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Why nationalizing American Christianity would be bad for Christians

Why nationalizing American Christianity would be bad for Christians

Episcopalians are descendants of a state-church tradition living in a country founded on national disestablishment. But ever since a Tory former British-army chaplain was made a bishop by Scottish non-jurists to serve an American church, we have struggled with the relationship between church and state.

Now a significant number of Americans appear to believe that Christianity should be our national religion. Maybe they think that will be like having a state bird or a state song…but probably not.

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, writing in The New Republic, talks about why the wish for a nationalized faith, as politically unlikely as it may seem, is bad for Christianity.

This is already true of right wing rhetoric wherein Christianity is made to stand in for American conflicts or situations. Earlier this month, for example, President Barack Obama faced censorious outcry after noting that Christians of the past carried out the Crusades; with Republicans like Governor Bobby Jindal accusing the president of going hard on Christianity in lieu of ISIS, it’s clear the Crusades were, in this instance, turned into an analogy of a purely modern conflict, with Obama implied to be on the wrong side. By criticizing Christianity instead of Islam he was understood to take the side of foreigners rather than Americans.

With Christianity serving so often as a cheap byword for Americanism, it’s no surprise that 54 percent of Republicans believe the president is an undercover Muslim, and that a handful of their vocal politicians believe he does not love America. These are twin suspicions, both impossible to prove, both based on speculation about the president’s internal states, which trade evidence among them, such as the fact that Obama will not say that America is at war with Islam.

Were Christianity named our national religion, it would only be dubbed such to serve a particular national purpose, that is, to straighten out our morals or boost morale for our confrontation of terrorism abroad. But to do this would be to force Christianity into the servitude of particular national interests, which would only further the degree to which the Christian faith is already wrongly conflated with specific American political aims. But the goals of Christianity are in no sense specifically American, and understanding them as such only instills divisiveness between American and global Christianityand that’s ultimately contrary to the unity sought by the Christians of the world. In other words, establishing Christianity as a national faith would force Christianity into submission to American politics, morphing it into a servant rather than a guide of political thought.

Posted by Andrew Gerns


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Bro David

Some of you voice surprise at the idea, but it’s there.

SALMON, Idaho, Feb 24 (Reuters) – Members of a county Republican Party in Idaho are to take up a measure on Tuesday evening that would declare the state a Christian one to bolster what the proposal calls the “Judeo-Christian bedrock of the founding of the United States.”

Chris Harwood

I’ve never heard anyone seriously talk about making Christianity the “official” religion. Although I agree that I’ve heard lots of complaints about Obama’s religion and how evil Christians were in the past, but refusing to call ISIL Islamic. Evil Christians are apparently still Christian, but evil Muslims aren’t part of Islam. As for Christianity being forced into a political form, it already is. Western, liberal Christianity is already used as a reason to destroy Christians elsewhere. If Christians in America or Britain do X,Y, or Z, and those are bad, then all Christians are bad and should be destroyed. I’ve read a couple letters from Canon White that pretty much said American politics and Christianity were tied together in the minds of many Iraqis–and not in a way that helped his local Christians.

Ann Fontaine

Of course what Western Christianity does give hope to those LGBT persons living in oppressive countries. And I do not believe the “causation” argument. Gays and lesbians were being beaten and killed all throughout history. For the other side of the story watch the Voices of Witness: Africa

Tim Wooley

I’ve often heard Christians propose America adopt what these Christians call “Biblical Laws,” assuming Christians would agree to a set of laws, but when I ask if they would accept laws based on Quaker or Amish Christianity there is shock. I’ve even had one object to laws enforcing, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Philip Snyder

I am probably one of the more conservative (politically and theologically) posters here and I have never heard any of my friends talk about making Christianity the “official” religion of the USA. I have heard doubts about Obama’s Christianity, but very few. If I were to pick a religion that fits Obama, it would be therapeutic moralistic deism rather than Islam or Christianity. But, then, many people in Church on Sundays are also functionally Therapeutic Moralistic Deists rather than disciples and subjects of Jesus Christ.

JC Fisher

“Were Christianity named our national religion”

…there would be a MASSIVE rejection (uprising?) by those under 40. Between those who just believe in the “Wall of Separation”, and those who positively LOATHE Christianity, we’re talking over 75%, easily.

Christianists are their own worst enemies.

Bill Brockman

I’m somewhat new here and have never heard of a “Christianist.” Is that some sort of cuss word in common use or your neologism to describe a certain group?

Bill Brockman

So it is used as a cuss word. Should have known Wikipedia would have it.

Ann Fontaine

First used by Andrew Sullivan

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