A White Christian Nation

As President Obama once remarked, America is not a Christian nation, or at least not just a Christian nation. It’s probably his most-quoted statement (although his quoters tend to have a curious inability to report the “not just a Christian nation” part). It offended a lot of people, even though it’s factually true. There are indeed non-Christians living in America, and since America is a democratic republic, non-Christians do have a significant say in what the country’s values, priorities, and policies are. A simple and even uncontroversial fact—but some people don’t want to hear it. To them, America is a Christian nation, and any attempt to say otherwise is an attack on the Christian faith.

How can we help such people understand why America is not (and does not want to be) a Christian nation? The other day I though of a parallel that might be helpful: calling America a “Christian Nation” is like calling America a “White Nation.” Yes, there were quite a lot of Founding Fathers who espoused at least vaguely Christian rhetoric, just as there were quite a few who owned slaves. And yes, you can find a lot of early American policies and precedents that favored Christianity, just as you can find a lot that favored white men. And you can even argue that, by “freedom of religion,” the Fathers meant being free to choose whatever flavor of Christianity you like best, just as you can argue that when a slave owner like Thomas Jefferson writes “all men are created equal,” he really means only that all white males are equal, and not that women and/or other races are also equal.

If you’re a white supremacist, you may not see anything wrong with doing any of the above. If you’re a Christian supremacist, then you may see a problem only with the “White Nation” arguments (even though they’re the same as your own, slightly re-framed). And that’s the point. The Christian Nation arguments are Christian Supremacist arguments. They’re a bigoted demand that your religion be publicly and officially acknowledged as supreme above all other religions, just as white supremacists demand that whites be held superior to all other races. And that’s why sensible and fair-minded men and women should oppose all efforts to turn America into the kind of Christian nation that our Founding Fathers came here to get away from.

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Posted in Politics, Society. 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “A White Christian Nation”

  1. pboyfloyd Says:

    But it is a historical bigotry, much like the Bible! What is wrong with bigotry if you couch it in terms of values and morals?

    We can fight ‘them’ in terms of, “well, they’re not Christian”, AND in terms of, “well, they’re not Americans”, AND in terms of, “well, they’re not white”, and in terms of, “well, they’re not REAL Americans”, AND in terms of, “well, they’re not REAL Christians”, AND…

  2. David Evans Says:

    “The Christian Nation arguments are Christian Supremacist arguments.”

    I read that and thought “What a great way of putting the argument”. And it is, of course, for most people. But I fear that the people you most need to reach are those who see nothing wrong with being a Christian supremacist. Do they not read in Philippians 2:10 “… at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”?

  3. Deacon Duncan Says:

    I think the problem that we can and must address is bleed-over from the extremists to the more moderate/casual Christians. It’s common for people to lapse into lazy Us/Them thinking, especially when voting. If Christian Supremacists like Dobson & co. get to define which policies are “our” policies, people who see themselves as nominally Christian may support them by default. If the general public can perceive Christian Supremacy as an extremist (and bigoted) fringe group, then the CS propaganda will become a lot less effective. So even if we know we’ll never get the die-hard supremacists to admit that there’s anything unreasonable about their position, it’s still important for us to teach people in general to recognize Christian Supremacist rhetoric for what it is.