In April, 2009, President Obama caught holy hell from the Christian right for saying that America was no longer a “Christian Nation”. His statement prompted a backlash from groups including Focus on the Family, who insist that America was, and forever should be, a Christian nation.
Truth be told, I wish we were. The word Christian means “Christ-like”. Christ, being a title applied to Jesus, could be removed and substituted simply by the name to whom it refers, leaving us with “Christian” meaning “like Jesus”.
Ah, yes… I unapologetically wish that America were a Christian nation, because I wish that America looked like Jesus. Unfortunately, using the definition of “like Jesus”, America never was a Christian nation. On top of the fact that the founding fathers weren’t actually Christians by an evangelical understanding of the term, early America itself didn’t look at all like Jesus– unless, of course, Jesus was a slaving owning killer of Native Americans.
All these years later? We’re still not a Christian nation.
Not even close.
Unless, of course, Jesus was the kind of guy to just indiscriminately kill people on the way to a wedding feast– because that’s what we did last week.
That’s right– you and I murdered people last week. Maybe you didn’t pull the trigger, but you and I are collectively responsible, because it was our “Christian” nation that did this. Corporately speaking, not only are we not “Christian”, but we’re actually mass murders. From the AP:
Sanaa (AFP) – A drone strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen killed 17 people, mostly civilians, medical and security sources said Friday, adding grist to mounting criticism of the US drone war… most of those killed were civilian members of the Al-Tays and Al-Ameri clans headed to the wedding, the security official. He said one of the rockets scored a direct hit on a vehicle carrying at least 10 passengers. The other struck near the convoy.”
If the word “Christian” means “like Christ” or “like Jesus” the argument that America is a “Christian” nation is dead in the water, so long as we are the people who bomb weddings. Sure, I get it– we didn’t mean to. We meant to kill the “bad guys”. Unfortunately, even killing the “bad guys” is inconsistent with being like Christ, because Jesus loved the bad guys. Instead of raining hell fire missiles down in order to “defend his national interest”, he stretched out his arms, became willing to die for them, and said “I forgive them”.
So, no– we’re not a Christian nation. We are the people who blow up wedding parties. We’re the people who drop bombs, and then drop additional bombs when rescuers arrive at the scene (called “double tap” in warfare). We are the people who dehumanize the death of the innocent by calling it “collateral damage”. We are the people who cover up the blood on our hands, and when someone leaks proof of our guilt, we chase them to the ends of the earth to seek “justice”.
No, we’re not a Christian nation. We’re basically the opposite of whatever a “Christian” nation would look like– because a Christian nation would look like Jesus.
Instead of being the people who killed those heading to a wedding, if we wanted to become like Jesus we’d become the people who showed up to the wedding with boat-loads of booze in hand– cause that’s what Jesus did.
In Jesus’ first miracle, he helps out the host of a wedding banquet who ran out of alcohol– turning pitchers of water into a quality of wine that everyone in the party raved about.
Looking like Christ, is being the person who shows up to a party with a pitcher of Sangria.
Bombing people on their way to a wedding? That doesn’t look anything like Jesus.
It’s not “Christian”.
And we, are not a Christian nation.
Yet, I long for us to be– and I think that in many ways, we can become more of a Christian nation. But this will take work– it will take a new cultural revolution as we re-introduce American Christians to the Jesus they have refused to follow. Call it a missionary quest to introduce the nonbeliever and evangelical alike to Jesus– call it whatever you want– just let it be a cultural revolution designed to make us look more like this rabbi, both individually and collectively.
The good news is that I believe this revolution has already begun (thanks, Greg B)– and I want in on it. I want you to want in on it… this is an all-hands-on-deck proposition, and we need everybody (or as my daughter says in Spanglish, todo-body).
This revolution needs todo-body.
I want both of us, together, to start building a culture that looks less like charred bodies on the sidewalk, and more like people who are pink in the face from having an extra glass of wine as they enjoy the company of each other… because that’s the revolution Jesus started.
I want us to continue it.
How do we become more like what a “Christian nation” should look like? It will mean that we’ll have to put our voices together, and demand an end to blowing up people who are just on their way to a wedding. It will mean that we reject aspects of our culture (violence, greed, extreme individualism, etc.) that are embraced by American Christianity, as we point people back towards a counter-cultural Jesus who wants to transform all of us, not just the parts we’re willing to have transformed.
It will mean that we point our country back towards a culture that looks like Jesus– regardless of who that causes us to be opposed to (even if that means Christians), and regardless of what bedfellows that creates (you might be surprised who’d be up for a culture that looked like Jesus).
To get there, we need a revolution within American Christianity.
A new reformation.
A group of Christians who are so intent on being like Jesus, that they don’t look back or settle for less.
It would be a shame to let the spark started by others these past few years go out– so let’s blow on the embers and get this reformation to a roaring fire that burns out the dust and twigs that are tripping us up.
No, we aren’t a Christian nation– but we can become more of a Christian nation, if you join in with the revolution that has already started.
First issue to tackle? We’ve got to point our culture back to the Great Commandment, and start becoming the people who show up to a wedding with a pitcher of sangria.