When will the American Church ever stop believing that the Civil Religion of Christianity professed by our Founders and our current leaders is actually the Gospel of Jesus Christ? When will we let go of the myth that we're (or any nation can be) a "Christian Nation?"
During their presidential campaigns, both current President Obama and former President Bush quoted the Bible and used Christian and religious rhetoric. Does anyone think that having Presidents that quote the Bible means we're a Christian nation? No - many actions of both of these Presidents directly contradict the teachings of Jesus. But, I'll be fair and say that both of these Presidents can tell stories of their conversion to Jesus. But in NO WAY does that mean we're a Christian nation or that all of their actions as President were/ are Christ-honoring.
Yet, we do exactly that with our Founding Fathers. We pull out certain quotes of theirs to "prove" we're a Christian nation. In doing so, we ignore two obvious historical facts: 1) Many (though not all) of their actions contradicted the teachings of Jesus. Even the line from the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal" applied only to (if you look at the laws of the day) white, land-owning, males. 2) You can easily quote the Founding Fathers to "prove" we're not a Christian nation. I'm going to share some quotes below.
But before I do, let me clarify the reason for this post. Or better, let me have Greg Boyd explain why we must let this falsely reassuring and superiority-fostering belief of America's "Christianity" go:
In light of the way the faith of conservative Christians has been largely co-opted by this eurocentric myth, and in light of how this fusion of faith and mythic nationalism continues to blind Christians and others to the uniquely beautiful kingdom Jesus brought, I wish this [the book Lies My Teacher Told Me] was required reading for everyone.
Folks, there isn’t anything more than a empty misguided claim that makes America a “Christian” nation. Until this destructive myth is dispelled and the true history of this country is brought to light, I’m afraid the American church will continue to look more like the racially divided, imperialistic, consumeristic, individualistic and hedonistic culture we live it than it will look like Jesus Christ.
Keep God and his kingdom holy (=set apart, consecrated, distinct)!
You can read the entire blog post here.
Just from a biblical perspective, it's impossible for a government or nation (as defined by a civil entity like "United States of America") to be Christian. Only one nation was set-apart as the people of God - it was the nation of Israel. But with the coming of Jesus and later the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the people of God expanded from being the nation of Israel to the "new Israel" (Paul in Romans) which was/is the Church. And this is why I'm constantly on that crusade to help us break free of that myth. If Christians would stop trying to argue for or promote the "Christianity" of our nation and government, we'd be more free to live out the Kingdom of Jesus. Instead of "returning America back to God" we could focus upon helping the Kingdom of God become a reality right now, in our lives.
Both at our founding and still in our present day, our country has a lot of wonderful Christian people that love Jesus. Imagine how much more good could be accomplished if we'd focus less on the Civil Religion or trying to "win America back to God" and instead focused on living out the counter-cultural reality of God's kingdom.
With all of that said, here are the quotes. And I'm copying this from my sister's blog.
UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
The First Amendment
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."
Article VI, Section 3
"...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
"Can a free government possibly exist with the Roman Catholic religion?"
-letter to Thomas Jefferson
"As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?"
-letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816
"I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved-- the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"
-letter to Thomas Jefferson
"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
-Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli (June 7, 1797). Article 11
"Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, 'this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.'"
-a letter to Charles Cushing (October 19, 1756)
"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."
-"A Memorial and Remonstrance", 1785
"Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."
-"A Memorial and Remonstrance", 1785
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
-letter to Wm. Bradford, April 1, 1774
"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."
-1803 letter objecting use of gov. land for churches
"In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot ... they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purpose."
- to Horatio Spafford, March 17, 1814
"Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."
- letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787
"It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one. But this constitutes the craft, the power and the profit of the priests."
- to John Adams, 1803
"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose."
- to Baron von Humboldt, 1813
"Gouverneur Morris had often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system (Christianity) than did he himself."
-in his private journal, Feb. 1800
It is not to be understood that I am with him (Jesus Christ) in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism, he preaches the efficacy of repentance toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it."
- to Carey, 1816
"The priests of the superstition, a bloodthirsty race, are as cruel and remorseless as the being whom they represented as the family God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the local God of Israel. That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more learned than myself in that lore."
- to Story, Aug. 4, 1820
"The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin.
1. That there are three Gods.
2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor, is nothing.
3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit the faith.
4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use.
5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save."
- to Benjamin Waterhouse, Jun. 26, 1822
"Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a common censor over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."
-"Notes on Virginia"
The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come, when the mystical generation [birth] of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation [birth] of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."
- to John Adams, Apr. 11, 1823
"No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever."
-Virginia Act for Religious Freedom
"... I am not afraid of priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying and slandering. I have contemplated their order from the Magi of the East to the Saints of the West and I have found no difference of character, but of more or less caution, in proportion to their information or ignorance on whom their interested duperies were to be played off. Their sway in New England is indeed formidable. No mind beyond mediocrity dares there to develop itself."
- letter to Horatio Spofford, 1816
"Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the Common Law."
-letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, 1814
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative 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."
-letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT
"The Complete Jefferson" by Saul K. Padover, pp 518-519
From Franklin's autobiography, p. 66:
"...Some books against Deism fell into my hands....It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quote to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations, in short, I soon became a thorough Deist."
From Franklin's autobiography, p. 66:
"My parents had given me betimes religious impressions, and I received from my infancy a pious education in the principles of Calvinism. But scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself"
From The Age of Reason, pp. 89:
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of....Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and of my own part, I disbelieve them all."
From The Age of Reason:
"All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."
From The Age of Reason:
"What is it the Bible teaches us? -- rapine, cruelty, and murder."
I set you FREE from defending or promoting the Christianity of America so you can be free to live the radical, upside down Kingdom of Jesus.