America isn’t a ‘Christian nation,’ and never has been (COMMENTARY)

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"God Bless America," written in sand with an American flag.

Photo courtesy of Maria Dryfhout via Shutterstock

"God Bless America," written in sand with an American flag.

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(RNS) Want to pander to the wealthy, or huddle in armed camps and demonize others? That is your right. But you don't get to call it "Christian."

  • Nicely done Tom. Maybe you can provide Mr. Barton with a link.

  • Fran

    God bless every person on the planet who is righteous and does God’s will, preaching the good news of God’s kingdom or heavenly government as the only hope for all mankind, no matter what nation they live in, or race or culture they may be (Matthew 4:17; 24:14). 😀

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  • Dave

    Finally, we can lay the blame for all the atrocities and labor horrors done by “Americans,” those godless warriors or today and yesteryear . . . on atheism. The true religion of the imperialist kingdom.

    As history bears out.

    Too bad there are no “Christian nations.” Then of course goodness and caring for others (even your enemies) would be the politics of that history.

    Good article dude.

    Now let’s “progress” out of secularism unto the Godliness of Christ that can truly save us.

  • John

    Tom – as a conservative, evangelical and mostly Republican Christian I take great offense at your slander!! Though I do not support the power struggle of the far-right either, you have bought the lie and the generalized mischaracterization of conservative Christianity that is so popular in the culture today. I do not support the mega wealthy, I do not keep people from voting, I do not suppress alternative views, I do not push fear of Ebola or immigrants or dark skinned people or Islam or women or gays, nor do I huddle in armed camps and demonize others. Yet I do support conservative principles and understand the issues at stake.

    The right-wing has much to criticize, but you made no compelling case in this article. You just called them names and slung some mud, all the while lamenting this political season of “ugliness”. Quite ironic.

    You stoked the fire of discontent, ran down and mischaracterized Christianity, made broad accusation with no support and now you can smugly sit back and claim the higher ground. Sorry Tom – very pitiful article indeed. And you are a priest. We need better from our Christian leaders.

  • Josh M

    Wow, with a splattering of intermittent laughter and amusing disbelief. This was my initial reaction to reading this commentary. Did you write the headline? I know that most times, in journalism, that the writer doesn’t write his or her own headline, the editor does. But I don’t know if it is different for internet commentaries. This headline is not a proper description of what the actual commentary was written on. That was my issue with the headline only; now let’s move to the actual body of the article, one step at a time.
    I would strongly disagree with the claim “Jesus spent an estimated two-thirds of his teaching time on wealth and power”. Jesus actually spent most of his time teaching on repentance. But I would agree with you on one thing; his message was both clear and radical: I am the Son of God, all who believe in me will not perish but have eternal. No one comes to Father except through me.
    It was actually to submit yourselves to God, not other men.
    Loving your enemies doesn’t mean accepting their sinful actions. Jesus consistently taught to repent of their sins, not “I love you, now go and keep on sinning.”
    “Moreover, his one new commandment was equally clear: Don’t be afraid.” I would really like reference/source from you on this one. What he said, on fear: don’t be afraid of man who can destroy the body and then nothing else. But be afraid of the one who can destroy the body and then after cast the soul to hell” (rough summary, I’m doing it from memory). Yes, we do have to live in trust and confidence, but we have to have trust and confidence in God, not in man. “Make peace.”, but at what expense? Should we hold to peace even if that means disobedience to God’s commandments? Clearly, Jesus was not saying that. And let us not forgot that he also said “Do not think I come to bring peace. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

    Why should we preach a gospel of self-sacrifice and generosity? The only gospel that true Christians should be preaching is the one of Jesus Christ: that he was the Son of God, who was cruficied for our sins, who paid our ransom, who rose again on the third day, and who is now sitting at the right hand of God. To preach any other “gospel” would be heretical for a true Christian (Obviously non-Christians could preach whatever they want; I was just speaking from a Christian perspective because that is the main gist of your commentary).
    One, not all Christians support the mega-wealthy (as you wrote yourself later in the article). Two, the mega-wealthy do not want to stifle democracy; all they want to do is be able to keep what they earn. Which personally is what I want for everyone, those making $8/hr to those who are making $3 million for a 60 minute football on Sunday; 0% income tax for ALL.

