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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org