief in a rational God and little else) - scholars still debate which founder was which.

But they lived in a world of great upheaval. They had the wisdom to know the world would change in ways they couldn't imagine. No law says that that any elected official, from school board member to president of the United States, needs to adhere to any particular religion. Our laws are not derived from interpretations of Scripture or vetted to see if they adhere to Scripture.

So while much of the founders' wisdom came from their own beliefs, and many of those beliefs were Christian, they left the future free and created no religious barriers. No American is second class because of religious belief, and that is one of our glories.

- Send e-mail to Judy Roitman at roitman@ku.edu.

The Rev. Beau Abernathy, pastor, CrossPointe Church, 1942 Mass.:

In his powerful study "When Nations Die," Jim Nelson Black identifies 10 factors that have appeared in great civilizations of the past and led to their decline and fall. In some cultures, Black observes, as few as three or four of these symptoms of social, cultural and moral decline would be enough to bring a society to the point of imminent collapse.

The list includes increase in lawlessness; loss of economic discipline; rising bureaucracy; decline in education; weakening of cultural foundations; loss of respect for traditions; increase in materialism; rise in immorality; decay of religious belief; and devaluing of human life.

Tragically, according to Black, the United States is the first nation in history where all 10 symptoms are present in one society at one time.

Would these words, prayed by the Rev. Joe Wright before the Kansas Legislature in the 1990s, be shocking if America were a Christian nation?

"We confess we have ridiculed the absolute truth of your word and called it moral pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment."

- Send an e-mail to Beau Abernathy at beaumerna@sbcglobal.net

Comments

50YearResident 7 years, 1 month ago

Rev Abernathy made some (10) very good points as to where the United States is headed. It is all downward.

janeyb 7 years, 1 month ago

"As for the 78.5 percent of us who are Christian, that includes Baptists and Catholics and Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, along with lots of other people in lots of other denominations, many of whom can't agree on much, theologically."

Catholics believe only they will go to heaven. Many of your Baptists, Church of Christ, and other really conservative churches feel only they are Christians, and definitely don't think Catholics, Mormans and JW's are Christians. Hence the joke about different religions in heaven--"Shhhh, those are the Baptists. They don't know anybody else is here."

"In God We Trust" and "One Nation Under God" not "In Jesus Christ We Trust" or "One Nation Under Jesus Christ." Our founding fathers were pretty cagey fellows.

Chuck Wehner 7 years, 1 month ago

It would have been nice if Rev. Abernathy had actually answered the question instead of going off on how our country is going to hell.

Maybe he is thinking of going into politics.

Eileen Jones 7 years, 1 month ago

Considering what Christians did to the nation with their blind support of George W. Bush (all because he claimed to be a Christian), I certainly hope we are not a Christian nation. Christians have given Christianity a bad name, of late.

Newell_Post 7 years, 1 month ago

"Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of [Muslims]; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any {Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

--Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli or Barbary, 1796, unanimously approved by the US Senate and signed by President Adams

":Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state:"

-- President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, 1802

Church membership: George Washington (none) John Adams (Unitarian) John Quincy Adams (Unitarian) Abraham Lincoln (none)

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 1 month ago

In no way was America founded as a xtian nation.

"In God We Trust" and "One Nation Under God" were 19th and 20th century liberal xtian activism trying to undermine the Constitution and establish the USA as a xtian nation. These are clearly unconstitutional, and were not part of the original American nation.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 1 month ago

cool,

Historically, those acts of horror you describe are well within the normal operating procedure of xtians, from dark ages wars of conversion, to the crusades, to the inquisition, to slavery, and to modern torture and terror.

It is helpful to remember that the theologies of christism and islam are very similar, with martyrdom and heavenly rewards.

What is good and beautiful about America is generally despite the xtianity of most of its citizens.

Confrontation 7 years, 1 month ago

The US is pretty screwed up, so I'd say "yes" to the question.

Charliemac 7 years, 1 month ago

What do we mean by a Christian Nation? Do we mean that every citizen is a Christian the way that a Boy Scout troop is a group of individual boy scouts? If so then clearly the US is not a Christian nation. If we mean it was founded by a group of people who all called themselves Christian, this also cannot be demonstrated. If we mean it was founded on "Christian" principles, we simply have created another debate about what constitutes "Christian" principles in contradiction to say John Locke's Principles, or Greek Republican Principles. As in many other "catch-phrases," the concept of a Christian Nation is long on rhetorical usages and short on literal meaning.

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