    I can only assume that you’re talking about the ID voter laws, which were backed mainly by conservatives. I don’t see anything wrong about making people prove that they are both American citizens and are currently residents of the state they are attempting to vote in. I believe both are constitutional requirements for voter eligibility. How is this trying to move us further toward a plutocracy?
    Rapid fire: Claiming that Christians are fearful of Mexicans and black people is a completely unsupportable claim which has evidentiary support. It’s probably because we know what the Koran commands of its followers. And yes we are afraid of Sharia law being implemented anywhere in the United States. You aren’t? “Fear of Ebola” You’re just trying to be funny now aren’t you? “Fear of education” Most Christians don’t want Evolution and the multi-verse theory to be stopped being taught, we just want children and young adults to also be given differing theories and counter-evidence against the former theories. So it’s actually an increase in education. “Fear of honest” I honestly have no idea how to respond to something so silly. ”Fear of the poor” Me personally, I fear any group that has the power to vote themselves to receive more and more free things at the others expense, i.e. Congress. “Fear of gays and lesbians” No. We just don’t think that the federal government should encourage or promote this behavior. Keep the government out of our bedrooms. “Fear of women” I can only assume you’re talking about abortion. We believe that a fetus is a human being with the right to life. So…fear against women? No, more like fear against government allowed homicide. “fear of the gospel that Jesus preached” If we are afraid to preach that Jesus, the Son of God, is the only way to God the Father, than that sin is on us, and we should pray that God gives us the confidence to do so.

    I really start to doubt your credentials here. You should know the America is not a democracy, it’s a representative republic. Democracy by definition is “majority rules”; 51% controls the other 49%. That’s not how our country is run and shouldn’t be run. Our founding fathers were terrified by the idea of establishing an American democracy.
    I agree with you that the gospel of wealth and fear isn’t Christian (thank God it isn’t) and it shouldn’t be. However, unless you can give evidence that the wealth and fear was the “gospel” taught by our founding fathers, I don’t know how you reach the conclusion that this country wasn’t previously a Christian nation. I agree with you that we are currently not a Christian nation, but that in no way is evidence that we never were.

    I would change “Christianity has many viewpoints” to “Christians have differing viewpoints.” That would be more accurate.
    I’m confused by the jump you made from political views to “faiths.” I would agree that a political view cannot possibly be the “TRUE” view, but clearly a religious faith could possibly be the “TRUE” faith. There are really only two intellectual conclusions to come to, and one un-intellectual conclusion. Unfortunately, you arrived at the illogical one. The two logical conclusions are either 1) They are ALL false, or 2) Only one is true. But they can’t all be true. Example: if hell is real, the Christianity is possibly true, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses are false. If reincarnation is real, then Buddhism is possibly true and Christianity is false. But to say the all faiths are true would violate the law of excluded middle and the law of non-contradiction. But maybe I’m not giving you credit. You could possibly be saying that “Yes, there is only one true faith, BUT saying it to other people is wrong and shouldn’t be done.” But why would this be more right than wrong? If someone does have the “truth” why not tell everyone they can? This view would actually be an impediment to knowledge because it is this view that would stop people from learning the truth because the truth can never be said (again: only with respect to religious truth claims).

    To summarize: you have given no evidence that America was never a Christian nation in the past. You have only descriptions that would lead one to believe that we are not currently a Christian nation. Which, as I have said above, I agree with.

    And for the sake of rebutting just one more thing you wrote: Jesus was NOT a Universalist or a pluralist, he was, is, and always will be, an exclusivist. And I’ll end with that. Good day.

  • Josh M

    typo: Claiming that Christians are fearful of Mexicans and black people is a completely unsupportable claim which has “NO” evidentiary support.

  • Doc Anthony

    Umm, Tom Ehrich is an **Episcopal** priest.

    (That pretty much explains what you read there, John.)

  • Frank

    Anyone who supports abortion and gay “marriage” has no right to call themselves Christian. Don’t vote for anybody who supports these grave sins.

  • joseph

    Finally… a refreshing, heart-affirming, self-critical viewpoint concerning “Christian” symbolism with it many factions being held accountable for the love of wealth and/or support of greedy (corporate) governmental institutions/policies (i.e. wars, illicit banking systems, military complex, etc.) which in turn support worldwide agendas dedicated to the dividing and conquering of Humanity.

    i love this stream…

    “Christianity has many viewpoints, from conservative to liberal, traditional to contemporary, institutional to personal, hierarchical to radically independent, wildly exuberant to monastically quiet.”

    “No one gets to say theirs is the only “true faith.” No one gets to demonize other pathways, or vote them off the island, as it were. There is no single litmus test. There are only the manifold ways God seeks us and we seek God.

