Posted by: sean | July 22, 2008

Was America Ever A Christian Nation?

The following is excerpted from Gregory Boyd’s fine book The Myth of a Christian Nation:

…I, for one, confess to being utterly mystified by the phrase. If we are to take America back for God, it must have once belonged to God, but it’s not at all clear when this golden Christian age was.

Were these God-glorifying years before, during, or after Europeans “discovered” America and carried out the doctrine of “manifest destiny”–the belief that God (or, for some, nature) had destined white Christians to conquer the native inhabitants and steal their land? Were the God-glorifying years the ones in which whites massacred these natives by the millions, broke just about every covenant they ever made with them, and then forced survivors onto isolated reservations? Was the golden age before, during, or after white Christians loaded five to six million Africans on cargo ships to bring them to their newfound country, enslaving the three million or so who actually survived the brutal trip? Was it during the two centuries when Americans acquired remarkable wealth by the sweat and blood of their slaves? Was this the time when we were truly “one nation under God,” the blessed time that so many evangelicals seem to want to take our nation back to?

Maybe someone would suggest that the golden age occurred after the Civil War, when blacks were finally freed. That doesn’t quite work either, however, for the virtual apartheid that followed under Jim Crow laws–along with the ongoing violence, injustices, and dishonesty towards Native Americans and other nonwhites up into the early twentieth century–was hardly “God-glorifying.” (In this light, it should come as no surprise to find that few Christian Native Americans, African-Americans, or other nonwhites join in the chorus that we need to “Take America Back for God.”)

If we look at historical reality rather than pious verbiage, it’s obvious that America never really “belonged to God.”

Gregory Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2005), pp. 98-99.



  1. This universe is God’s creation is it not? So by a basic inclusion principle, the United States belongs to God. Boyd has twisted the meaning of the phrase “take America back for God” to reflect his own un-patriotic view of the obviously blessed country in which he himself lives and has been immensely blessed as well. Rather than taking the view that unless a country’s history is completely free of evil acts, it has never belonged to God, maybe he should consider that the term “take America back for God” has more to do with the level of imorality and lack of good Christian role models in America:

    Ben Stein’s Last Column…

    “How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today’s World?

    As I begin to write this, I “slug” it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is “eonlineFINAL,” and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.

    It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world’s change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton’s, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton’s is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.

    Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

    How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today’s world, if by a “star” we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.

    They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.

    A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.

    A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

    The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.

    We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

    I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton’s is a big subject.

    There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament…the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.

    Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.

    We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction; and when we turn over our lives to Him, He takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves. In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.

    I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin…or Martin Mull or Fred Willard–or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

    But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister’s help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

    This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

    Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.

    By Ben Stein”

  2. I agree with Matthew. When I first began responding to questions about whether the U.S. is, ever was or should be Christian Nation I totally misunderstood the question. I, like many others, assumed “they” meant that the U.S. was a nation that longed to please God and follow is commands. However, what I came to discover is what they were really asking is do I believe that God himself founded the U.S. as a Christian Nation; sort-of like Israel. While this realization help clarify “their” stance it did not help answer the question.

    We will not no for sure if the U.S. was founded by God until that great day when we see him face-to-face. Therefore, in my mind, there is no reason to even debate it. What’s the point? If it was founded by God how does that change the current situation in which this country finds itself?

    What is up for debate and could impact each one of us is whether or not country was founded upon Biblical teachings. For me there is really no debate on this issue either. If one researches quotes by our Founding Fathers and looks at some key Supreme Court cases there can be little doubt about the historical Christianity of the U.S.

    For a quick and easy source for quotes from our Founding Fathers and other key governmental figures and institutions take a look at this add placed by Hobby Lobby.

    After reviewing this it should leave little doubt in anyone’s mind as to the intention and assumptions made by those who laid the foundations of this great country of ours.

    I would also encourage you to review the second half of Church of the Holy Trinity v. U.S., 1892. After reading the second half of this case there should be less doubt.
    (HINT: Scroll down a little more than half-way. The section I’m referring to begins with, “But, beyond all these matters . . . “)

    Did God establish the U.S.? Who knows?

    Was the U.S. founded upon Christian ideals? Yes

    Has the U.S. turned its back on God? Yes

    Do we need to return to our Christian roots? Yes

  3. Im not quite sure that the U.S. was founded on Christian Ideals, What we had was a rebellion against a sovereign King whom according to Romans 13 is equal to rebellion against God. Where in the bible does it say that we have the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Actually having read Romans 13 recently then reading the Declaration of independence, I see a clear disobedience on the part of the signers of this document to Gods laws laid out in this section of, but then again, the author of the document (considered a founding father.) Did write his own version of the bible with huge pieces cut out, maybe he cut this part out too? Their is plenty of stuff out their on the faith of the founding fathers, but also their were many heretics, or had said heretical things.

    What are the Christian Roots that we are returning to? What was the Golden Age of the U.S. that we can look back on?

  4. The “Christian Roots”‘ we would be returning to are those laws and values that were put into place by our Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson. No one has claimed that the U.S. or it’s founders are or were perfect. The point is that that there is little doubt that this country was founded on Christian principles.

    I know many of the Anabaptist persuasion argue that there should be a strict separation of church and state; the Church should not try to influence the government in any way and the government should not interfere with the Church in any way. Given this argument I ask: If we were to strip away all Christian influence from our countries laws, what laws would remain? While all laws may not be biblical there is little room for argument that the foundation of our laws are based upon the laws of Christianity.

  5. PC,

    Jefferson was a deist, as were nearly all of the founding fathers. The Christian believes that God is intimately involved with the running of the world and orders its affairs. The deist believes that God has left us to sort it and keep it going ourselves. No wonder deists stand up and say we must fight to defend ourselves because God cannot intervene.

    The principles this nation was founded on are not “Christian” – it is in fact a civil religion founded upon abstract golden rules and that reveres many religious figures of many faiths claiming that they all stand for the same principles and ideas. Studying the history of the first century and Jesus shows that he did not have many of the same principles and ideas as other religious figures of other times and places.

    The separation of church and state is not being talked about here. Please address some of Boyd’s points. At which times were we ever at all acting like a Christian nation should – or like Jesus would?

  6. Certainly, the US does not have a history of following Christ, though most US Christians believe it has and does. I believe it was the first country to guarantee freedom of religion– any religion– in its laws, though.

    Jesus taught ethical principles and truth that were correct in any age, 4 BC- 1492 – 1776- 1861 -1945 and even 2120 and 3777 AD (we hope for). Governments like the US are still gradually gaining a deeper understanding of ethics and truth. Today we can easily see the scales that Gregory Boyd used to judge.

    Our frequently used rallying cry for war, “freedom” seems more ethical than building a bigger kingdom or empire, and it is probably in the right direction. But a search in the New Testament for “liberty” and “freedom” gives no results—it was never a virtue or goal to be pursued according to Jesus, though we think of it as a simple right to be given to everyone. His objectives were still higher.

    Is the US a Christian nation now? There is no way we can love our enemies while we threaten them with nuclear annihilation.

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