Emails to a Christian Nation

Every once in a while my wife and I will receive some of those forwarded emails. You know the ones. They come uninvited--usually because someone thinks they have a thought that everyone should believe in or something cute that's supposed to pick you up or something that's supposed to be inspirational (am I sounding too cynical?). They've become the technological equivalent of a chain letter. They may not promise you money for sending it to your friends, but sometimes they tug at your conscience, saying that if you believe in something then you must forwarded it to everyone you can.

We've seen a couple lately that are in the same vein but from different directions. The fist is the one that warns you about all Muslims, because the Islamic faith calls all followers to kill any infidels.

The second one urges all Christians to fight for America staying a Christian nation. It became especially popular after President Obama reportedly said in a speech in Turkey that "We are not a Christian nation."

Before I respond, can I point out that if we're supposed to do all we can to help America remain a Christian nation, how is that any different that Muslims fighting for Islam?

In order to believe that all Muslims are on a jihad against Christians, you have to live in such a way that you have not every met a Muslim and spent any meaninful time with them, getting to know them. And I know that there are places where you may never come in contact with a Muslim. There aren't any that I'm aware of in my neighborhood. So I don't permit myself to make generalizations of a people group that I have no contact with. My wife works with several Muslims and can attest that they're not all bent on killing Christians. In fact, none of the ones she's met are extremist in any way.

I also know that America can in no way--nor should--be labeled a "Christian nation." Yes, it's true that many of the founding fathers were believers, and they founded America with many guiding Christian principles. We may be a nation where historically the majority of its occupants have been Christians. But if we are a Christian nation, then Christianity has failed miserably. Poverty, homelessness and starvation are everywhere. Orphans are neglected, the unborn are being murdered and we're at war. America is very good at looking at for itself, but I see little of it loving its neighbors. The church has lost its influence and its prominence. And, as we have more and more people from different cultures and faiths in our country, the more we are a reflection of the whole world.

Christianity is not relegated to geo-political boundaries or systems. It is personal. It is communal. It is transformational. It is salvational. It is redemptive. It is about grace, righteousness and peace. Above all else it is about love. There is little in that list that is the job of a nation. Those come from being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Those emails will keep circulating, I know full well. One blog post is not going to change that--just as one email is not going to influence me to change my beliefs. But maybe it can spur some dialogue. Discussing these things with others is much more productive than filling up someone's inbox with propaganda. I've never encountered propaganda that comes with love; I believe, though, that we followers of Christ are to speak the truth in love. Let's give it a try.


Ariah said...

Thanks for sharing that I couldn't agree more.

Rev. Dave said...

A few further thoughts:

I guess every Muslim I've ever heard address the "kill the infidel verses" say that extremists take them out of context. Much in the same way the Bible says, "anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death" (Leviticus 24:16). Historically, Christians have taken verses like that to kill unbelievers. It still goes on in parts of the world.

And I don't have a problem with our nation's principles coming from a Christian foundation. I think it's wonderful. Sociologists have found that even "uncivilized" tribes usually follow the Ten Commandments, even if they have never heard of them (I believe God has imprinted this in humanity). My problem is with calling America a Christian nation. Just because we have Christian principles doens't mean we're a Christian nation anymore than wearing dog tags makes me a soldier (or a choker makes me a dog). Harvard and Yale are technically Christian universities. Many European countries are technically Christian nations. I think the church would be more effective if we didn't worry about standing up for America being a Christian nation, but instead spent our energies on loving God and loving others so that people see what Christianity is intended to be. I don't get how we're going to share Christ with Muslims if we try and convince everyone that they're out to kill us.