    Tom Ehrich speaks from universal love and ruthless self-accountability which in my book is what God, Jesus and All truly awakened souls are about! Anything else is quibbling among children afraid of the dark.

    Beautiful, succinct article.

  • Josh M

    I would like to your take my reply to this commentary. My response is above. I would especially like a comment on where I discuss “only true faith” claim.

  • Lynn

    Most well written — thank you!! To bad so many of the commenters here don’t appreciate the important service you have provided to non-Christian patriots who care about accurate interpretations of our founding fathers’ words.

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  • Diogenes

    This Commentary was merely a tit for tat offering by RNS to balance out the’ Why Americans now want more religion in their politics’ Commentary that was so assailed by the ‘progressives’ who post here.

  • Diogenes

    By the Way, I hate RNS’s new Recaptcha gag.

  • Philip

    But there was nothing said or presented about the founding fathers. I think you are reading something into the article that isn’t there. The flashy headline was deceptive and the article vacant.

  • Josh M

    I’m completely without Philip on this one.

    @ Lynn
    The founding fathers weren’t mentioned anywhere in this commentary. The constitution wasn’t mentioned. The first amendment wasn’t mentioned. And the word “interpretation” is found anywhere. And…the commentary was directed, it seems, to current modern day Christians, not “non-Christian patriots”.

  • Paula

    I think part of the problem is most dont recognize what they have as “wealth”. They think they have just enough, when what they actually have is overflowing and abundant.

  • Zonda

    John 14:27 (NIV) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
    This verse has helped me through many difficult times to continue to hope and trust God when things are hard. Over the decades that I have been doing morning devotions, you begin to see trends in the scriptures. Jesus did preach alot about greed, judgment and mercy. Even the old testament talks about greed quite a bit and that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their greed and treatment of the poor and visitors (lack of compassion). Yes there are consequences for our actions. But Christ himself, besides dying for us in his love of mankind to save us, lived his life as a living example of how God is and how he wants us to live with each other. Did you miss that part? Or are you only focused on the punishment? (which isn’t our job anyway)

  • Larry

    The whole “America is a Christian Nation” argument is strictly dishonest nonsense to promote the following agenda:
    1. To claim Christians have a privileged status under our laws

    2. That American society, laws and government have no need to respect the religious beliefs of anyone but Christians. Sectarian discrimination is a Christian’s right.

    3. To undermine religious freedoms in favor of Christians through dishonest revisionism which would make David Irving jealous. Most notably attacking the Establishment Clause (which in turn attacks the Free Exercise Clause)

    When asked what someone means by the phrase, the least honest but most common answer is some general garbage about Christians being the majority in the nation. Of course the phrase is never ever used in such a benign fashion.

  • rob

    “After all, Jesus spent an estimated two-thirds of his teaching time on wealth and power. His message was clear, if radical: Give wealth away rather than build bigger barns. Submit to others rather than seek power. Love your enemies rather than smite them.”

    the above is not funny Tom some one might take you seriously and think because of your credentials that interpretation is what they should believe ..

    that interpretations of scripture is a bad joke and according to it a christian could not defend him self or his family be wealthy be a employer or run for a government office .

  • Lew

    Thank you Tom.
    It’s difficult to even have civil conversation with this type of “Christian” because their first reaction to everything is fear. If you try to present some facts to them, then you are “attacking” their “relationship” with God. They stay stuck in a fearful and ignorant mindset and never move beyond it. “I’m right and rest of the world is wrong” Pretty small God that they serve.

  • Larry

    However, claiming that conservatives are fearful of Mexicans and Black people has tons of support. It is a regular part of their political platforms.

  • Larry

    Government and politics are not Bible study. One does not require looking at authorial intent or parsing the language of the original text to find workable interpretations of the Constitution. We use the judicial process for such things.

  • Dave V

    Jesus was amazed that a Roman Commander had great faith – in Him. Even those that worship at the feet of abortionism and homosexualism idols may one day rise above their abominations to see the Truth.

    Keep praying for them. And also keep praying for The Church not to be seduced by them.

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  • rob

    @Tom ehrich


    WHO YOUR POPE? Tom Ehrich

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  • Stephanie walser

    John I completely agree with you. I am greatly offended by this article. It is the very same brainwashing I hear from the left on a consistent basis. Sorry Tom but you have Conservative Christians all wrong.

  • Nymphetamine

    You have clearly never met my southern kin.