Here's something coming out of the conservative evangelical church right now that really bothers me. Okay, it's bothered me for a while, but it's extra-bothering me recently because of some things that have been said about this at my church. The thought that some 4,000 people are coming to what I think are misleading conclusions about the history of our country is DRIVING ME CRAZY.
Is our country based on judeo-Christian principles?
Yes. We have been an unusually religious country throughout our history.
However, perhaps it's not quite like we think it is. Judeo-Christian values have infused and informed much of Western culture, but that doesn't meant the Western culture is Christian. We just carry some principles that have been derived from the Christian and Jewish religion.
Here's what I think the church is not clear on. Our country was not founded by strong believers. We act like it was. That is a misinterpretation of history. There were some strong believers among those who came to America, and you can read their writings and take heart. The Revolutionaries and those that wrote the Bill of Rights, though.... most of them were not passionate Christians. Most of them attended church because everyone attended church. Most of them believed there was a God, but then again everyone believed there was a God. There were a few with a passionate personal faith, Patrick Henry, for example. He was the exception. Most of the Revolutionaries and Founding Fathers were intellectual, principled men who believed in some sort of deity but did not believe the scriptures were literal truth.
The ideas and passions that drove our Revolutionaries carried the sentiments of Humanism, Rationalism, and Englightenment Philosophy. These men believed strongly in freedom and the rights of man (a very strong idea in Enlightenment thought). Most of them were religious liberals. To quote the article that I just linked to (which is fantastic and specifically examines the attitude towards Christianity of six of the Founding Fathers):
None of the liberals believed in the major doctrines of orthodox Christianity. As we will see in subsequent sections, they rejected some or all of the following doctrines: the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, the virgin birth, the Bible as the literal word of God, predestination, Hell, Satan, and creatio ex nihilo. The only doctrine, other than a belief in God, that they held was the immortality of the soul and some sort of afterlife.
The point I'm making is not that there has been no Christian influence on the USA - there absolutely has been. Our government is not built on Christianity, it is built on enlightenment philosophy. This carries some Christian ideals, like the value of humanity, but for the most part the Christianity that has been passed down through the USA has been passed from pastor to laymen to pastor to student. The strength of the church in the USA has never been our godly government, and actually a good study of history might lead you to think that we have often had much more corrupt leaders and periods of our history than that which we are in now. I believe that our government has been and always will be led by flawed men, very few of whom have personally followed the Lord.
I believe the reason our nation has grown so powerful and been so successful is because of a combination of being in the right place at the right time, and having an amazingly pragmatic and self-limiting governmental a fantastic economic model. God has allowed our success, but I think history and scripture shows that God often allows the growth of evil nations and uses them to enact His ultimate purposes. Neither the success or failure of our nation says anything about our relationship to God as a people.
We are a nation that has many Christians in it, and we always have been. I think we have an amazing form of government, but it hasn't been sanctioned by God. Our security and identity as Christians lies first in our faith and our church. As citizens of this nation it's our job to vote as Christians and for things that enact redemption in our land. A Christian leader will not save us, a non-Christian leader will not necessarily ruin us.
*deep breath*... okay... end rant. :)