A recent issue of Newsweek shouts—“The End of Christian America.” On this day after Easter, we can add Newsweek to those who for 2000 years have tried to push Christianity back into the tomb.
Jon Meacham’s featured article focuses on one key statistic—the number of Americans willing to claim that they have no religious affiliation has nearly doubling from 8 to 15 percent since 1990. But even Meacham observes: “While the percentage of Christians may be shrinking, rumors of the death of Christianity are greatly exaggerated. Being less Christian does not necessarily mean that America is post-Christian. A third of Americans say they are born again; this figure, along with the decline of politically moderate-to liberal mainline Protestants…suggests a movement towards more conservative beliefs and particularly to a more 'evangelical' outlook among Christians."
Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life continues to set sales records. That is unless you consider the Bible which consistently outsells ever other book every year. In these difficult times, many churches report increased attendance. It may be more acceptable to claim unbelief, but the Christian faith remains vitally important to millions of Americans.
Contrary to what most secular Americans fear, most Christians want nothing to do with a government-endorsed religion. Nothing killed the vitality of the church in Europe more than government-sponsored churches. Open disagreements help test and strengthen one’s faith. God didn’t send his Son to win a popularity contest or impact surveys, nor did Jesus come to rally renewed patriotism. Jesus came to call people to faith and a personal relationship with God. But that shouldn’t discount the importance of the Judeo-Christian faith in founding and shaping America.
Bridging to Muslims worldwide, President Obama replied at a Turkish press conference, “One of the greatest strengths of the United States is, although as I mentioned before, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens.”
While technically true, in contrast to Muslim countries under Sharia Law, he failed to honor our Judeo-Christian heritage’s role in shaping our culture and affirming the right of other faiths to exercise that faith without fear of persecution.
Even God can’t alter the past, but politicians sure try to change history. Our Declaration of Independence bases our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on our Creator. Fifty-two of the fifty-five Founding Fathers who worked on the Constitution were active members of an orthodox Christian faith. They’d be shocked at the attempts to banish God from the public square. Presidents like Washington, Adams, Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Reagan, and Bush had no trouble affirming our nation’s Christian underpinnings.
John Adams noted the importance of faith in maintaining a just and civil society: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
George Washington, in his Farewell Address, repeatedly affirmed the importance of Christianity: “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. …Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Secular relativism may rebel at such statements today, but as Feodor Dostoevski warned, "Without God, all things are permissible." America’s moral compass has been largely built on the Judeo-Christian view of right and wrong. While protecting the rights of citizens of other faiths, we should never be ashamed to affirm the central role Christianity has played in making America what it is today.
The next time President Obama welcomes Muslim leaders, I’d hope he’d change the script in his tele-prompter: “Just as you value your Muslim heritage and faith, we as Americans celebrate our Judeo-Christian heritage. For our rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness come not from Presidents or legislators, but from God. It’s our Christian values that have driven us to extend those freedoms to others, even if it means sending our young men and women to defend Muslim citizens in Bosnia and to free Muslims from tyranny in Iraq. It’s that same freedom in America that allows our Muslim citizens to freely exercise their faith without fear of persecution. We are not at war with Islam; we ask you to not be at war with Christians or Jews. We want to work with you and other responsible members of the international community to extend religious freedom to citizens throughout the world.”
We deserve presidents who are proud of our country. As a Christian himself, I’d hope that President Obama could both affirm his own faith and proudly honor America’s Christian majority for supporting equal rights for other faiths. Diplomacy requires gentleness and respect; it doesn’t require discounting our own history and core values.
As for the demise of the Christian faith, I’d put my bet on God sticking around longer than any magazine or newspaper!