Friday, July 01, 2005

Ten False Assumptions Underlying the Idea of "Christian" America

Here are ten assumptions that I believe motivate many American Christians in their understanding of God's relationship to this nation:

1. That God has a special "covenant" relationship with America; thus causing America to be under the blessings/cursings dichotomy that God specified with OT Israel.

2. That the founders were largely orthodox Christians.

3. That even if some of the founders were deistic, they weren't influential in the writing of the Constitution.

4. That since most of the founders were "orthodox" in their Christianity, the founding documents are therefore refective of "Christian" concepts.

5. That the general population was more "godly" than we are today.

6. That America has never had imperial ambitions.

7. That all of our wars have been defensive.

8. That American's are basically a "good" people.

9. That getting "under God" recited nation-wide will bring America "back to God."

10. That putting the ten commandments in public buildings across America will do the same thing.


I'm sure there are more issues that I haven't hit on here, but these are what came to mind as I was considering what I hear from the usual "Christian Right" crowd. What are the assumptions underlying these beliefs? Is it in any way consistent with historic Christianity? Am I just being overly anabaptist in my assessment? Or is it appropriate to question the basic assumptions behind the relationship between the American church and the state? Are we just struggling with a post-Constantinian church/state relationship? Are we actually in a post-Constantinian environment? Anyway, these are too many questions to ask at once; so I'll just ask that if you so desire, please take one of the above statements and run with it. Open it up. Consider what it means to be the church in our current environment; both in terms of speaking to the church about its calling, and then to the larger culture.

And here's a big question for ya: How do we communicate all this to our friends and relatives and fellow church goers/Christians? How do we reclaim a proper ecclesiology? What does it really mean to be the church here and now?

6 comments:

Jonny Keen said...

1. That God has a special "covenant" relationship with America; thus causing America to be under the blessings/cursings dichotomy that God specified with OT Israel.
I am going to write down my thoughts just off the top of my head. I doubt if most Christians in america have any covenant theology going on in their heads. What you write in question one is some idea of certain branch of calvinism-a tiny group of men have this idea that american is under somekind of covenant
2. That the founders were largely orthodox Christians. Once again this is an idea debated by a small segment of Christians-what does it mean to be "orthodox"? who were "the founders"?

3. That even if some of the founders were deistic, they weren't influential in the writing of the Constitution.
do not have a clue? I never read the Constitution-my big problem is getting from one moment to the next-who cares if the founders (?) were deistic?

4. That since most of the founders were "orthodox" in their Christianity, the founding documents are therefore refective of "Christian" concepts.
what are "Christian" concepts?

5. That the general population was more "godly" than we are today.
what does it mean to be "godly"-I never knew the "general population".
6. That America has never had imperial ambitions. Ask america yourself if it had imperial ambitions-maybe fallen men all have imperial ambitions?

7. That all of our wars have been defensive. I am always on the defensive

8. That American's are basically a "good" people. what is "good"?

9. That getting "under God" recited nation-wide will bring America "back to God." what does it mean "back to God" we all need to get back to God

10. That putting the ten commandments in public buildings across America will do the same thing. has america ever cared about the Torah? it is all a mystery to me

darkcloud said...

John I recommend reading the book "America's God" by Noll chapter 9

Irenicum said...

Thanks Jonny, I will! And thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it. You don't just accept the premises put forward, and that's good.

porchwise said...

anon.seems out in left field. As to Bush being an evanglical babtist..yes..read he was 'converted' in 92. I believe Schlenger reported Bush believes he is one of the 100,000 'chosen' ones. Christianity today? It's all about cash. God's probably weeping crocodile tears that his experiment failed so miserably.

Irenicum said...

Umm, Bush has never been a Baptist (Episcapalian, Presbyterian, and Methodist, yes, but not a Baptist), and he actually has never even identified himself as an evangelical. That's been applied to him by others, both his supposed friends in the "Christian Right" and his supposed enemies on the "Left". His conversion account is confused. He's described two different times he became a believer, so it's hard to tell. The more public version involves good ol' Billy Graham, for obvious reasons. The not so public one involves a rather eccentric traveling evangelist. So, who are the 100,000 'chosen' ones? Who's Schlenger? Are you refering to the whole 144,000 concept from Revelation? Anyway, I seriously doubt Bush's theology is so developed that he even relates to that level of content.

Steve said...

I think I agree that all 10 are false.

Are you overly anabaptist? If by this you mean strict separation of church/state, not being old-world European where the state establishes and endorses a church, then your question relates closely with the post-Constatine thing.

Probably, the desire to believe these 10 myths comes from a motivation to return to a Constantinian atmosphere, where the political powers were "on our side."

We are post-Constantine to the extent that the government does not endorse and sanction Christianity, yes. But the government will always endorse - functionally if not explicitly - some religion/belief system. Right now it is a pluralistic, social contract-or-natural-law, a-theistic one.

I think Doug Wilson articulates how to reclaim a proper ecclesiology quite well on his blog at dougwils.com. See recent entries - Jeremiah the Babylonian tank gunner and And the Walls Come Down.