Generally speaking, Christians in America like to think that the United States of America is a, “Christian country.” Those who say that we aren’t, generally wish that we were.
Of course, even if we all agree that we ought to be a Christian country, that doesn’t mean we actually agree. It seems that there is still a discrepancy in what we even mean by the term, Christian country.
For many it simply means that we are a country where…
- Christian prayer is allowed, or even encouraged, in our schools and other government settings
- saying, “Merry Christmas,” is always accepted and preferred
- the Ten Commandments are welcome in our courthouses
- nativities are welcome on public lawns
- the pledge to the flag includes, “under God”
- our money declares, “In God we trust.”
- Christian churches can build where they want (mosques, not so much)
- churches are tax exempt
- Christian ethics guide the laws of the land
- Christians are free to live out their own convictions without fear
While this may be the way many people think when they think of what it means to be a Christian country, this list actually falls way short. This conception of a Christian country reflects a self-centered understanding. It basically means that a Christian country is a country for Christians; a country that favors Christianity and creates/maintains a very Christian-friendly environment. This idea of a Christian country is all about making our country pleasant and comfortable for we Christians.
I would suggest a different idea for a Christian country. Rather than a country for Christians, I would suggest that a Christian country is a country that behaves in a Christlike manner. In other words, it is a country that takes personal Biblical, Christian ethics and applies them at a national level.
Let me share some examples of what I mean.
Way back in Genesis, when God first called Abraham, he made this covenant:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3, emphasis added)
Here is the general principle that can be drawn from that passage: When God blesses, the blessed are supposed to bless others! The Marvel hero, Spiderman, famously learned the lesson that, “with great power comes great responsibility.” This passage teaches the rest of us that with great blessings comes great responsibility. As a nation, we here in the United States, are greatly blessed. As a Christian I credit God for those blessings. Consequently, if we are to be a Christian country, we must use our great blessings to bless others!
This plays out in a wide variety of ways. Among other things, it means that as the most powerful country in the world, we should help and assist the less powerful. It means that when we make trade agreements, we should think not only of how it benefits ourselves, but also how it benefits those with whom we make the agreement. (Note Philippians 2:3-4 — “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”) It means giving aid to nations that are not as blessed as the United States–nations dealing with drought, famine, war, and so on.
A truly Christian country will not horde its blessings for itself but will use its blessings to bless others.
For another example, consider the environment. In the beginning, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15) Notice that the command is two-fold. We are to, “work it,” but we are also to, “take care of it.” It is an unfortunate truth that our culture has been better with the former than with the latter. We must bring that into balance.
A truly Christian country will not only “work” the planet but will also “take care of it.”
As another example, there is the issue of how a Christian nation should treat the marginalized and needy within its own borders. Here are just two relevant Scripture passages (from among many) that should guide and direct our policies if we want to be a Christian country: 1 John 3:17 asks, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” Along the same vein, James 2:14-17 says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
The directives of these and other relevant passages would include assisting with basics like food, shelter, and health care. It would also include ensuring that our laws don’t favor the well-to-do and that we proactively give the needy a hand-up in things like educational opportunities. It means we would make sure that our tax code doesn’t favor the well-to-dos over against those in poverty.
A truly Christian country will take care of its marginalized and needy.
Immigration is a divisive subject in our country. How should a Christian country respond to immigrants? Turning to Scripture, we are in Leviticus 19:34, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” It is an inconvenient truth (to some) that this passage makes no distinction between documented foreigners and non-documented foreigners. We are simply told that if they reside here, we should treat them the same as our native-born.
A truly Christian country will love its immigrants.
There is the issue of equal rights… According to Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, …” Our own Declaration of Independence mirrors this teaching with those well-known words, “all men are created equal.”
A truly Christian country will not discriminate, but will operate from a stance of equality under which everyone has “equal protection under the law.”
Domestic Economic Policy: There are Biblical principles that address business. For example, Deuteronomy 25:13-16, teaches: “Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.” The details of this passage were written in a different time and place but once again a general principle can be gleaned. The idea is to be fair in all our business dealings. Wages and prices should be fair, not simply, “whatever the market will bear.” The principle of, “let the buyer beware,” is just another way of saying that you can cheat customers if you can get away with it. Such a principle should have no place in a Christian country.
A truly Christian country will enact policies that aim for justice and fairness.
For the final example, I want to think about how we posture with our enemies. I often hear a call to to overcome our enemies by destroying them with our power and controlling them with intimidation and threats. Biblically, however, we are told: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,…” (Matthew 5:43-44) We are further told, in Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone…”
A truly Christian country will have a foreign policy that is based on goodwill, negotiation, and peace, rather than control through power, fear, and intimidation
I for one would love to live in a Christian country. Not simply a country that loves Christians but a country that embraces Christian love.
It’s something to cerebrate!